The narrow constructs of Gender
Gender has been since long one of the most important constructs of the very fabric of our lives. Culturally, gender creates distinctions in most societies about appropriate behavior. Religion dictates what ceremonies and activities, men and women can participate in. Even from a legal standpoint, in some countries, men can do things as simple as driving a car without any hassles in some countries.( apparently women aren’t allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia.) Recently I read of two incidents that seemed to me were rather progressive and offered quite an interesting take on the ‘gender tag’. In Sweden, an elementary school has decided to do away with the Gender tag, where students would have an opportunity to be who they were and explore what they want to do without this gender concept creeping in. In addition, a Swedish couple has decided to name their child “pop” and will not be revealing the gender of the child to anyone but a select few. Pop would be allowed to dress in clothes that fit the child’s moods. The child can have its hair done anyway it pleases and would be brought up in a way where gender does not dictate what is doable and what is not.
I was surprised to see the hostile reactions and snide remarks these endeavors attracted from both common folk and ‘experts’ all over the world. Why is it such a threat to us to have anything different from the norm happening? I don’t think it is cruel to have people stop telling a boy child “Act like a man, stop crying, face the challenges.” Or to tell a girl child “ Sit up, act more ladylike”, every now and then. In fact, if anything, children would be free from the preconceived notions of expected behavior, free to be who they really are without being limited by the rules prescribed for their gender. The ‘glass ceiling effect were women who aspire to be in ambitious roles with companies is again another gender discrimination that is happening. The homophobic incidents happening around the world, the overwhelming reactions people have to eunuchs on the street, the objectification of women all around, things like ‘slut walk’ (I don’t hear of a gigolo walk!) are all due to the limitations of gender which ascribe that women are a certain way or that individuals without gender are less than perfect. The glaringly strict and stereotypical expectations of gender are rather limiting and often cruel to the very soul of the individual.
There was one school of thought that took this in its stride, yet could not resist saying, “who are we fooling with gender neutral elementary schools?”. Its not about fooling anyone, but rather about letting a child be itself minus what it can and cannot do. Jewish culture has Bar Mitzvah to celebrate the coming of age of boys. Muslim culture has circumcision for the boy child. Recently, at churches, the concept of altar boys is changing to some extent, with girl children being allowed to participate as long as they are below the age of puberty. I am not saying let’s have everything done the same way for the girls here. Or campaigning for equal rights. I would just like to bask in the warmth of a world where you are not stifled by the words “boy or girl”. I wonder if this narrow limiting construct of gender if de-emphasized would allow a woman can roam late hours without fearing that she may be raped or molested for being out alone without having to have a man to protect her. If a man will not always be ridiculed for not wearing the pants in the house. If we can see a more tolerant, a more benevolent place to live in where each individual has limitless possibilities that will not be shackled by their sexual identity. If without this very inherent distinction of gender, we would all be so much freer, confident and allowed to truly unearth the limitless possibilities available to each of us.
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