As the world strides forward to a more equal view on gender, a lot is still to be done to change even the mindset of educated folk. The distinction of gender starts from when the baby is in its mother’s womb.
Even today a few educated parents and grandparents to-be secretly wish they are blessed with the male child. Priests bless the couple for a male child. Several well wishers also do the same. More over when the mother-to-be is in the hospital and in labour, nurses wish the mother for a boy child. When the baby is born, we also see the celebration of a male child to be louder to that of a female child. ‘Are beta hua hai! mooh meetha karo!’ These happen at the large posh birthing hospitals in cities like Bangalore, Delhi and Mumbai!
A child’s destiny is determined by whether his or her father contributed an X or Y chromosome. Fate decides: Pink or blue clothes. Guns or dolls. The provider or the homemaker. Female infanticide!
Gender bias is so deeply ingrained in our social system that the discrimination begins from the time a couple plans a baby. Today, science has advanced so far that it is possible to separate male and female sperm so as to predetermine the sex of a child.
The birth of a baby boy warrants a celebration whereas a baby girl may not be extended the same warm welcome. Despite the fact that India has crossed the billion mark in population, there will still be families with five daughters and the mother trying desperately to give birth to a son.
The plight of educated women who are so frustrated because despite their qualifications, they are ultimately expected to fall into the traditional mould of wife, mother and homemaker.
A friend of mine was sent to the best schools and she has done her MBA from a prestigious business school, but she is under intense pressure from her parents to get married.
She says, “It doesn’t seem to matter to my parents that I’m doing so well in my job and that I have certain career aspirations. Marriage just does not figure in my plan right now. And I just know that they will see no harm in my being expected to give up my career if my prospective husband makes that a condition.”
Investing in girls is key to eliminating poverty and creating a safer, brighter future for everyone. When girls are educated, healthy and empowered, they pull themselves, their children and their communities out of poverty.
When you empower a boy, you raise a good family. I believe when you empower a girl, she’ll change the community around her in turn the world.
Today, we have women astronauts, women prime ministers, even women wrestlers, but there are still millions of women who face these double standards at every juncture of their lives.
For instance, I’ve heard in my family that they would mind inviting the daughters who have married into different families for a wedding but not mind inviting married sons of the same family.
Feminists have been shouting themselves hoarse, demanding equality for women. Some people believe that women and men can never be equal, just different.
Yes, but different does not necessarily mean inferior or lesser in any way.
When I see instances around me of educated, successful mothers with good careers raising their children with a gender bias, it hurts, because when children once have a block in their minds about their capabilities, they set a glass ceiling for themselves which becomes very hard to break.
I once attended a kid’s sports competition where some kids were participating in “doctor’s race”. I was shocked to see that all boys were dressed as doctors and all girls as nurses. Somewhere in their little minds, we are instilling a bias towards what they can achieve in life.
We also see leading clothing brands stereotyping kids wear prints like ‘Smart as daddy’, ‘Pretty as mommy’ – Why can’t be kids ‘smart as mommy’?
I’ve heard examples like – oh my son is really active.. He loves to play in the park.. Of course he is a boy and is very outdoorsy… little do they know daughters loves gymnastics and can perform acts that many such sons cannot perform. Oh my son is very bold.. He is a typical boy! little do they know, or rather pretend as they are unaware that there are much bolder girls out there winning Nobel prizes and inspiring the world. Why do we secretly celebrate our boys?I’ve also heard many parents make comments like – ‘oh my boy is growing up… look at the way he is bold with the girls!’ – No wonder we still have eve teasers and the more so horrendous crimes happening in our society and it pains to see the nirbhaya rapists go out free on this day!
Then there is the false notion of greatness at home. Clearing the dinner table is not a boy’s job, let the daughters do it. We as parents and individuals are instilling differences about who should do what. There is no job in the world which is lesser than another. When women can do all what men can, and even more of those tasks like giving birth that men cannot, then why the gender based job differences?We also see that parents ‘invest’ in their male child, send them to better schools, to professional courses and do whatever it takes to make them succeed compared to their sisters… probably because they hope it pays off and they would be taken care of when they grow old.I’ve also had an instance when a relative advised me not to get into an engineering college as it would be very difficult for a girl to get through it and anyways at the end of it I would get married, so what’s the point of the entire struggle? Well, today I would say its well worth the struggle; I’m independent and well equipped!
WE are responsible for raising our children equally. Every time we talk or act, it is important to ensure we are neutral and not unconsciously instilling differences and glass ceilings in their minds. And it’s more important to voice your opinion when you see instances like these happening around you!
How a father treats his wife and daughters will affect their potential and life choices, but it will also affect his sons too. Because the family is where we first learn how to be a male and female, a father who does his fair share of domestic work, who values and educates his children equally, who cuddles his sons and daughters and treats his wife as an equal will have a powerful impact on how his son grows up to be a man and treats his own family. Social change begins at home.
Parents have to learn to adopt an androgynous attitude towards bringing up their children. They shouldn’t panic if their son prefers to play with dolls or their daughters decide they don’t want to marry till they are thirty. Parents need to give both sons and daughters the chance to live their lives free from the fetters of gender bias.
This is my heart felt cry… To the society I live in!
Give the women in your life a chance to live !
– Lincy Hepsiba