The Breakthrough Voice 10th March, 2015

Gender Stereotypes: Let Us Bring Them To An End!.

Kinder Joy Surprise Egg has always been a favourite with children and the free gift inside has always been a motivating factor for the children to buy it. A couple of days ago, I heard a small child asking his mother to buy him a blue Kinder Joy. After hearing him say this I recalled the ad and realized that the marketing strategy of the product is leading to a wrong way. The new Kinder Joy advert has now divided its surprise eggs into “For Boys” and “For Girls” which was earlier gender-neutral. Obviously, the “For Boys” is blue and the “For Girls” is pink. The chocolate is the same, cream is the same, cost is also the same, but the colour solely makes the huge difference. We need to internalize that colour can’t be sexualized. The best example that I can give you is of the colour of baby’s clothes or probably other accessories which follows the same pattern of blue and pink for boys and girls respectively. These are merely gender stereotypes or norms that are being followed illogically and are transferred from generation to generation. These gender stereotypes are so embedded that when it reflects into one’s behavior, it ends up discriminating the other. For example, a boy wearing a pink shirt would become a laughing stock for others. This is the damage that gender stereotypes do.

Gender discrimination is a pervasive problem across the country. It exists in some or the other form in every the strata of the society. Gender discrimination takes place when an individual perceives another individual’s gender appearance, identity or behavior inappropriate based on their biological sex thereby using that perception as the basis for how that individual is treated.

We usually come across several cases of gender discrimination that we have either experienced or have observed happening around us. Like teasing or putting down males for engaging in activities or behaviors that are stereotypically “female”, such as playing with dolls, interest in cooking, gossiping etc. Or doing the same with females for engaging in activities or behaviors that are stereotypically “male” such as riding a bike, playing a certain sport, dressing up like a man, more involvement with male friends etc. Questioning a man’s masculinity for crying or expressing emotions and questioning a woman’s femininity for being assertive or expressing anger is another form of gender discrimination. How does expressing emotions or crying relates to a man’s masculinity? Is man a robot? How does riding a bike or more involvement with male friends relates to a woman’s femininity? Is there anything wrong if a boy wears a ‘pink’ shirt or likes to gossip? We need to give it a thought!

We all have absorbed gender stereotypes into our system that we forget to introspect and think logically about such attitudes and behaviors. And somehow become a part of it by either experiencing it or by actually doing it or by just quietly watching it happening around.

This is just one side of the coin where men and women both are subjected to gender discrimination. The other side of the coin only has women. Women face gender discrimination at various stages of life, from before being born till old age. The patriarchal structure of the society, where the strong belief of male superiority exists, leads to the discrimination of females. We come across several cases of gender discrimination where foetus is aborted because it is female, or girls and women don’t have better opportunities for education and choice to choose a wishful profession, lack of access to better health facilities, or lack of power to make decisions, restrictions on mobility etc are a few to mention. But apart from the one’s mentioned above there is one that has been prevailing in our society and has remained unnoticed is the gender discrimination towards women in their Right to Property.

If we look at the issue from a ‘rights’ perspective, the fundamental right of ‘Right to Equality’ given to every citizen of India is violated. Who is to be blamed for this? We say society has set the social and cultural norms, stereotypes for all of us which are to be followed blindly. But what does society comprises of? We, The People! We are the one’s responsible for it. This social evil will come to an end only when we will bring about change in our attitudes, behaviors and mindsets. We need to stop imposing these gender stereotypes on children as they are the future and it is our responsibility to teach them right. Let us bring gender discrimination to an end for the prosperity of the society!

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