How often have you been asked this question? It’s astounding how the colour of our clothing has come to decide our gender or our inclination towards any particular gender. These days, even while shopping for basic necessities, we are subjected to gender-biased marketing trickery. What does this lead us to? Why is it such a compulsion to buy blue-coloured things for boys and pink-coloured kits for girls? Why do we need to start colour-coding our kids even before they are born?
The issue is not with the colours – they are both beautiful. It’s about colour-coding gender and its subsequent association with the choice of toys, books and activities meant for children. Any given toy store will have a pink section complete with their collection of kitchen sets, jewellery making, dolls and grooming sets while the blue section of the store would be reserved for cars, dinosaurs, swords and guns. And it is expected that girls will or should go to the pink section while boys stick to the blue unit. And it is sad to see parents fretting over their kids going to the ‘wrong section’.
It is appalling to see such small children being categorised and discriminated on the basis of their gender. In not so many ways it is but a direct implication, stating how girls should grow up to take care of the household while boys take up the role of strong sword-wielding men, adept at driving cars and managing the big, bad world, which women are too fragile to be part of.
Gender inequalities like these, prevalent at the very inception, eventually pave way for unhappy social conditions for women – and violence, is just the tip of that iceberg! It operates on many levels – right from cultural norms to economic structures to organisational politics that have become a daily part of our community, family and relationship spaces. The persistent pressure to adhere to your gender and be in that role for forever is what, even today, dictates our existence. And that needs to change.
It is important to initiate discussions on gender roles as many people, both men and women, are are oblivious to the fact that they have been brought up in an uneven environment and that unknowingly they might hold similar gender biases. But once discussion around gender inequality is instigated, we can at least hope for people to change their mindsets.
What does this imply?
- Stereotyped constructions of masculinity and femininity
- Men’s control over decision-making and limitations on women’s independence in public life and relationships
- Condoning of violence against women
- Disrespect towards women, their work or their role within the family or society (sexist comments and jokes seen as normal banter)
- Violence, aggression against women (our ‘chalta hai’ attitude)
- The ‘backlash’ when existing male privilege or status is challenged
What can we do?
- Challenge gender stereotypes and roles
- Promote women’s independence and decision-making in public life and relationships
- Strengthen positive, equal and respectful relationships between and among women and men, girls and boys
- Challenge the normalisation of violence as an expression of masculinity or male dominance
- Support those affected by violence
- Develop positive ways to engage men and boys in gender equating ideas, relationship skill-building
- The common element in incidents of family violence is the belief that men should control and hold power over women
- Next time you hear a sexist comment or joke, say something
- If you hear someone blaming a victim of sexual assault for her choice of clothing or her lifestyle, speak up, because questions like these contribute to a society that excuses violence against women.