I wonder what it is that boys can do.
I wonder what it is that girls cannot do.
I wonder what we say to them about these ‘cans’ and ‘cannots’.
I wonder how we raise them.
I wonder how much the society has grown in the time I grew up to be a woman from a little girl.
I wonder how much it will grow when I become old.
Well, I wish I could use the word ‘develop’ instead of ‘grow’. But I really doubt about this development as the changes occurred only in the quantity and not quality. Why do I say so? It is only because I see so…
“Boys should not cry like girls.”
“Girls cannot play cricket because the bat is very heavy.”
“Avenger movies should only be watched by boys.”
“Girls can live their dreams until their marriage.”
“Don’t enter into the kitchen. Boys should not cook.”
“Become a teacher only. That is a good profession for women.”
These statements sound very 70s and 80s types. Right? But these are the things told to today’s children whether they are 10 or 13 years old. Shocked? I too was super shocked because the same sort of things are told to the youngsters who are 18 and 19 years old and the same things were being told to me and my peers when we were growing up.
I am about to turn 27 and I am a drama teacher and a theatre artist. Right now I am involved in a project with teenagers who are from a very reputed school in South Delhi and most of them reside in the same part of Delhi. The above statements are given by them under the topic “Gender Stereotypes”. They were supposed to make a play on a chosen theme. Well, this was the chosen theme and their reason of choosing it was that they are not allowed to do certain things because of “Gender Stereotypes” and they face it in making choices, choosing their hobby, deciding for career and general things that they face in a day.
It definitely raises a lot of questions in our minds when we are not allowed to do things because we belong to a specific ‘sex’ and when it actually does not have to do anything with our potential. The same was felt by these children. They are not even given the opportunity to see their potential. A 14 year old girl said “ My school bag is heavier than a cricket bat. If I can carry my bag why cannot I play with a bat? At least give me a chance to prove.” Another young boy of the age 13 said “I cannot even cry about things. I cannot be emotional. I am not allowed to be emotional because I am a boy. Either I am laughed at or I am scolded.”
If the current generation is also facing the same stereotypes and the same restrictions that we used to, I wonder where have we reached? Have we really developed as a society or the previous generation became so comfortable with the stereotypes that it never thought of overcoming them? Or was it something else? I seriously don’t know the answers. But it definitely raises a lot of questions in my mind and in the mind of those young children.
I don’t even want to imagine what these children would have come up with had they got the topic ‘Gender Roles’.
Generally speaking, I did not get to see the qualitative changes. But I have definitely seen quantitative changes. I travel a lot by Delhi metro and being a theatre artist I used to travel at 8 pm, 9 pm, and at times at 10 pm also. In these 8 years, I have seen the number of women traveling around 9 pm has increased drastically. Earlier I used to along with 5-6 women in the women’s coach and these days I don’t even get a seat, sometimes. It indicates that more and more women are working now. This is really a good news until you ask some questions.
Are women working because they are the bread-winners or they are working only to raise the standard of living which is not possible to achieve in one income? Are they working because they want to or are forced to work? Are they working to be independent or to get a good marriage prospect? Women are getting educated and becoming vocal and independent as well. But what is the intention of the society or their families behind it? Generally speaking, women are not being educated because it is the desire of the society or the desire of a woman. They are getting an education because it is the need of the time, every family wishes to have an “educated” bride who even has a “job” to add into the family income. This raises another question. Are women working in the field they wanted to work in or this is also “gendered” job?
Yes, there are gendered jobs as well. School teachers, especially primary school teachers are majorly female teachers. The number of women in this field has also increased gradually. Imagine all the schools in your locality, zones, and districts. Now think how many female teachers you have seens. What is the ratio of males and females? Even today young women are forced to study education and become teacher even though they wanted to study medicine, engineering, economics or journalism. In a recent encounter with B.El.Ed students(teacher trainees) of first and second year I learned that 95% of them did not come there out of choice. They had different preferences. Having said that I don’t mean that women are not going in the fields they wish to go in. We see more female students in other streams and fields as well. The numbers have increased in the field of performing art as well. Which earlier used to be dominated by males. But still the ratio is not so balanced.
We definitely have female leaders, male social workers, female CEOs, male educationists, female entrepreneur and male fashion designers. Yes, definitely there is a change. But which class does it belong to and why? Why are certain sections of the society still stuck into the same thinking? Why this gender stereotype still prevelent? Why are we addressing the same questions that we used to address decades ago? Should not there be a change in the thinking as well(quality) along with the quantity? Would not that be better?
I feel stuck in time. Such stereotypes still dominate the society and I only wonder- Where have we reaches and where are we moving to?
- Jyotsana is a theatre artist, storyteller, and a drama facilitator. Right now she is working intensely in the field of drama and education. She uses various learning techniques to introduce children to theatre not only as a fun experience but also as a method to build their personality and for education as well.