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A few months back, I was meeting up with one of my male friends and my aunt was with me. While we were talking, my friend, who is a bachelor, mentioned that he eats food from outside almost every day. To this, my aunt – who is educated, broad-minded, friendly and fun – responded almost instantly, “Oh that’s not good for your health. Get married soon.” Um, excuse me?! She could have said, “Hire a cook” or better yet, “Learn to cook”, but her solution was – Get married, because then someone will cook for you.
So, is that why a girl needs to get married? Of course, there is nothing wrong in a wife cooking for her husband, but surely, the answer to a man’s longing for home food is not marriage? If a girl had complained about eating from restaurants every day, I wonder if anyone would have given her the same suggestion.
I’ve had long hair for as long as I can remember and it was getting to be boring. So I decided to get a pixie cut for a change and headed to the salon. When I explained my preferences to the hair stylist, she paused for a moment, eyed my long locks and asked, “Won’t you husband be angry with you if you cut your hair so short?” I reassured her and asked her to go ahead, but I couldn’t help but ponder over her peculiar question.
If she had said “surprised” or even “shocked”, it wouldn’t have bothered me so much; but angry? For a haircut? Really? So, I need to get my husband’s permission before I can go and cut my hair? I wonder if anybody asks a man, “Won’t your wife be angry if you shave your head?”
Both these incidents are simple, casual occurrences, which are rather unremarkable – except for the glaring double standards. Gender stereotyping is so ingrained in us that often, we don’t recognize it even when it is staring us straight in our eyes. Every day, we come across numerous such instances which we tend to dismiss as being insignificant in the larger scheme of things. However, the truth is that our girls are continuously being sent these messages from a very young age, until they themselves start believing in them.
If we want things to change, then that change must begin with us – within us, within our homes. If we want our girls to rock, then we need to be the agents of change. If we want our girls to grow up into strong and independent individuals, it is high time we changed our attitudes and tackled these double standards that are so widely prevalent in our daily lives. The small things matter too; the small things do add up. So, whether it is encouraging our sons to step into the kitchen or helping our daughters embrace and accept themselves, let’s start today.
Today’s changemaker that we’d like to highlight is FAT or the Feminist Approach to Technology, a New-Delhi based organization that seeks to improve women’s (and especially young women and girls) access to and comfort level with technology.
FAT believes that as technology evolves and continues to be a crucial determinant of one’s quality of life, it is important for women from all walks of life, to be able to use it in their work and home life. To this aim, FAT runs a technology center for women besides technical training programs and advocacy in schools, colleges and other such places where they can reach out to young women. You can read more about FAT’s work in our article on social entrepreneurs in India.
Pic credit: Nisha (Used under a Creative Commons license)