by Agampreet Kalra
Gender in today’s unpredictable world is seen as a trivial thing when one is talking about success and happiness. However, what we don’t understand is how much gender affects one’s success or happiness quotient. We’re told mostly that, “People who want to do something, will do it. Hurdles and problems are not a thing.” I’m sorry, but how will one manage to fly if you lock down the windows and cut off their wings?
Well, to be honest, it must be considered how much a person is bent under the weight of gender and it’s expectations, before calling people free. Is a man free, when he is expected to be flexible in his “appropriate” job, when in actuality, he is passionate for something like cooking or dancing? Or is a women free when she is expected to be resilient and obedient, but wants to be outspoken, and wants her mind and abilities to be recognised? Since these expectations are not against any fundamental rights, it can be concluded that everyone is free.
Now, before I go on talking about gender expectations, I’d like to first define what gender actually means. Gender refers to the physical or social condition of being a male or a female or something else respectively (and respectfully). That is it! That is all there is! If one could have understood the former sentence with a realistic, rational and justified mind, there shouldn’t be any problems. But they don’t, so here we are.
Now that we know, for my better convenience, what gender means, let's go further to its expectations. But before we begin, let’s talk about these two incidents for a little while.
I recently visited this family a while ago for dinner, where they had two children, a girl of twelve and a boy of fifteen. So the girl, Arya, did not accompany us while eating because, you see, in some orthodox Indian families, females aren’t supposed to join the guests for supper. This incident was not the one which made me rage, since it was too small and casual for me to speak up for (maybe, that is what is happening with society too, because everything is just too casual for anybody to object upon). What got me angry was how, after the main course, Arya was called from her room upstairs, taking her attention away from her studies, just to serve us dessert, while her brother was enjoying TV in the very next room! Arya didn’t wanted to be distracted, I’m sure. She wouldn’t have wanted to serve, but why wouldn’t she? Arya is a girl, and it is expected of her to serve food for dinner and be docile.
Next, I would like to talk about Amaan, a boy of fourteen from my neighbourhood, who is always being bullied for being too thin and lanky, something which only increases if he cries. “You act like a girl!”, his “friends” shout at him, as if being a girl is bad. Because of this, Amaan struggles with displaying his “feminine” emotions, like crying, and his “emasculating” figure, due to him having a thin body structure.
Arya is now learning to cook (for her future family, as her mother would put it) and Amaan has tried several suicidal attempts and is in depression, at present moment. This is what gender expectations do to a person. It has its pros, but they’re mostly non-existential.
Gender expectations are irrational repercussions of cultural extremism. Now, what I don’t understand is how are cultures ever-changing, but expectations are not?
It is blatantly and mindlessly expected of a man to be strong, bold and good with technical things, like cars and gadgets.They are also supposed to be sporty, and very zealous about outdoor activities. Men are always supposed to be the dominant ones, the CEOs, the doctors, the engineers. They are not supposed to cry, or let out their emotions. They must never dance, paint, sew or engage in craft. They must be the masters of their mind, and always be in control to run the world their way. The are never to wear pink or feminine colours, are supposed to be promiscuous, and always have to be the earner of the house.
For women, the less respected gender, expectations, which are assigned for them, mostly revolve around submission. Women are expected to be great cooks from their birth onwards, and they are not supposed to have a loud voice, or an opinion for that matter. They’re supposed to be nurses and never doctors, the teachers and never the principal. They are always responsible for the household and the children. They must know how to dance, sing and must be the expert when it comes to craft. They must always obey, and be resilient to their husbands, and never utter a cry. The basic objective of their life is seen as pleasing and tending after their husbands, and growing their children. Also, the hem length of their lower wear always indicates their character.
Now, tell me, what runs the world? Expectations!
It is hard to be free and rooted in a world which is reluctant to let your true self show. You should always be determined to work with your capabilities to the fullest, even when it gets to the point where you have to break the barriers set by gender expectations. You should know when to cut yourself off from things which don’t encourage you to be positive. As for the world, we should always try to build one that is the most homely to all. If gender expectations are a hurdle, which they are, try to release your thinking from them. Maybe, in a century or so, people will truly be free, jovial and successful in their own skin. It would be the same world, but a little different.