Written by Tanaya Avalaskar
The predicament with gender is that it prescribes how we should be rather than recognizing how we are”
The Indian Government is working on a salient issue, which is raising the age of marriage for girls from 18 to 21. But while that is happening, recently
in a programme named ‘Samman’ being organized for spreading awareness about crime against women, a Congress leader stated "Doctors say that even a 15-years-old girl can reproduce, then what is the need to increase the marriage age of girls to 21 years?”. Could there be a bigger irony?
But the question isn't “How he could state it”, the question is “Why is a person who is supposed to be ushering the country towards newfangled horizons of development and freedom still impregnated in the stereotypical and unfair gender roles that should have vanished from the face of earth aeons ago? And is he the only one thinking so?” Certainly not!
Let us perceive what these stereotypical Gender roles mean in the first place.
Gender roles are the behaviors men and women exhibit in the private and public realm according to society.
In simpler words, the way we are supposed to act, dress, groom and conduct ourselves.
For example, women are expected to look after their homes, cook, clean, be polite, nurturing and most importantly act as children-producing machines as had been insinuated by the Congress leader. Perhaps even murdering their dreams and goals should be given a position in a women’s gender role according to them.
This is irrational, nothing, not even our gender should have the potence to determine what we should do and what we are capable of doing.
But then why has it been happening through so many years? As Sigmund Freud had wisely pointed out that events that take place in childhood have a great impact on our personality as adults. Children can identify themselves to belong to a gender by the age of three. Through socialization and exposure to the environment children learn stereotypes and roles regarding gender. Social constructionists argue that differences between male and female behavior are better attributable to gender-segregated children's activities than to any natural, physiological, or genetic predisposition. Children imitate their role-models which can be parents, relatives, teachers and other significant people in their life. In some traditional households when a little girl imitates her mother by performing the traditional household duties she is often praised. But if a boy does the same he would more likely be teased and punished for acting feminine. Because these roles have been set by the society for men and women within a marriage,it carves the path for children to follow. This is exactly what we need to discourage in order to create not only a gender-equal society but even self-dependent individuals capable of not only earning money but even taking holistic care of themselves.
This has begun transpiring though not as prevalently as it should. Though traditionally, women were the caretakers of the house and family while the men were providers for the house and family. However, in today's society the changes have started emerging in some families and the division of roles is starting to turn obscure. An increasing number of individuals are adapting non-traditional gender roles in the family and marriage and sharing all the duties.
Hence both, the husband and the wife are providers and caretakers. The men are developing household management skills while the women are acquiring higher education and lucrative jobs.
Egalitarian attitudes uphold all the duties being carried by both - wives and husbands are both breadwinners and they both have a equal part in raising the children and doing the household chores. Apart from the salient motive of developing financially self-sufficient and individuals who can even take care of all aspects of personal life, egalitarianism has to be promoted especially in married couples as-
1}Two studies carried out in the early 2000s have shown strong correlation between egalitarian attitudes and happiness and satisfaction in marriage, which scholars believe lead to stabilization in divorce rates.
2}Danielle J. Lindemann, a sociologist who studies gender, sexuality, the family, and culture, said that the shift in gender roles and egalitarian attitudes have resulted in marriage stability due to tasks being carried out by both partners, such as working late-nights and picking up ill children from school.
3} The results of a 2006 study performed by Gayle Kaufman, a professor of sociology, indicated that those who hold egalitarian attitudes report significantly higher levels of marital happiness than those with more traditional attitudes.
It is the need of the hour to fight gender roles but they have been ingrained in us since childhood, hence, we have to fight them in childhood. Gender- neutral parenting is perhaps the best way to do so. It should begin with small things like encouraging children to play with all kinds of toys like dolls along with cars, keeping clothing and room colour neutral and allowing them to decide what they want to wear.
Gender neutrality in schools can be evolved by not separating toys in gender-specific areas and not having gender-specific sports in PE lessons.
Trying different skills, sports and arts without limiting it to the fields where our own gender is dominant is another effective step. The same applies to our dressing sense, career choices and even the duties we take up in our day-to-day life. We should be ourselves in the best way possible.
Most salient part is to prepare and enhance ourselves in both ways i.e. personally and professionally. We must work towards the achievement of our dream jobs so that we can have a satisfactory career and monetary gains but we must also be able to cook ourselves a meal with those monetary gains and complete all household work for a stable mental, physical and emotional life.