Gender Roles and Body Shaming

Konjam odamba kora. Apo thaan kalyanathuku apram sari a irukum’ (tone down a little only then it would be perfect after marriage)

Let the menfolk eat first. Let’s serve food for them’

These are common sentences we get to hear in a typical Indian household. Be it a family gathering or just a couple of family friends meeting each other, patriarchy and body shaming is being served, unaware to us, on a silver platter. We tend to practice and propagate meaningless rules generation after generation, unconsciously, and then crib about women’s empowerment and gender equality.

We have been a part of the problem that is plaguing our society these days. I have a few observations to drive in my point.

At any social gathering, with our extended family or friends circle, the ladies would be moving in groups in the vicinity of the kitchen while the menfolk would be comfortable in the living room, guffawing out loud. Except those occasional peeps into the kitchen asking if food and drinks are ready to be served, it is a rarity to see men near the kitchen. We also promote the bias by asking the men to eat first and pulling back our girl children to serve food and drinks, in the pretext of ‘training’ her for her future as a hostess.

Similar is the case of body shaming within the family. Every aunty would have a ready-made opinion on your looks and a handy recipe to reduce the weight or drive away those blemishes in your face. They would be more than happy to express an opinion on everything under the sun, irrespective of whether they are asked for it. We have seen our own people shaming us for being too thin or too fat or too dark or too pale. After all, marriage is a market and we must be THE best product to fetch a super awesome bargain, right?

Every society has a huge role to play in shaping up a generation. We have graduated from child marriage and sati to what we call a more liberal scenario. But how true is that? As girls, we are asked to cover ourselves up in the scorching heat, while boys enjoy walking around topless. We are asked to not place our innerwear in the washroom for laundry lest our siblings see them and get aroused. We are asked to serve tea and coffee to the guests while the boys are allowed to socialise and entertain the guests with Bravo stories of their escapades. We are asked to maintain our weight and skin while no such emphasis is put on boys who are also becoming eligible bachelors side by side. Boys are told to focus on bank balance while girls are told to tone it down.

All these might sound trivial and immaterial, but they go a long way in seeding the thought of patriarchy and gender inequality in people. We are sowing seeds which are going to keep sprouting into non-sensical and illogical gender roles in future.

While we might not like naming it, this is what we call patriarchy and body shaming. It is real and it is there in our own house if we watch closely. We are very much a part of the problem.

How to come out of this rut? Offer to slay the patriarchy from your own female folks. Encourage sharing of chores, help them develop a healthy body image, do not promote stereotypes. We have come this far and are stepping into another decade in the 21st century. We sure do not need men with regressive mindset and women who practice and preach gender roles. Let us begin the change from our own selves.

 

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Oh the Patriarchy! Bless my soul.

Today I happened to read an answer by a very popular guy on Quora. The question was this- “If separating a man from his parents is cruelty, what about when married women have to leave their parents after marriage? “

The answer begins like this –

“That’s the way Indian society is set up. Married women leave their house, go to their in laws house and little by little take over the responsibility of most of the things so that in laws, who are growing old, can retire and be free from major responsibilities.

This isn’t cruelty. This is how the institution of marriage is designed for India.”…. and goes on for about 580 other similar words of justification.

Let me identify the basic flaw here. The justification of that is how the society is, does not really fare well with me.  Let me tell you why. Society is made up of people like us. You and me. People who make the society what it is today, may or may not be alive tomorrow and definitely not in a hundred years time. What we witness today in the name of societal norms is just what our previous generation has been forced to follow by their parents. Have we changed at all from the set pattern? May be a little, but we would agree that there is definitely a long way to go.

This answer actually goes on to justify the separation of the girl after marriage as something very normal and acceptable while the same, if done to the son, is unacceptable. The author also goes on to say that if at all the girl is a single child, then she shall very well take care of her parents and yada yada. Well, the patriarchy is giving us permission, you see.

Taking care of ones parents is the duty of every son and daughter. They could be the only child or one in a dozen. Every child has the responsibility to take care of their parents irrespective of ones own marital status. I don’t think one would require the permission of anybody else to do this. Be it the husband or the in-laws.

To adopt a family as ones own immediately after marriage and to abandon ones parents because one is married is just abominable and to ask the bride/groom to do it is pathetic. More than power or authority, this move reflects ones insecurities and rather crass upbringing/growing up.

Many things which were once accepted in the society as a norm, have been driven away successfully. People fail to see this transition and go on to bestow the mankind with their pearls of wisdom.

It is shocking to see that even in my generation there are people who take the name of culture/society to justify something stupid and could actually get away with it. Yes, the girl who offered her unflinching support by highlighting the concession given to single girl child, I am looking at you.

Quora is becoming a recipient for such butt wads and I don’t have an idea why.

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Image credits- Google