An old school friend on Twitter posted a tweet something on the lines of: “The reason why parents give their sons dolls to play with is because they want them to learn that a girl is meant to be played with.”
I took offence to her tweet and wrote to her saying that V has a doll which we encourage him to hug, kiss and play with. I see nothing wrong in it. We teach him to be loving and compassionate towards everyone, male or female. She apologised for her tweet saying that it was a BBM forward. I just checked, she has deleted her tweet.
I’ve grown up in a house full of boys. With brothers all around me, gender lines often blurred. I remember, my cousin had to wear my frock when he wet his clothes as a kid. I would become furious that he wore it, of course, and insisted that I wear his clothes in return. While in my generation we didn’t have to fight gender battles, the inequality in our homes was not all together absent. I saw how mothers chose to eat left overs while the men were allowed to eat the best pieces of chicken.
I noticed how men didn’t carry their plates to the kitchen after a meal and left it for the women to clean up. I knew I would change these norms in my own way. Even though my heart desired a daughter while I was carrying V, I was equally happy to have a boy. The one thing that I decided early on is that I will not thrust stereotypes on him. I will not tell him that ‘this is a boys’ thing’ or ‘this is what girls do’. I would want him to know that society has set norms for man and woman, we are society and if we want, we can change these norms too.
Gender stereotyping has been on top of my mind for a long while. And with the recent rise of sex crimes against women and even young girls I am very disturbed. I am acutely sensitive of what I tell V. I am equally sensitive to the gender equations that he sees around. I would like him to see healthy and happy relationships where there is mutual respect, so that he knows that a man and woman are equal. As he grows up, I would also like him to see skewed relationships and understand that this is what is wrong. I would like him to stand up for women and respect them in all walks of life.
I read a post on Huffpost recently. And I couldn’t agree with the writer much! As parents, it is we who instill the early notions of how boys should behave. I would like V to be happy. As a parent, all that I can and hope to do is give him an environment that allows him to make his choices. And if in those choices I see an inherent notion of gender prejudice, I am sure I will point out.
V’s toy basket has a healthy mix of cars, balls, soft toys. His favourite t-shirt is pink in colour and he loves to carry a bag on his shoulder like I do. Recently when we went shopping, I found V picking a short skirt from the rack and looking to match it with a t-shirt! He prefers dancing to watching cartoons. He leans towards female company, unless he is with a male who he knows can make him laugh. Signs that should worry me? I am not so sure.
The TV junkie is back into the idiot box. Besides pretending to be a superwoman between work and family, Rituparna also dreams of flying free as an entrepreneur! Her son’s student, she is learning the ropes of parenting every day. Rituparna blogs at http://onboardthemommyship.