The ‘feminine’ side?

I write this post for a tag I recently received from blabberblah. I believe IHM set this in motion with her post: My sins against gender stereotypes. We’ve all had stereotyping shoved down our throats. Getting pigeon-holed into whatever is becoming your sex isn’t uncommon. The assumption that certain jobs, skills and interests are meant for a particular gender stinks. As a response, many bloggers are outlining their transgressions of gender barriers.

Before I make my list public, I want to ponder something. A girl having boyish interests is called a tomboy. But people are less charitable to a guy who does something girly. I bet he hears sissy a lot. I don’t need to tell you which one is an acceptable insult. So, female bloggers don’t become the butt of jokes when they congregate to confess an interest in cricket, or declare the number of speeding tickets they’ve received, or know the difference between a carburetor and an accelerator (just an exaggeration!). On the other hand, a guy who confesses to liking chick-flicks or talks about the delicious sambhar he made last night or wears pink is not as well received. This  explains the negative responses from many male bloggers who were tagged. Most of them hid behind, “I can’t think of anything girly that I do.”

Here are some things I do or want to do that can be considered girly:

  1. I like a clean home. That includes a clean kitchen sink that should never be a storehouse for dirty dishes. I have gotten out of my bed at midnight just to vacuum more than once
  2. I like to cook. I like to try out new dishes now and then. (Somehow I have not been able to muster the confidence to invite friends over for a home-cooked meal)
  3. I can hem a pillow cover or the bottom of a trouser. I do take some pride in the fact that the stitches are of equal size and at an equal distance from each other
  4. I have enjoyed playing ‘teacher-teacher’ as a child. I was a bit of a tyrant though
  5. People say that I have very neat handwriting
  6. I don’t make much of an effort to remember roads and don’t have an impeccable sense of direction. I have never hesitated to ask for directions
  7. I almost never let my cellphone run out of power (more and more guys are getting on board with this concept)
  8. I can listen and give emotional counsel to friends. I might make inappropriate jokes as a defense mechanism
  9. In recent times, I have become more sensitive to clothes, sunglasses, spectacle frames and other parts of my appearance that might need enhancement.

Can’t think of any more now. My readers are free to add.

Often called selfishness, individualism gets a bad rap in society. What people don’t understand is that unless one is sure of what one wants and takes steps to get that, one can never be secure enough to do good without it validating their own self-esteem. I have, time and again, championed the cause of individualism and asked people to step out of the molds of religion, caste, language and even nationality. So why not gender? While there are some characteristics found more in men than women, they cannot be used as a tool to pigeon-hole people into pre-styled societal roles.

I am me first. Then a man. Then my parents’ son. Then an Indian. Then a Tamilian…and so on. I urge my readers and fellow bloggers to do what they want to do (as long as they don’t infringe on another person’s exercise of his own rights) and only that. We have only one life. Preset rules of how we should behave belong right where they came from: the past. Sadly, in the past, the people did not have the foundation, the knowledge, the strength and the support to stand alone. We don’t have that excuse.

Here goes: I tag buddy, rambuna, chembelle, swatimala and gradwolf to give some examples of their breaches of the gender barrier.

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31 thoughts on “The ‘feminine’ side?

  1. Aw liberalcynic. It’s not true about ‘tom boy’ not being used as an insult. In Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (I don’t know if you’ve seen it) Kajol, the tomboy, tries SO hard to be like Rani, who’s ‘girly’. And gets ridiculed for it.
    All the same, it is much tougher for guys. I’ve seen how sneaky guys can get when they’re out to be mean (and they say being mean is a girls thing. Huh!)
    I love what you’ve written.
    ‘I am me first. Then a man. Then my parents’ son. Then an Indian. Then a Tamilian… and so on.’
    I hope everyone reads this. And more guys realise that there is no ‘girly’ or ‘manly’. There’s just ‘you’ and ‘me’.

    liberalcynic: Yes I must confess that I saw KKHH. I remember that scene too. While that is one example, generally there is more pressure on men to stay ‘manly’ than on women to be ‘womanly’. Of course, in today’s times, we can do a lot to ensure that this pressure does not get to us! Thanks for the tag 🙂

    • Just as a side note – what I hated the most about the movie (I loved it, mostly 😀 .. but hated certain parts) was that Kajol had to turn into this pretty, girly, saree wearing long haired gal before the man of her dreams could fall in love with her! Gah!

      • Never thought of it that way…interesting! Yeah that is a little condescending of them to imply that all women should be like that or risk romantic failures. I hated the movie through and through. Overacting, poor direction, unnecessary pandering, and predictable jokes, and of course the implication that a person can love only once in their life

  2. I second IHM and applaud your effort. Seriously.

    On the lighter note: vacuum, midnight? I sympathize with your neighbors. 🙂

    Great post, BTW.

    liberalcynic: thank you so much! I know, vacuuming at midnight must be a torture to neighbors! thanks for visiting!

  3. Well articulated!
    Got here via a link that IHM shared on FB and Twitter. Thanks IHM. Underscore what you have said!

    liberalcynic: thank you! keep visiting

  4. The requirements as well as ‘individual’ capabilities are changed! There is no specific ‘gender’ role – men and women are not constrained as they were before.

    liberalcynic: true

  5. You’re right about the “girly/sissy” concept. This means that men have more difficulty being themselves than women. In spite of all the “men have all the power in society” funda, it seems that they’re as much a prisoner to societal impressions than women – perhaps more.

    liberalcynic: well said. It is true. A man who chooses to stay home and take care of the kids is stigmatized while a woman is free to do the very same thing or choose to work. Societal pressure on men to stay ‘manly’ in today’s times is something that deserves a blog post of it’s own.

  6. is this like a coming-out post? have you told your folks before going public? haha . welcome back!

    liberalcynic: could be…as for the folks, they wrote me off when I first visited my uncle in NC! 😉 It’s good to be back…will plan a trip down there before summer ends!

  7. I agree- labelling men ‘chick-like’ seems to be more of an affront than ‘tomboy’ is to a girl (infact, it’s a twisted kind of compliment!). I wonder if this is ’cause men find it harder to reconcile with their feminine facets and ridicule other men who are at ease with it?

    #7- that’s a woman’s thing? (The husband religiously charges his phone- I’m the forgetful one!)

    liberalcynic: well said…as I took a tour of various female bloggers to take up this tag, all I could see was a bunch of women giving themselves these twisted compliments! But, I will take them as I find them! As long as the gender barrier is busted, why bother right?
    As for #7, of my friends (guys and girls almost equally represented) guys seem to be the bulk of the ones whose phones go straight to voicemail because they ran out of power. So that stereotype is anecdotal I guess!
    Also, while we’re brainstorming the lack of motivation among guys to do this tag, let me add that there aren’t enough women comfortable with men breaking the gender barriers either. Even among women, a man who stays home and takes care of the kids while his wife earns is not that hot! Men of course, find this a hard pill to swallow! We are almost at the juncture where women are free to work or stay home, but men must stick to their pre-defined roles. It is a little sad, but transitions take time.

  8. I am me first. Then a man. Then my parents’ son. Then an Indian. Then a Tamilian…and so on.

    Wonderful words! Your priorities are so correct ~ wish everyone had such clarity of mind

    liberalcynic: thank you

  9. Brilliantly done tag, Liberalcyninc. Thoroughly enjoyed and nodded my head in agreement with all that you said about stereotyping. Yes in the end its about ‘me’ or self and how we want to live our lives the way we want and NOT as per some pre-conceived norms or notions.

    liberalcynic: thank you

  10. Liberalcynic,

    I’d read the said tag on IHM’s blog. I agree there are gender stereotypes, and even peer pressure to conform to them. Which, as you’ve pointed, leads to psychological suffocation.

    But having said that, I’ve also observed a trend in the society that, especially among who we could call the youth, of doing certain things only to go against stereotypes! That can hardly be called expression of one’s individuality. So, there’s a strong social pressure to display one’s rebellious streak. Isn’t that quite ironic when all we are trying is to break free off the societal impositions! 🙂 Many people do not realize when, in their process of being “trying to be themselves”, they end up being what they perceive the society to be not wanting them to be. This paradoxically still amounts to societal expectations dictating our choices! I’d blogged about these in ‘Error of Judgment and Judgment of Errors’ (click) (a blog post focusing mainly on UTV’s ‘bindass’ ad campaign) and ‘States of Matter. State that Matters.’ (click) (a two-part post, where I discuss, metaphorically followed by brief explanation of the metaphors, issues concerning our native-most tendencies, their conflict with circumstances [including societal expectations], and the possible outcomes).

    Thus, I get to see girls taking up smoking, e.g., only to break the ‘mold’. This is worrying, obviously, not because of their gender, but harms of smoking (that you anyway must be quite well aware of). On the other hand, I see a lot of guys trying to pass off as sentimental and empathetic, trying to escape the image of being MCPs (possibly inspired by SRK!), e.g., by sending insincere, mushy SMSes as part of their courtship, which only leads to disastrous heartbreaks for girls who cannot see through the farce. Also unfortunately, such farce is not necessarily a conscious stratagem, but ironically, an outcome of peer pressure to not be the ‘typical’ male playing possibly at subconscious level.

    So I personally feel, with blog posts as these, we probably end up inadvertently lending greater acknowledgement to such stereotypes as we might start feeling conscious about them by way of enlisting our attributes that are not in conformity! Because, even those attributes that are not against societal standards are as much “me” as the ones that are! So, why focus only on a subset of them! 😉 Important is to be what we are, and do what we want to (as you mentioned, taking care it’s not unethical) irrespective of what others expect, and not despite. Of course, the difference’s quite subtle, but very significant when talking of how one leads their life. 🙂

    And yes, I notice that as I end this, my comment has a dissenting tone to it, though I’m fundamentally not too opposed to the theme of your post, only because I had a minor disagreement. So in that sense, my comment is despite what you write and not irrespective of that (obviously, because it was in response to your intent, which formed the context for my act of commenting, and hence determined what I wrote, instead of my deciding to blog on entirely(*) my volition – spot the analogy? 😉 ). So much for my individuality! :D.

    * Conditions apply (click) & (click).

    Lastly, sorry for providing so many links, but going through some of your blog posts and ideas, I felt you might find them interesting, especially the last two (as you’re a medical student, I presume).

    • Hi Ketan

      It took me some time to reply to your comment coz let’s face it…there’s a lot of info in there!

      To an extent, what you have hypothesized can be right. There could be a lot of people who are doing certain things just to rebel against gender stereotypes, which in itself renders them a prey to the very same stereotypes.

      That does not mean, however, that people who do what they feel like (and exactly what they feel like) are rebels without a cause. This era just happens to be one where we have the liberty to do what we want: some of which is aligned with existing stereotypes, and some of which is not. If posts like the ones inspired by this tag can convince a few people to step out of preconceived notions of what their gender ought to do, they have fulfilled the purpose of their creation.

      You mentioned smoking as an example: let’s face it. We all have vices. At one time, I used to eat like there was no tomorrow. I can confess to having drunk more than I should have on more than one occasion. Smoking is just another vice. (In fact, more people die of heart disease and strokes from fat emboli than from lung cancer.) True, there are some women who’re smoking just to rebel, but there might be many others who are doing so because they want to, and finally they can. I would rather that some women die of lung cancer brought about by their own choices than many women live lives of quiet desperation never daring to want things just because they have no hope of getting them.

      Lastly, don’t apologize for long comments or many links. If they are honest and on-topic, they’re welcome! Thanks for visiting.

  11. Wow praise worthy post indeed. Not because of your so called womanly sins but the fact that you expressed so well how we stereotype what we ought to do as a man or woman rather than do what we like. My vote definitely will go for your post 😛

    Ps: Are you anywhere near the postal boundaries of USA? I could do with some hemming done on a few clothes :mrgreen: am so bad at it that even when I try to fix a button, I end up with badly pricked fingers 😥

    liberalcynic: thanks! I live in NYC, so you can FedEx your hemming needs along with a check for shipping costs!! thanks for visiting 🙂

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  13. All I want to know is, where do you live? My 6 1/2 year old son should have role models like you.
    I want him to be fearless in his choices. It amused me the other day when, on being told that something he was doing was ‘girlie’, his response was, “Who cares! I like it and I’m going to do it”. He was making dumplings for his school lunch box! Yup, my six and half year old makes his own lunch every single day, thankooverymuch. And exotic stuff too:-)

  14. Nice one! And nice nice points…if only other men were similar!

    With the cooking and the trying out new dishes — ntn girly abt it. The greatest chefs in India are men only no?

  15. You are one of the very few guys who have taken up the tag – congrats on that 🙂
    Let me tell you – men who take care to groom themselves (that excludes threading eyebrows ;-), cook, keep the house clean, are emotional and expressive are instantly hit with any woman. Trust me! The era of super macho, egoistic, manly male are gone. Being metrosexual (not only in looks, but in attitude) is cool.

    • I agree on this point, girls find ‘such guys’ helpful, considerate, romantic, unassuming, practical, loving, caring ….not at all like mcp.

  16. Pingback: Tejaswee Rao Blogging Awards – I | The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

  17. Congratulations 🙂 This post in one of the winners of ‘Tejaswee Rao Blogging Awards – 2011’ (TRBA 2011). We would like to create an ebook with all the winning entries in 47 categories on Feminism and Gender Issues in India (and one category on Animals Rights). Please do let us know if you are fine with your winning post/s being included in this ebook. ( Please click here to let us know).

  18. Pingback: A Response to a Message I received… | Reflections of A Pragmatic Dreamer

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