I often wonder about the magnitude of gender discrimination, the fact that almost half the population of the world is unequal to the other half and that too since forever! Blatant gender disparities exist even in countries where men and women have equal rights
And what often lead to gender discrimination are gender prejudices that may seem harmless on the outside but are ultimately toxic for the cause of equality of the sexes.
Gender prejudices exist in the very small things of everyday life even in childhood. For instance, a little girl might be lovingly called ‘princess’ and even treated like one by her parents. In such a case, she will most probably eventually learn to be docile and delicate ‘like a princess’ and imbibe the qualities for a lifetime.
On the other hand, boys are referred to as ‘tigers’ and ‘champions’ and are ‘taught’ to be rough and naughty. These things might appear to be ‘normal’ and innocuous.
However, such preconceived notions about the differences between girls and boys are quite pernicious because eventually they snowball into illogical presumptions about distinctions between the characteristics and capabilities of men and women.
I have personally heard so many people, especially young expectant couples curious about the sex of their unborn child, say things like “boys are naughty while girls are well-behaved”, “if it’s a boy then I (the father) can play tennis with him”, “I wonder if I’m emotionally equipped to bring up a girl” (this came from the mother, sigh!), and some other similar horrendous generalisations about little babies and small children.
I have been angered and answered back each time — “I have personally seen enough naughty little girls and well-behaved little boys”; “When Sania Mirza and Serena Williams can be pros at tennis then why cant daughters play tennis with their fathers?”; “boys too are emotional and it’s certainly important to instil emotional intelligence in them”.
I find such generalisations about small girls and boys in bad taste. What bothers me is that they have become so deep-rooted in people’s mindsets that it is normal to believe and say such things.
In fact, such attitudes exist even in toy stores! Whenever I have visited a toy store and asked for assistance in buying a toy for a child, the first question I have always faced is whether it’s for a boy or a girl.
Now why are toys different for children of different sexes? Because it’s believed that kitchen sets can only be given to girls as they are the ones who should get used to the idea of cooking and because guns are to be gifted only to boys because they are to be filled with hollow notions of masculinity.
Why can’t a boy play with a kitchen set or a doll and why cant a small girl play with cars and guns just like boys do? Only because we have been conditioned to think this way and continue to impart such illogical training to the next generations.
Different attitudes in bringing up boys and girls is exactly how gender prejudices take shape and eventually build up resulting in marginalisation of women. Once the kids grow up, there are even more gender prejudices that they face.
Again, I would like to give examples from personal conversations — “I told my son that it’s important for boys to study maths”, “I want my daughter to pursue a profession suitable for women”, “Women are not really that good at driving”, “My boy is old enough to stop crying like a girl”, and many more!
Such irrational misogynist mindsets are offshoots of the fine-grained disparities between girls and boys in their childhood that build the foundation for glaring injustices against women.