Growing up in a world which has been under the claws of patriarchy for centuries; we have often heard these phrases. “Run like a girl”, “cry like a girl”, “walk like a girl”, “like a girl”.
I don’t need to make my female readers aware of the myriad labels that exist with regards to our gender. Labels like this exist for all groups, and are often stereotypical. The shamefully surprising observation here is that all these labels are aimed at portraying women in a poor light. And women partaking in such name calling are even more ignoble than the existence of such terms.
Being brought up in a family which ardently upholds gender equality, I was never made to feel that there are things that I cannot do or am not expected to do or the other way around. But I, the young blossom who would have bloomed freely in a better world, had to go out in the real world, eventually. And what I saw was harrowingly suffocating.
I was in fourth grade when my supposed best friend of six years decided that I wasn’t “girly” enough to be her friend anymore. Now I know that it was a lame pretext (in reality she had found a replacement), but for a nine year old girl to point her finger at another and accuse her of not possessing the stereotypical female qualities is a fault in her character, goes a long way to show the existing double standards in our society and the effect it has on young minds. What is “girly”? Why participation in sports isn’t considered girly? I have always wondered who made these rules for genders and why are we so reluctant to step out of it.
A year later, I wanted to play basketball. They had a team for boys in our school and none for girls and the credit goes to our very respected and sexist physical education teacher. Unaware of the prevalence of such demons in this world, I approached him and requested him to make a team for us and coach us in the game (I doubt he knew how to play any sport). He gave me a petulant snigger through his moustachioed rat face (I am not sorry), and told me to form my own. That was it. Later I learnt that he had taken a plastic ball from my female friends and said that they don’t need to play with a ball by virtue of their gender and gave the ball to the boys. If a school can house such a man and respect and love him while he continued his shenanigans with impunity, then whom can a girl child hope to go for her rights?
I am now, a nineteen year old girl and have stacks of such stories and I have more formidable years to earn more samples of such dreadful experiences. My love for sports and video games has been mocked, ridiculed and quizzed with incredulity by boys. Others are impressed that I can sit my ass in front of a console and hit some buttons and yell at a screen. Both reactions are testimony to the fact that these people have been brought up with the idea that there are marked differences between a man and a woman. A girl doesn’t do things that a boy does and vice versa. But what a girl does is always laughable and trifling. Whereas whatever a stereotypical boy does is utterly fantastic. Even if it is yelling at a computer while, hitting a couple of buttons (fun fact: the gender distinction in toys was introduced by American toy shops, Nintendo randomly decided to put video games under boys; so today it could have been a girl thing and like dolls, boys would have been shamed if they played with it). And who can blame these people? I do. I believe every human should rationally question social norms. Just because people say it is true might not mean it is unerring in its usage. Albeit I agree that some people of a less curious faculty is a mere manifestation of what society has taught them. Like a parrot gurgling up words with no coherence in its meaning, without a single thought spared in its use.
A child is taught in rudimentary training that the mother stays at home and her common habitat is the kitchen while the father goes out to earn money. Two things need to be drawn into attention: first and foremost is that, doing household chores and providing food for one’s family throughout the year with no vacations and day offs, is a mightier task than sitting at a corner office labouring on some statistics; second is that, why this general depiction of a woman in a kitchen. A man can do it as well as any woman. Living in the year 2017, our tv screens are still obtruded by obnoxious adverts of women being confined in the house labouring for their husbands. The entertainment sector should realise how big their part is in changing public opinion and educating them. Now if a child grows under such circumstances where wherever they go they see women being belittled via jokes on social media written in very bad taste (and if this is justified as funny I will be more than glad to have no sense of humour), treated like dirt by their husbands and families; make these children more susceptible to apathy. Husbands irrespective of their love for their wives are often seen chastising their wives like some school kid! They can’t even treat their wives as their equal then how can their kids treat other women equally?
I can write three volumes of books on this but let’s talk about the phrases we began the blog with. A boy is always ridiculed when they do something effeminate (aka showing compassion, being sensitive, showing emotions, being intelligent and not being an abominable rock or put it another way, not being a hardened piece of shit). Also some men are encouraged and riled up by discouraging them to be a girl (“what are you, a girl or something?”). Aside from emotionally stunting and distorting men and boys and putting forth a disgusting image of masculinity, let me shed some light on another question that I have been pondering upon for a long time. Why is it so offensive for a boy to be compared to a girl or considered doing something particularly effeminate when the same can’t be said about girls who are termed to be “bro girls”? So girls doing something society taught us to be a “boy thing” is cool but a boy doing the same are shameful? Why is it such a shame to be a girl?
Why “run like a girl”? Have you seen a girl run? They can outrun your ass in high heels (on which I will rant in a later blog but suffice it to say that it is a torture device). So next time you say “like a girl” to your son, brother or anyone, make it an exercise to make it a positive statement.
While we are on the topic I would like to quote Betty White (American actress), “Why do people say ‘grow some balls’? Balls are weak and sensitive. If you wanna be tough, grow a vagina. Those things can take a pounding.” Humour aside this goes to the heart of our aforementioned problems. The presence or absence of a certain genitalia has nothing to do with strength, bravery, compassion or any trait whatsoever. A man or a woman should never restrict themselves within the crude boundaries set by the society. Who doesn’t love the freedom of having no rules to constrict them? So why support such right wing ideologies while living in the 21st century? Do what is natural, and that is what you feel like doing. So run like a girl as much as you want. Don’t shy away from crying because it is dubbed as a sign of weakness. It is compassion and not frailty. Compassion is our biggest strength as humans. Embrace it! And for heaven’s sake keep colours out of the gender feud. They are just light reflecting off a surface and entering our eyes, exciting our optic cells and sending a nervous signal to our brain to form a coloured image. Don’t make differences where there are none, the world is already suffering enough.