Sunday, August 01, 2010

"Sins" against "gender stereotypes" it seems

As usual, I am late to this party too- but I really don't read very many blogs any more, so I am mostly out of the loop. Anyhow, I chanced upon this tag doing the rounds and wanted to barf. So this is my blog-barf. Please excuse.

First of all, I am not sure if anyone indulging in making a list of things they consider "against the gender stereotype" cared enough to specify the confines of that stereotype. Secondly, I am not sure what stereotype they broke, in their self-claimed gender-benders? Sample a few gems that were repeated in several different blogs

I drink beer. heh. I really don't know what to say, except, may be, this stereotype might apply specifically to Indian women, but, it is by no means a species-wide stereotype. Please to take note.

I am married but I don't wear a mangalsutra/sindoor? If you said, I tied the mangalsutra to my husband, that would be interesting.

I carry heavy stuff. LOL. I think the women that listed this need to go see women work at construction sites. They wear their mangalsutra, no make up AND lift heavy stuff, day in and out.

I do the finances/ I invest in stock market/ I enjoy photography / I enjoy gadgets / The females who put this down need to get out of the time warp they are stuck in and stop offending their species as a whole.

I love books, I love driving. WTF.

Can change fuse bulbs / replace gas cylinders. ROFL.

Traveled alone!

And then there are women that have disclaimers (dont wear make up except eyeliner ...don't like shopping but may be some window shopping..I dont wear make up but I wish I knew how to! LOL.) - reinforcing one of the biggest stereotypes that hurt our species- being self-contradictory.

I am confident/ I am outspoken/ I am brave. I head the department. And that is supposed to be a man thing or not supposed to be a woman thing? I don't get it.

I hate cooking! Yeah, all you menfolk, you are allowed to hate cooking because it is, apparently, a man thing to hate cooking. Same goes with channel-surfing/burping/farting/cussing...yeah!

I don't know if all the brave/outspoken/ make-up hating women realise that, by making such lists they are first of all reinforcing some completely misplaced and outdated stereotypes and doing their species more harm than good. Second, I cannot believe that women in this day and age are discussing how they break gender stereotypes by virtue of wearing jeans or changing bulbs or balancing their chequebooks- I mean seriously? Can you please tell me how you are accessing the interwebs in the caves that you seem to be blogging out of?


Sakshi said...

God, I have been itching to rant on this ever since I saw the meme (and also the one preceding this called "what women want," coz we are all mysterious, you know)
Waiting for people to say "dont take it so seriously" in 5......4.....3.....2.....

shub said...

Can I just say I love you for this post? I found the tag patronizing and regressive. And it annoyed me no end to see one blogger after another take this up.

"They wear their mangalsutra, no make up AND lift heavy stuff, day in and out." Brilliant.

When I saw the title of this post, my heart sank. And then I grinned. Thank you, TGFI. I want to send you flowers. Or will I be reinforcing the stereotype?

Serendipity said...

:D @ "If you said, I tied the mangalsutra to my husband, that would be interesting." ..Yes , I find this tag very revolting as well.I was telling one of my co-workers that I drove to a hill station all alone yeserday , and I had an enjoyable time by myself.She couldn't take in the fact that ALONE is actually a choice.I love love this post

Amrita said...

Hi there,
I have been reading your blog for a while now and I just had to comment on this post. Well done!! Good on you! I saw this tag making its way around the blogosphere and you have written what has been playing on many minds!

Nandini said...

Reading this post, I can't decide if you're very young, or very privileged, or both.

I come from a generation (not that old even!) and a segment of society (a very wide segment, the majority!) where I've had to fight both my indoctrination and the people closest in order to do every single thing I listed in the post where I did this tag. I still have broken relationships with my nearest and dearest to show for my defiance. One item in that list is in fact an ongoing battle that's taking a heavy toll.

So, NEWSFLASH: the straitjacket of gender norms as discussed in this tag still binds most women in the world; these norms are neither outdated, and nor can most women afford to simply laugh at them and move on.

I find it very difficult to believe you've never even been exposed to these gender norms, even if you haven't been subjected to them. I think it's more than likely that you are well aware that most women have to truly fight to break these rules every single day, but the world you live in is so far removed from this that you truly have no perspective - you think the fighting is easy, you think nobody should be making such a big deal of it.

The thoughtful and intelligent thing to do right now is acknowledge that you belong to hyperelite, superprivileged minority. As a member of that class, it's your job to shut up and listen, not tell the masses to "eat cake".

Nandini said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The_Girl_From_Ipanema said...

Nandini, Full power to your peresonal battles - I am nobody to comment on them. My reaction was to a series of posts I saw on this issue, and the points I highlighted I saw being made by more than one instance.

I am niether young nor "hyperprivileged" but the women I have seen and known did not have to wage a war or struggle to acquire the right to drink beer, the right to not wear make up, or the right to wield a camera or lift heavy weights. I have seen women lift weights and change the gas cylinder simply because there was no other choice. I think that claiming to have struggled to "attain" these freedoms reeks of classism. The everyday woman that I see- both in India and abroad, is fighting bigger gender battles. Cameras and laptops are non-issues, and the reactions to this "tag", taken at face value seems to me like a very frivolous way of undermining the real struggles that women have fought and are fighting.

Nandini said...

Girl From Ipanema, you start off by saying:

Full power to your peresonal battles - I am nobody to comment on them.

But in practically every sentence thereafter, you not only "comment" on my personal battles, you deride them as "non-issues", "frivolous", "reeking of classism" (?!) and even actively "undermining the REAL struggles of women" if I write about them.

What you're saying, in effect, is if our struggles do not rival those of Sarojini Naidu or Gloria Steinem, we should keep our mouth shut. I take great exception to that. It's good and necessary for us to write about our personal battles, so other women like us can see they're not alone. It's even personally beneficial, since my whole family with whom I still clash about many of these issues read my blog regularly... the post was thus also about me trying to state my position to them in a nontraditional way. So who are you to tell me this is a non-issue?

Make no mistake: if what I wrote about seem frivolous to you, if neither you nor any woman you know has ever had to wage a war for the right to drink beer, hyperprivileged is exactly what you are. It's YOUR post and comment that reek of classism.

aequo animo said...

The day women stop thinking about these things, they break the stereotype. ;) :D

The_Girl_From_Ipanema said...

Again, none of this is a comment on your struggles, although I was not aware of them when I read your posts on this issue. However, as I stated in my post, nobody bothered to describe their limits or confines before listing all their "gender benders". For example, on your blog what I saw was

"I always wish I had a better dress-up sense and make-up skills. I wish I could look as polished as some women manage all the time!"

preceeding a post on "gender-benders" where you said

"I am completely clueless in the universe of makeup. I tend to stay far away from all of it."

And funnily enough, I saw stuff like that at other places too "I dont wear make up, oh except eyepencil"

Honestly there is no way for a reader to guage that these or other points clubbed alongside have stories of serious personal gender struggle behind them. That is how they come across as frivolous.

For example, I am beginning to see why not wearing a mangalsutra would be a personal triumph for someone- but I also know a lot of women that dont' wear their mangalsutra -without facing any resistance or any struggle- and there's no way of telling one from the other, is there?

The reason I think it is classist is that If women are going to rejoice over the fact that they lift heavy things,what does it have to say for women who do this for a living? same goes for the make up thing- these are not choices the everyday woman is battling! Then you say these are stories of personal victory, if so, I say don't make it into a gender thing.

And finally, I think empowerment will be better achieved if some of these things are taken for granted- so that even women that are yet to break these barriers, do not have to be conscious that it is a gender barrier- A better message to project would be - choose maths, travel alone, be outspoken, like its the most natural thing that comes to you, not with the imposed notion that you are fighting your innate gender in doing so.

nightflier said...

havent read any of the above comments..but arent stereotypes a personal thing..about expanding your unknowingly create one for yourself and then you break it knowingly..simple me thinks :)

Sakshi said...

@Nandini -
Sexism requires women to behave as plastic dolls. And the fact that you dont wear make up and dont shy away from stating your opinion is a sign of bending the gender norms. And I hope it catches on. But the other things on your list had me bewildered.
For eg-
Swearing - Having spent some time with the fisherwomen folk, I can safely assume there are women who swear, a lot. And it is not frowned upon. What you are talking about is more of a class issue - men and women from good families dont swear.

Pants - Have been a norm since the 60s in the west and may be the late 80s in most Indian cities.

Religion - I never knew religion was associated with a gender.

TGFI makes a valid point - listing out things that you think are not "feminine" without giving an explanation why they fit into "gender bender" category (as quite a few women have done, one eg I remember was "I hate pink") just seems frivolous.

There is a great need to expose inherent sexism in our society, an even greater need to fight it by being more vocal in exposing it and getting folks to see why sexism hurts. Making pointless lists without talking about inherent problems we women face everyday, imho, is just fluff.

Shalaka said...

@Sakshi and @TGFI - listing out things that you think are not "feminine" without giving an explanation why they fit into "gender bender" category just seems frivolous.

Well, it's pretty obvious to me that the things stated by a person as "non feminine" fit into the gender bender category for that person. What more explanation do you need?

Making pointless lists without talking about inherent problems we women face everyday, imho, is just fluff.

Hello - a bit high handed, aren't we? What gives you or TGFI the right to call it pointless or fluff? If you don't want to participate in the tag, then don't - nobody is forcing you to. Maybe instead of commenting on our tag, you girls should focus on what you feel qualifies as women empowerment - at least be a little productive instead of just cribbing.

Sakshi said...


I will wait for that person to respond to my question. If the answer is "Because I think it is" then let it be her answer.

What gives you or TGFI the right to call it pointless or fluff? If you don't want to participate in the tag, then don't - nobody is forcing you to
Let's see - This is TGFI's blog so the only person who has a right to say what ever on this blog is her. AFAIK, she did not link to ANY posts or call any single person out. She made a general statement that she found the lists pointless - opinion which she can freely express (in other words a gender bending attitude... wheee.). The post being criticized was linked by the author herself. If you dont like being called on the internet, dont write public posts. Otherwise, prepare to defend your statements with lucidity.

Which brings us to the age old criticism on blogosphere -
"Dont call out my stuff unless you can do better."
To that I say bull shit. Yes, I can curse too.