When women around the world united in the transnational #slutwalk movement it became a milestone in their fight against stereotyping.
Their actions were spurred by the comments of a senior police officer at Toronto who advised them to stop dressing like sluts to prevent sexual assaults. That a supposedly gender-balanced first world country can have a law and order official with such views naturally set off alarm bells on how prevalent gender stereotyping really is. And not just women, men too get bogged down with unfair typecasting.
Here are some disturbing stereotypes that we would like to get rid of:
Length of the skirt, the number of boys she is seen with, the colour of her nail polish, how much she drinks – the parameters used to call someone a ‘slut’ are mindfuckingly disturbing. Says Siddhant, who works as a mentor with startups – a space that has seen several smart women come in: “Most men of Gen X and Y are still locked into judging women by their appearance or having pre-conceived notions of how a woman should behave. But even as men, as we step outside our homes – whether in reality or virtually, we are seeing women do everything men can do. We are also meeting other men who are respectful to their wives and their colleagues and who call us out on the “casual sexism” which permeates our societies. All that is making us think..”
“SHE DESERVED IT””
A corollary of slut-shaming, this becomes the basis of a horrifying rape culture where sexual assaults get attributed to a woman’s dress or her whereabouts. The ‘she deserved it’ mentality has seen many sexual offenders get away with their crimes while the women are shamed into silence.
Japleen Pasricha (@japna_p), writer, activist and founder of Feminism In India, has a word of advice for resisting these stereotypes. “My suggestion to other girls: it is time you become conscious of the stereotypes that exist around us, about us and make sure to resist them. And also, not spread them further by using them against others.” The positive news is that Gen Y, or at least certain section of it, is more progressive when it comes to breaking gender stereotypes.
Successful, smart, assertive, ambitious? Chances are that your co-workers are calling you a bitch behind your back. While assertiveness, drive, ambition are seen as great traits in men, the same in women get her labelled as a bitch. Double standards, anyone?
“ENGINEERING IS NOT FOR HER”
Our work places are teeming with several more stereotypes- some grossly stated, some assumed.
As Rakshita Dwivedi (@raks_d), one of the top 100 HR influencers in the country says, “Gender stereotyping at work starts right from the hiring process where invariably every women has to go through a filter test of marital status or her future family plans. On top of it women are also not paid at par with men on account of flexibility and not being the primary bread earner. There are streams like Technology, Engineering and Finance where again women are assumed to less skilled in-spite of being equally qualified as men”
Only a cultural change, driven from the top can bring in gender parity at work, says Rakshita. But is anyone really belling the cat?
“LIKE A GIRL”
Stereotypes at work start much earlier in our childhoods.
“Don’t run like a girl.”
“Don’t be a girl.”
You have heard numerous parents tell this to the boys. Nobody cared about the impact the words had on the girl’s confidence because, well, you expect her to cry like a girl.
P&G tied up with Leo Burnett to thrash the saying in their epic social experiment. There’s however a long way to go before the ‘like a girl’ phrase loses its stigma.
“BOYS DON’T CRY”
Not just girls, boys too have been victims of the massive macho culture.
Boys are brought up with the need to be tough, aggressive even rough while a little drilling of softer emotions might have made them more well-rounded individuals.
Smashing the patriarchal set up can be a step forward in breaking these stereotypes which affect both boys and girls.
As Japleen says,”It is a not fight among genders where one is against the other but a struggle against a stubborn mindset and system, which affects everyone; women and men in different ways.” She reiterates that feminism doesn’t monsterize men.
“GUYS ARE ONLY IN IT FOR SEX”
The stereotyping does disservice to scores of men who love the conversations, the companionships and the non-carnal aspects of a relationship. Horror stories and statistics though lead us to put all men in the same bracket. As Abhishek Madhavan (@AbhishekMadhavn), product manager at Crowdfire puts it, stereotypes could put irritating limitations on men as they do on women.
Remember Michaela Cross, the US student whose story on the sexual harassment that she faced in India triggered a global outrage.
Coupled with the horrific Delhi gangrape and several other high profile sexual assault cases, years of patriarchal mindsets this has painted a certain picture of Indian men the world over.
Paroma Maity, editor with publishing house Orient Blackswan, debunks the stereotype “I feel most strongly about stereotyping men as necessarily and compulsively evil. I was brought up by a single father and have strong reasons to rubbish such bull-headed notions of stereotyping.”
The fact is that there are several good men around us and such generalizations have hurt them as much as stereotypes have limited women. Maybe our generation can take a leap in getting the X-Y equation right. But will we?