A 2 year old hits his fellow play-mate and someone around him says, ‘Oh he’s a boy! Boys are like that’. With pride in the first half of the statement and total acceptance in the second half, you have just handed him a life-time excuse for every inappropriate act he commits. No wonder boys are so confident and comfortable in their own skin, free to express their opinions using any language they prefer be it slang or anything, without anyone judging them. By default, they are allowed to go anywhere and do whatever they want and turn into creatures that we need to protect our girls from. Girls, on the other hand, are critically observed, by their very own mothers and female relatives, at home and in every social gathering, on the ways they dress, speak, sit or stand, their complexion, height, weight, etc. etc. making them all just about that. Through generations we create these two distinctly contrasting human beings of unconcerned (avoiding responsibility) males and over-concerned (interfering) females and then say hopelessly that that’s how boys and girls are meant to behave.
In this modern era when the idea of gender equality is gaining popularity, how do we identify the bias that we have internalized so deeply it has become a part of our ‘norms’? Take a simple test to examine where you stand. Imagine your teenage son doing something which you totally disapprove of (for example smoking) and the next instant replace it with your teenage daughter doing it. Almost all of us would be shocked at our own reaction as it just went from dislike to being horrified!
As soon as you split the human race into two; one becoming superior treating the other half as inferior, that other half no longer remains at the human level. It is degraded to the level of animals or even worse, objects. Hence, the female gender is deprived of the free independent will (exclusive to humans) and turns into ‘things’ who do not have a purpose of their own. They only exist to serve others and please them. This deep-rooted prejudice cannot be eliminated by the superficial changes of harmonizing the tasks and roles or eliminating the differences altogether; letting your son dress in pink and play with dolls or allowing the mother to pursue her career while the father stays at home. We have to realistically admit that the differences DO exist but they do for a reason, not as privileges for one and drawbacks for the other. So, how about we set aside these natural physiological differences as we move about freely in the society as equals and address the gender roles only where applicable?
Every human being is born with the capacity to develop positive traits and reach a high level of character and it applies to both the genders equally. We need to instill those character traits in our sons and daughters which have gone missing in each. Raise your daughters to become educated, strong, self-reliant and confident individuals who can stand up for themselves and refuse to become decorated objects. As far as boys are concerned, it’s time that they start treating girls and women who are not their own mothers or sisters with due respect. It’s time that they watch how they conduct themselves in the society; instead of pointing towards how she dresses and how she walks, they should learn to look the other way and be solely accountable for their own doings without any excuses. Whether it’s the workplace or the road, a social gathering or home, it’s time that men make it easier for women to live!
As compared to single individuals, the existence of gender bias in a family unit has a greater impact on what prevails in the society because not only these units themselves constitute the society we live in, they are also the reason this prejudice is passed on to the next generation without question.
Fortunately, against all odds, there are those rare gems of men, who know the art of balancing and are never insecure about giving their wives their well-deserved place. They don’t run away from responsibilities and feel no shame in being ‘family oriented’. They sincerely acknowledge the contributions of their partners, which in most cases, far exceed their own and appreciate them instead of critically evaluating their performance. They do not forget that the home environment they’re providing today will be the tomorrow of their children. They are well aware that the slightest hint of abuse in the parents’ relationship could mean the daughters tolerating it and the sons getting away with it when they grow up. So they are convinced that if they live by the permanent values of trust, mutual respect, compassion, love and understanding, their children will know the meaning of a peaceful and content family life and will be equipped with skills to create their own wonderful worlds.
These rare gems of men are the role models who have the power to direct society towards balance and stability by elevating women to their own level. The wave of change must come from the ‘privileged gender’. The sooner the better.