A talk on the eve of International Women's Day at office got me mulling over yet again on the idea of gender equity. Gender inequity surfaces in the most average of conversations, the most normal of circumstances which makes it even more difficult to deal with. More often than not, serious dialogue around it becomes so glamourized and extravagant that the glimmer of it all shadows the real lurking issue. I am not a feminist. I like to believe in the concept of equal opportunity for equal merit. Simple enough? Sometimes the seemingly simplest things are the most complexly construed.
On a personal note, I was fortunate to have experienced a more or less egalitarian approach by my parents in the upbringing of my brother and me. In the previous statement, the phrase "more or less" weighs heavily, which prompted me to include it there. Like it belongs. Nonetheless, I can’t be thankful enough to my lovely parents for their efforts. I had seen my friends not having the same privileges as me sometimes. At times even a simple, but extremely important privilege like trust. It pained to see my friends' parents struggling with trust for their own child.
So, all looked good and hunky dory till I stepped out of school, into college. College was a whole new experience. You were on your own. Breaking out of your well spun cocoon, travelling to and from college on your own, going out, meeting new people and making new friends.
That was, I guess, one of the first brushes with the actual world, the real world. I must admit that the first 2-3 months of college messed up my head like no other. What seemed a given in our equal-ish world back home was suddenly denied to me. Without realization on my part, small talk slowly transformed to judgemental quizzing. I found myself explaining things which earlier required no explanation. These changes were not like a rock solid punch in the face. No. They were worse. Small niggling irritations which together caused a turmoil of emotions. I talked about a few things to one of my friends, asking her how she felt about it. But all I was rewarded with, was an expression that said, "Yeah, so? Tell me something I don’t know!"
It was then that it hit me. The conflict of emotions in me was a result of being nurtured in a certain kind of environment for years and then being suddenly exposed to quite a different one. My friend on the other hand took things in her stride since she did not experience any difference in her environment. This made me question the basis of my character. It made me question the reasons of my parents’ efforts in providing me with this kind of habitat. Astonishingly, it even made me think whether I would have been better off if I didn't have the kind of conditioning I had!
Now I realize that the confused, messed up state of mind made me question a lot of things. I realize today that such conflicts bring about a change. What kind of change? I guess the one your conscience feeds? Yes, I became extremely vulnerable at first, almost succumbing to the pressures. But I had seen the other side, my learning years had been strongly ingrained with a different thought process, so eventually it only made me more resilient.
Unfortunately, my story is not very old. I am told 30s is now the new 20s!
I am a mother of an exuberant 7 year old daughter today. In my capacity, I fervently try, in subtle ways, to practice and emphasize the equal ground that she stands on with any of the boys. I try hard to nudge her into making her choices, not because she needs to but because she wants to. I try hard to make her think about her decisions and choices. I try. A colossal challenge I face is not germinating her mind with thoughts, say about equality, until she herself sees and identifies inequality and questions it. I feel it is so very important that the strength of my efforts do not translate into forced thoughts. I am trying to do my part. I am trying to gift her, her very own conflict.
Things definitely look better today. But then I see Kinder Joy (a popular chocolate for kids with a surprise toy) flaunting ‘For Boys’ and ‘For Girls’ tags on it. My daughter explains that the ‘For Girls’ has fairies and the ‘For Boys’ has superheroes. I visibly cringe and the niggling thoughts are back. When my daughter is given options in school for a Christmas gift among Barbie dolls, a tiara as opposed to the race car that she actually wants, the conflicts start again in my head.
We have a long way to go. It seems better today when I look back to a yesterday, so I guess we are getting there!