Thursday, 29 December 2011

Being Indian: Gender Discrimination

I'm sure that as a woman, it is only expected that I write something about gender discrimination. The entire discussion of gender equality has been done to death and therefore I'm not going dwell on it. What really bugs me however is gender stereotyping. Boys don't cry, men don't gossip, women love commitment and so on.

When I browse through Facebook, I often find these lists and posts that pin specific characteristics on a gender. There are a number of lists about things men should know about women and vice versa. What men and women like. How they behave in relationships. Social networking sites are practically self-help books with dating tips. The sad part about this entire thing is that if a man expected me to have these qualities, he would be more than disappointed.

I don't take 45 minutes to shower. I have had a bigger fear of commitment than some men I have dated. I have not been planning my wedding since I was 10. I don't expect you to pay the bill on a first date, in fact, I would be offended if you did. I believe chivalry is not just a man's job. I don't fancy muscular men, bar fights and trash talk. I like fart and poop jokes. And yes, I'm very much a woman.

Now, I have been told by many that maybe I'm the exception and not the rule. Some men even tell me that they get along with me more because I'm not very feminine. What I'm trying to say is that even with these gender stereotypes, my lack of femininity gives me brownie points. But when it comes to masculinity, the stereotyping is a lot more aggressive and is strongly reinforced by the media.

Men are expected to be strong in every way – physically and emotionally. The ideal image of a man in advertisements and film is that of a muscular and well trimmed man who has great physical strength and is less likely to get into a situation, he can't fight his way out of. Emotionally, men are portrayed as less communicative – they are rarely seen in situations where they are vulnerable. The media projects an image of a man who is unreal and predictable – creating a pseudo standard by which we measure the real men we interact with.

What agonizes me the most is that I feel that by pushing this stereotype on the men we meet in the real world, we are denying them the opportunity to live up to their full potential of feeling and understanding certain natural emotions. I honestly like men who tear up during an emotional discussion. I have seen many men cry and not once have I felt that these men are not masculine enough. Also, I have found myself tongue-tied during emotional conversations wherein the men have actually led the talk to a productive conclusion. While physical appearances are a personal choice, for me bulky muscular bodies are a complete turn off. And still there are articles circulating the web telling men that women like their men muscular.

Thank you for taking the time to speak on my behalf but I'd rather you not.

The birth of these lists and posts comes from the age old obsession of the two genders trying to understand one another. I solely think the problem arises when you attempt to understand somebody based on their gender rather than plain simple human beings. Yes, scientifically, I will suck at driving whenever I learn to do that. But analysing my likes, dislikes and habits based on my gender has no logic at all. A friend of mine recently saw my room and exclaimed that for a woman, I was quite messy. The truth is for a human being, I'm very messy. I have no sense of cleanliness whatsoever and it is not because I'm less feminine. I'm simply lazy and have less discipline when it comes to keeping my room clean.

I have met many kinds of men and women. I never have trouble understanding most of them because as a mish-mash of these so called masculine and feminine characters, I feel that these traits belong to people of both genders. There will always be exceptions to the rules because there are no rules. The only things these so called rules do is create false expectations not only from others but from ourselves.

Some part of me hopes that these lists were created in absolute humour with the sole intention of making people laugh. But then again blogs like these make me realize that there is a huge market out there that relies on these gender stereotypes. Sadly, we are in that market and until we realize that all this is a bunch of rubbish, we will probably expect every woman to gossip and every man to fear commitment.

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