Living in the 21st century, we are exposed to highly sexist things on an everyday basis. From “You’re a boy, you should not cry” to “You’re a girl, you should not wear this” to all the casual comments that we hear so often that it seems a normal part of us, but it is neither normal and nor should be a part of us. Sexism has crept into our daily lives with so much subtlety that it doesn’t even strike us as sexism anymore. But that doesn’t give us the liberty to be ignorant towards the issue, because it demands attention and needs to be addressed.
Growing up we often fail to notice the small ways in which we promote sexism. We need to come to terms with the fact that sexism starts at the grass-root level which is the parenting, children are provided with. No matter how modern or accepting we portray ourselves to be, there’s still some part of us that believes and upholds the social notions of, being strong like a boy and sitting like a girl, in high esteem. What I fail to understand is who is deciding all this? Where is this illogical societal standards rule book present? According to which boys who express themselves are weak, and girls are already weak so who cares if they express themselves.
I don’t know the science behind expressing yourself and being weak, but I do know that not expressing oneself leads to a toxic masculine ego, which also has an adverse effect on the mental health of the person concerned. So we really need to do better and allow kids irrespective of their gender to express themselves. It’s a small step but it will go a long way in tackling the issues discussed below-
Starting right from our childhood, it’s ingrained in our minds that pink is for girls and blue is for boys. Right from our first visit to a toy shop where there is a separate section for boys and girls, and a boy asking to get a doll or a girl asking to get a car is deemed socially unacceptable is precisely what needs to be called out.
There is also a major loophole in the primary education imparted to children. All primary books fail to realize that the examples of “My father goes to the office. He earns money.” and “My mother is a housewife. She cooks food.” are wrong on so many levels. Why can’t we have more gender-inclusive examples like “My parents love me. They cook food and go to the office.” Even if that is not the case at home; but reading such examples will allow children to be adaptive to a social setting where there is more inclusivity for all genders and would lead to a more egalitarian and accepting atmosphere as they grow up.
All this needs to be done at the earliest because, at the tender age where kids start seeing the outside world, they pick up a lot of things from words to toys to trends. They have an impressionable mind, and what they see around them sticks with them throughout, in some cases even taking up the shape of their life ideals that they follow.
So what is needed is an overhaul of the conventional stereotypical social setting and redefining of what is socially acceptable and what is not. It’s important for us as a society to advocate gender-neutral parenting, which starts from treating their children as children without subjecting them to gender bias. This would not only be a step towards breaking the conventional stereotypes but it will also give children the freedom to choose and allow them to make their own decisions.
So decide for yourself what do you want to show in the books as examples- he, she or they? And give children the liberty to choose everything from their favourite colour to toy to gender. Let them decide for themselves whether they want to be known by the pronouns of he, she or they.
By: Pranjal Jain