Pia wrote this post on gender stereotypes, written with the characteristic beauty and clarity of her posts that I really don’t have any value to add.

So I promptly made the cake. And tried to move on about the post itself.

But the topic refused to leave me. On the one hand there is probably too much being said of it, at least in certain circles that we tend to engage in. If there were such a thing as being too militantly non-conformant I have often been guilty of erring on that side, in choices of toys and clothes for Mia, in gifts that I give and such. And then on the other, Pia and some of the other commenters are right in saying that there isn’t quite enough being said/written/read. And these things do go beyond cloth choices or just how you talk to a small boy/girl. The ripples thus created do last and translate across society age and time.

I have a good start of course, having been raised by parents who raised their two girls as liberally as conceivable. I often say – only half jokingly – that my mom is more of a feminist than I. I grew up with a dad who woke us up, washed us, ironed our clothes got us ready for school while mom was busy making and packing the many meals for the day and getting dressed to leave for work herself. My dad is the one who told us about the period and women stuff and to this day I remember the look on my (older) cousin’s face when I told her I knew all about girl stuff coz my dad had taught me. Things like that..

Mia grows up seeing a similar dance between Vin and I. If she is sick, it is often Vin that stays home coz he has that flexibility. Vin cant cook to save his life, but he does pretty much all the cleaning around the house. When she wakes up in the middle of the night the first person she asks for is Acha not me. (Now does that make me jealous, a tinge probably).yada yada.

That brings me to her. Is the societal, commercial influence strong enough that none of our effort makes a dent? Right now it happily isn’t.

This is the girl who picked out a monster tee shirt at target last month when I bit my lip and slapped myself for almost saying it is a boy shirt (there I’ve said it). She is also the one who was adamant on being a fire-fighter for halloween when the rest of her daycare was a parade of Elsas and Ana. In fact I was soo nervous when I brought her in thinking she might change her mind and want a princess costume after all. Thankfully she didn’t even seem to notice. She is equally bad at soccer and ballet and equally excited about both. Books/toys mostly neutral. Her scooter is pink (coz it was 15$ cheaper than the boy version) but her snowsuit is blue (for similar economic reasons). You get the drift.

So, on last count, we are still winning this war over stereotypes.

Only barely albiet. Coz this is also the girl that pronounced yesterday that she only wants purple things. The monster tee has been relegated to the ignored/wont_wear pile because she ‘doesn’t want to wear boy clothes’. And I’m guilty too, perhaps. I don’t stop myself from telling her she looks pretty or saying a dress is pretty. In the same vein as I tell her she is smart when she does something really cool. It requires deliberate effort to do be that way and I’m frankly not sold on the benefits/necessity there. It does become an issue when that’s all she hears and maybe someday I’ll realize that is indeed most of what she hears / told outside the house so we need to step up efforts within. (Like already it irks me that her teacher keeps pairing her with the only other girl in class. She does it in her good natured way so I dont know if/how I’d interject but I do suspect there is something like that going on).

Meanwhile I leave you with a pic of my very handsome firefighter (see what I did there :))



2 thoughts on “

  1. Thanks for responding to the post so beautifully, Lakshmi!
    You’re right, Mia – the handsome firefighter with the gorgeously brave smile – is still at that age were the stereotypes are easier to keep at bay. Even though R’s core interests are very free of gender boxes (her art always shows very strong female roles, her choice of toys are all four-legged etc), I can see her starting to be conscious of what her friends might think (for example, what if someone saw the tag inside her dino tee says ‘John Lewis for Boys’ – they’ll laugh). With the gender roles Mia and R are seeing growing up (D, like Vin, does far more housework than I do, can more easily take the day off for childcare than I can), I can only expect them to be secure in their independence and equality as they go about the world. But for them to be have partners, friends, colleagues and bosses who’ve been brought up with similar values, a larger discussion is definitely needed. Families who’re consciously trying to break gender roles are still too few in number, and since those who’re knee-deep in stereotyping don’t actually notice the stereotypes at all, change is hard.

  2. I agree Pia, as much as there was a voice in my head that said I have topic fatigue on this, there was another that said I have too much stake and too much to say to ignore it. You know which one won. And you make such a relevant point about the world at large – partners, friends and colleagues. Put that way it even hits closer home. Thanks for triggering the discussion, and also for the visit to this space.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s