Are we raising our children in a gender neutral environment?
Our upbringing plays a significant role in the way we think, act, react later in life. Habits die hard they say and most of these are inculcated at a very nascent stage of life, hence its important to place emphasis on raising our children the right way.
Apart from giving them a good education, proving for all their needs, as parents we play a critical role in raising responsible children. There's so much talk about gender bias, inequality of the sexes, women empowerment- are we overdoing it at times, I wonder. But I look around and see - things have not changed much. I still see these biases lurking in every nook and corner- the woman struggling to make the most of 24 hours, cooking, cleaning, taking care of the kids, running to office, there's no holiday in the true sense for her,is there? I see people abusing their wives and shudder. Young girls who are qualified are asked to sit at home though they wish to work just because their husbands do not permit them.
What has influenced this ruthless/callous attitude? The truth is that the seeds have been sown at a very tender age and they grew up watching these things happening in their homes and surroundings, everyone was doing it and that reinforced their belief and it grew stronger.
At times just out of habit or subconsciously we exhibit gender biases. We may not even realise it, its that subtle at times. But, the consequences stay. So what can we do differently (or avoid doing) to make our sons and daughters grow up with a mindset that they are equal.
1)This is a man's job-I have seen this in many households, after a meal the daughter is asked to lift the dishes and tidy the table and the boy just walks off to wash his hands. Why not tell your son - "honey why don't you and your sister take turns in cleaning the table?" Reserving certain kinds of work for boys and some for girls like going out to buy a packet of milk is what Rahul will do and helping mummy shell peas is Meera's work. Why can't Meera run to the grocer and Rahul shell the peas?
2)Zero tolerance to any form of abuse -I was shocked one day to see a relative's son hitting his sister, twisting her hand, pulling her hair while she howled in pain. The little girl did not hit him back, there were tears of pain in her eyes and the most surprising and annoying thing was all the adults just watched quietly and then just hushed the kids to stop fighting. No one reprimanded the boy. I was almost tempted to go tell the girl "why dint u punch him in the face?" Not that I am someone who supports and thrives on violence but I would not tolerate if my son did that to any girl and would be equally angry if my daughter took someone's beating meekly.
3)Mummy Daddy set the right example-Children are keen observers. In fact they are like blotting paper. They see, they observe, they learn and that becomes a inherent part of their behaviour. Practising gender neutral behaviour, making them understand that there is no such thing as a man's work and woman's work, if Mumma can go to office then Daddy can cook a meal as well right? Or at lest help Mumma with the dishes, washing soiled clothes, mopping the floor. For many men these do not come naturally because they have never been used to doing these in their childhood, they have always seen the women doing these and the men of the house read newspaper or watched tv. When their working wives demand that they help , they are baffled.
4)Boys don't cry- We have heard this since ages and we see a lot of people challenging this age old notion nowadays in fact urging boys to shed their inhibitions and cry. And why not? They are as human as the female species, aren't they? So why do we always ask them to suppress this emotion right from a tender age, stop the tears from falling freely and gradually one day they master this art. It's no longer trying to put up a facade, they no longer feel this emotion. This is not something to cheer about that how strong our little boy has become for its this boy who would not hesitate when demeaning his wife or worse physically abusing her. So the next time let your boy cry, it's better to release your emotions rather than having them pent up.
Raising children with the right set of values is with its challenges but more important than giving them a good education and focussing on them getting into that IIT or foreign university, it's important to focus on raising a good human being. Its these tiny tots who would go out into the world one day and practise what we have taught them over the years. Does my son respect women in the true sense, would he be man enough to stand up for them? Is my daughter brought up with the firm belief that she is no less than a man, she could go and achieve what she wishes without the thought that she's a girl even crossing her mind? Are we raising our children the right way, do ask yourselves this pertinent question for its you and only you as a parent who can make the biggest difference here.
Now let me confess- I am really NOT someone who loves watching
daily soaps. I know reading the tile you thought- what the heck, if it’s a
daily soap on TV it is bound to be stereotypical, full of nonsense and drama
and if you watch such stuff why complain, and if complain why watch? There was a
time when I was in college, all naive, and this was when internet was all about
going to the cyber cafe and getting all excited about entering the chat room
and typing asl (age ,sex ,location) and talking to strangers. At that time, the
only source of entertainment for young people like me was the idiot box so I won’t
lie- I used to watch the Ekta Kapoor soaps and probably even like that at that
point, that’s why I use the word Naive. As I grew up, met
diverse set of people, read and experienced new cultures, my thought process
changed. With a hectic job, I hardly found time for any TV watching. My Mom who
is also a working woman used to watch a few Marathi soaps. She always told me
Bhagwan you speak English with your daughter? What is happening these days?
People want to show off and are forgetting their roots”. I have heard this many times. Earlier my
reaction used to be - apologetic. I would keep quiet and try to ignore the comment
and find an escape route. But now if someone dares to talk to me about this
matter, I snap them off then and there. I am unapologetic I don't think I have
done anything wrong which I need to feel ashamed about. So yes I do speak in
English at home and this is my first language. No qualms about it. And
it's not because of an inter caste marriage in fact I have been speaking
English as a first language right since childhood. To give you some background
on how this came to be. My mother’s parents belonged to Mangalore ( it's a
coastal town in Karnataka) they migrated to Bombay in search of a livelihood
when they were young. They married, had kids and their kids were brought up by
a maid. As my mom and her brother lived…
As Aesha tapped her heel restlessly at the Visa Consulate, one
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her visa will be stamped or not as her fate can either be made or broken by
this one seal (or the lack of it). But for Aesha , her tumultuous mind couldn't
be tamed today. While she was at
the cusp of an important milestone in her career and getting the visa would
mean she inches one step closer to her dream professionally- somewhere she
shuddered to think of how it would impact her love life and the very foundation
of her marriage. It seemed like
yesterday- Aman and Aesha met at a sangeet and got talking. They hit it
instantly and never realized where time flew. They would always chuckle when
they got to know later that this had been set up by their parents. Aesha was a young, dynamic, super smart, intelligent woman who was
a great fan of Sheryl Sandberg and truly…