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Again. It happened again.
Last evening, the kids were given some gifts from a well meaning friend. The gifts simply followed what I'd like to call 'the trend' over the last seven years. The daughter received a doll with lots of hair with make-believe dryer and clips and rubber bands; a salon set apparently. By this time, you must've guessed what the son got? Of course, a gun. What kind of a cliched design is this? This is a pet peeve of mine. This gender stereotyping.
I started noticing it seven years ago when I was blessed with a girl and a boy. I'd wished your daughter was fairer than your son, they said. Why would you want to teach your boy to sew and knit, they said. Girls don't play soccer, they said. Why would you apply nail polish to your son, they said.
There are times when I try to argue with people. Like, when I was picking gifts for kids' teachers, a neighbor-friend helpfully pointed out that I shouldn't choose blue for my daughter's gift. Really? I seethed on the inside. I smiled on the outside and told her, 'you know.. blue is a rage with girls these days because of Elsa!' Thank God for Frozen. I am sure she must've branded me an idiot in her head.
But then, there are more number of times when I get tired of arguing and let it go. Like, when a friend, on almost every conversation we have, keeps repeating how her son doesn't like 'girlie stuffs'. He hasn't watched Frozen because oh.. it's a movie for the girls. He doesn't like sitting in one place and coloring; he loves only to run around.
I am not against my daughter playing with the doll or son playing with the gun. What I am worried is the daughter playing only with dolls and son only with guns. I worry if we are raising one-dimensional people. This stereotyping makes me angry; but beyond that it makes me sad. What are we teaching our kids? That, every gender is entitled to do only things earmarked for them? That, girls are not physically strong enough to do most of the stuff that boys do? That, boys shouldn't explore the feminine side that they posses? That, it is okay to bully those who deviate from the norm?
If there is one thing that I keep reiterating to my kids, it is this - That, whatever the son does can be done by the daughter; and whatever the daughter does can be done by the son. Yes.. There are times when the son wants to watch the Hulk while the daughter wants Sofia. There are times when I cringe hearing those dreaded words - 'That's not for boys/girls' from their mouths. Sometimes, the external influences on them just cannot be overruled so easily. Yet, we try. Last week, even after been given an option, daughter voluntarily chose to come with us to watch Civil War and quite enjoyed it. Similarly, the son reads fairy tales on his own because 'they are fun, Amma!' Baby steps.
As I am typing this out, I see the son teaching daughter how to load the bullets into the gun and shoot the target (me!). I am waiting for that moment the son will take that doll of hers and try to style its hair. At least, I hope he will. After all, hope is all we have.
(Image courtesy - world wide web)