Stop crying like a girl!
Boys do not cry!
Do not sit like a boy!
You are a man, how can you be scared of lizards?
Do these phrases remind you of something? All of us have heard these at least once in our lives. These are the analogies that ensure that you fit for your gender role. We have seen how these stereotypes and prejudices harm women. However, it is also essential to understand how living up to the social standards of a man hurts the emotional and social domain of the person. They are always expected to behave brave – behave insensitively.
Both men and women tend to make assumptions that women belong in specific types of jobs. Psychologists have performed experiments and to support this concept. They had a mixed group of girls and boys and asked them to write “female” or “male” to a list of job occupations and personality traits. Most of the secretary, assistant, or housework was categorised under “female” while lawyers, CEOs, and higher-up positions were designated to “males.” Same was held when testing for personality traits. The dominant, loud characteristics were more likely to be considered masculine attributes, while comforting, warm tones were viewed as feminine. This cultural belief that women are “soft” or “need support” or are in some other way inferior beings may be far less apparent than in earlier periods, but the tendency to ascribe a gender bias to jobs or personality traits are still ingrained in society.
The Development of Gender Stereotyping of Adult Occupations in Elementary School Children by C. S. Garrett, P. L. Ein and L. Tremaine
Also to note, only 2.7% of the chairs in the board rooms across India are filled by women.
Let us begin with how these gender roles are ingrained in the fresh young minds.
Our language, the basis of human civilisation, also carries the same bias, be it calling the ‘guys’ for football or calling the bachelor cool and making a spinster realise that her time is running out. Another example of this can be seen in swear words – all of them attack the mother or the sister perpetuating a culture of violence towards them.
The politicians say that we will protect the behen and betis of the country, the primary identity of the women who need to be protected by the State is NOT of a woman as an individual entity but of a behen or beti.
Maybe, If I do not identify myself as a behen or beti, I am not worthy of being protected. By connoting women as ‘Devi’, we negate identifying them as human to validate the expectations of sacrifices from her.
What do you say when you see a girl playing football better than a boy- She is as strong as a man.
As we say this, we reaffirm that men are a reference group for women in terms of strength, but this goes the other way when we talk about a ‘feminine’ trait-like cooking. Here too exists an anomaly – when cooking is a part of the household and domestic domain, it is the duty of the lady to do so. However, as soon as it enters the economic realm, we see the world’s most significant chefs being male. As the matter is about earning and controlling the resources, men do dominate.
This gender stereotype is not always disadvantageous for women but is also harmful to men. Think once what the words and taunts used for a man who is not masculine enough are? Boys being bullied for not growing a beard is a common scenario.
What do you call someone who earns crores of rupees? Someone who earns lakhs of rupees?
‘Crorepati’ and ‘Lakhpati’
The use of words – pati (Hindi for husband) means the owner of the possessor of something and Patni (Hindi for wife) means ‘the owned’. The relationship is not of two equal entities but of an ‘owner’ and the ‘owned’, which will always be exploitative.
We need more gender-neutral phrases like – ‘you are as strong as Ambuja cement’ or ‘stop crying like a crocodile.’
All the fairy tales and the Dadi-Nani stories end up with a ‘prince charming’ intervening and saving the beautiful, vulnerable princesses. For example, let us begin with the most common one –
The story of cinderella – the story revolves around a weak and docile girl who is protected and given a life of luxury by the prince who was mesmerised by her beauty.
So, god forbid, if Cinderella was not beautiful – fair, slim and be wearing the sparkling dress – she could not live happily ever after.
This belief is because we often idolise the characters from movies, novels, and folk tales.
Now let us talk about the Gudda-Guddi effect. The idea that the women figure – wife – stays at home preparing tea for the husband – the male figure – who has been working all day and earning bread all day. The first toys that you had over to a newborn baby define his or her gender-specific role.
A cute ‘pink’ dress and a barbie doll for the girl and a ‘blue’ dress along with a car or monster truck for the boy to be gender-appropriate while gifting.
After all this, our very own Bollywood never fails to disappoint us with its women representation.
By either the dialogues, songs or the scenes, women are always depicted in their ‘typical feminine’ character. These also reinstate social norms. For example – The famous song of ‘dilbaro’ from the movie ‘Raazi’- Before commenting anything, I would like to state that it is a beautiful song and by no means, I intend to demean or disrespect the creators of the song –
One of the line goes –
फसलें जो काटी जायें ,उगती नहीं हैं
बेटियाँ जो ब्याही जाएँ
मुड़ती नहीं हैं
You are instructing the daughter to leave for the ‘Sasural’ and never return. Once you are gone, you are not supposed to come back at all. With the words मुड़ के ना देखो दिलबरो being repeated more than ten times in the song.
The fake notion of masculinity
At an early age men have been told how to be a real man – Be tall, grow beard, play sports and develop muscles – and if you do not fulfil these criteria – you are not masculine enough. Phrases like – do not be a girl, or be a man set a very high standard for validating a man.
The social standards of being a man – you have a good job; you can sustain a family and even study masculine subjects. In my opinion, a reflection of this also reflects in the farmer suicide cases, apart from the inability to pay back the loan, there also may have been a vital factor of the farmer failing as a ‘man.’
So, next time, when you tell someone to man up, you are reconfirming the gender roles. We must be careful with our words.