What does the word gender mean to us? It was once believed that one’s biological gender determined what was expected, allowed and valued in us. To be a boy or a girl meant behaving in a certain way and possessing certain qualities. But society today is in transition, and people have now begun to question these age-old assumptions. At the same time, such progress is not pervasive, as it does not necessarily seep down to each section of the population. There is ample evidence to suggest the existence of more regressive patterns continuing to flourish within the country. In fact, this is widely circulated as well as often criticized as well, be it in the papers, on the news, or even as events in reality occurring around us.
Transcending Gender Barriers
Such a paradigm shift in gender ideology and family structures can seem daunting at first – it takes us away from what is predictable and maybe even comfortable. It can also give rise to conflicts in roles and expectations. But at the same time, this is a change that needs to be accepted and embraced, and it requires each of us to think about gender ideology in the microcosm of our own day to day life.
1. Avoid stereotyping. We all have a tendency to stereotype in order to simplify our social world and make it seem more predictable. But these stereotypes often lead to errors of judgment. Treat people as individuals rather than as stereotypes.
2. Be open to new ideas. Stereotypes narrow our perceptions and prevent us from genuinely thinking about new ideas. Keep an open mind when thinking about gender roles and don’t be afraid of thinking out of the box.
3. Respect individuality. We ourselves are often the most critical of our peers who don’t ‘fit in’ with our idea of what it is to be normal. Identify your own pre-conceived notions and respect the individual expression of your peers. Try to understand their perspective and learn to empathize.
4. Question unsaid conventions. Gender roles aren’t determined biologically; we learn them from our family, the media and the community at large. Think critically about unsaid social norms and rules; questions your beliefs, and those of others around you.
5. Explore your potential. We ourselves often tend to re-affirm our own gender role more than anyone else around us. But don’t let yourself be confined by the expectations of your gender. Think about what you really enjoy doing and don’t be afraid to explore the range of your potential.
It is important for us to remind ourselves of our responsibility towards not just females, but towards each individual as a respectable member of the society. As we talk about addressing issues related to gender equality, it is also important for us to take a check on our own selves as a responsible unit of the society. It is our own thinking, belief systems and behavioural patterns that integrate to go a long way in influencing the perceptions of the society as a whole.
It is necessary for us to take an introspective stance, and think about breaking through the stereotypes that have existed across decades in various sections of the society. Unless we do not spread the awareness of being able to identify instances of such injustice and stereotypical thinking patterns, we shall not be able to achieve gender equality in its true sense.