Gender-isms are the subtle comments, the caring messages, the seeming compliments that are often said time and time again until you are shaped and moulded to be the desired version of your gender. Also known as the ‘good little indian girl’ phenomenon.
I could list hundreds of disempowering comments my mother has made towards me that has let me know that as a woman, I am less than. And that my ambition to be an equal, is at times, an inconvenience to her. The theme that remains is that education for a woman only serves one purpose – to catch a more educated (translation: rich) man. But pursuing a career, thinking about having other desires besides having children are only things men can consider. These are non-options for women, and if women pursue their non-options then it is justified to break them down by using emotional manipulations. Again, I could list hundreds of comments that reflect this attempt to control me and mould me back into what a woman should be.
The most ironic comment reflecting this was when I was much younger, my superstitious mother who believes in gurus being able to predict the future found out that as per her trusted guru, I would achieve what ever I wanted to achieve. Amazing news right? Nope. She came home, listened to these pre-recorded predictions and let me know that would not be me. That my brother would achieve what ever he wanted to achieve but my fate would have me working on and off and struggling with work. She determined that although this guru was someone she once trusted – he could not possibly be correct about my future because I was a woman, aka, weak, aka meant to stay home and raise babies while my husband ‘took care of me’.
Although it sounds endearing when my parents say that they just want to make sure ‘I am taken care of,’ the sad reality is that just again implies that I am weak. But of course, my brother does not receive this endearing response – because I guess penises must be magical objects that give humans strength. And silly me, all this time I thought strength was derived from will power, but I should have known that the real problem was that I just needed to get myself a dick. As our indian culture loves irony, ironically that would just result in even more discrimination.
So what to do? How do we ‘less than’ humans make it through this world? Do we convince ourselves that we are comfortable with what we have been shaped into? Or do we fight and then accept that we will feel incredible guilt, debilitating shame and disownment or at minimum, constant rejection of our choices and abilities to make our own choices?
Gender-isms are also known as no win no win situations fuelled by tradition and culture.