Why are societal expectations thrust upon us based on the mere characteristics of our gender?
Reading the very title of the blog, I am very sure most of you would have associated the color “blue” with” males” and “pink” with females. Such is the conditioning of the society that we have internalized the set norms of binaries.
Gender, a social construct, is a rigid expectation of what makes a man and what makes a woman. It is about the social and cultural differences rather than the biological ones. It is not something that we “are” or something that we “have”, but what we “ought to be”.
Once you are identified as a “male” or “female”, it becomes the cornerstone for the ways of your life. Determining the Christmas present you’d receive, how you’d socialize, how and who you date, what you should look like, how you dress, talk and what would could be the possible careers you could choose is all dictated by what? Your chromosomes. What is it that validates that a certain person is fit for being a home maker just because they have XX and not XY chromosomes, or that they have a set of ovaries rather than testicles.
What happens when you bring a child into a world which is divided by two mutually exclusive categories and raise them catering to the rules of one leaving no scope for any choice or fluidity? You pass on the practice of performing “gender”. And if they do not conform to either of the two, they are pushed to the border of being the “Other”, being the butt of constant ridicule and rendered invisible altogether. Movies with homosexual love are still received with discomfort. If a character’s presence makes us so uneasy, then isn’t it a given that people who fall under this category struggle lifelong to consolidate a respectable position for themselves?
The two categories are so airtight that there is no room for diffusion of “Masculine “ and “Feminine” traits. A male who might be soft –spoken is branded as a sissy and at times suspected to be a homosexual( which is no less than a stigma). The fact that we need an alternate sexuality is an evidence of how closely our gender expression and sexuality are linked. The emotions, feelings and desires, all are gendered. Colloquial phrases like “dying a man’s death”, “gossiping like a woman”, “Take it like a man!”, “working mothers” , “chairman” are all manifestations of unbending gender bifurcation. Isn’t it surprising that the mere presence/absence of certain organs gets to decide the entire path of life ahead of us?
Talking of the contemporary times, the deeply embedded gender dynamics passes off as humour in popular culture. WhatsApp jokes are a testimony.Think of every ‘wife-husband’ joke that you have ever been privy to. Marriage seen as an institution for restoring boys, the woman being a disciplinarian, wife as an object, are all common themes. The cinemas rely heavily on the stereotypes associated with men and women. A man isn’t manly unless ‘masochistic’ enough to rescue the ‘distressed damsel’.
We are so used to gender-specific values that the sexist remarks are often mistaken for compliments. Think about these: “Beauty with Brains”, “You drive well for a woman”,” You are not like other girls”, “We have raised you like a son, not a daughter”. These are known as benevolent sexism and a product of the actualization of the propagation of gender stereotypes. So maybe next time someone “compliments” you, think about how it is nothing but a reinforcement of the hegemonic male-female behavior.
Perhaps, it is time that we outgrow the invariable set-up that offers only two specks to occupy when humans venture on a quest to frame their identities. We ought to embrace “Gender Fluidity” that enables a being to explore gender before landing on a more stable gender expression or identity. Support people in making informed decisions, let go of filtered dogmatic perspectives and let the Gender Prism not be a tripartite between the Male, the Female, and the Other.
Humans are a thinking and evolving race. Maybe, it is high time that we realize that we evolve and make the society a better dwelling place. A place where one wakes up and feels comfortable in one’s own skin, not being bereft of basic human dignity due to preset standards. Challenging and redesigning the social gender ecology to form a more encompassing spectrum could aid to do wonders. Maybe now is the time to unlearn and relearn consecutively, embrace gender diversity and expand our horizon beyond Blue and Pink.
(This blog is submitted by a Guest Author, Shikha Verma)