We don’t need macho men or bra-burning women to fight sexism. We need parents who teach us how sexism is holding back our society from leaping to the road of progress
As I was waiting for the lights to turn green at a traffic stop last week, I observed bikers around me beginning to turn their heads and giggle. Wondering what it was all about, I turned around to see. A middle-aged woman, astride a chunky sports bike, was struggling to maneuver it around the traffic jam. The guy next to my bike chuckled and said: “One has to live in Nepal to see everything.”
Such is the mentality of our so-called modern, educated men. Sexism is like a deep-rooted syndrome in all of us. From the whistles and the catcalls that every woman who’s ever stepped foot in the city has to endure, to the subtle sort of discrimination in our new constitution, it seems as if the fairer sex has had a hard time being fair with all that discrimination they have to fight against. However, I find that it’s not only men who discriminate.
Take for instance, my own mother. As a daughter of the hills, she was taught from an early age that her husband would be superior to her in every way. That teaching still shows to this day because whenever any kind of big decision concerning the household has to take place, she doesn’t do anything until dad arrives at the scene. Along with my mum, each and every one of my female relatives seems to share this value to some degree. And they pass it onto the next generation, this omniscient but subtle sort of discrimination.
The new generations are assigned gender-specific roles, behaviors and values from an early age. Boys are taught to be physically active, brash and speak-your-mind sort of persons while girls are taught to be mature decision-makers, soft-spoken and polite. This teaches the children to alienate themselves from the other gender from an early age. I remember that I, along with my friends, would tease any boy who talked to any of the girls. But it isn’t only children of the same age who discriminate against each other.
When I was going through lower secondary school, no boy would be caught dead holding his mother’s hand. Looking back, I realize that everything we did had to appear cool and macho. We had to be rough-looking, harsh and short-tempered. Although those things are behind me now, the pressure to be manly is still there. And I am sure that both men and women of all age groups deal with the pressure of acting according to society’s rules and values.
In last year’s Dashain, we had a huge bash at our home. All of my maternal uncles and aunts were there. The aunts gossiping and giggling in the kitchen filled with a million delicious smells and the men in the living room snapping up cards and gorging on the delicacies that arrived from the kitchen. After all of us had eaten our full, uncles went to sleep in various states of repose and aunties went back to the kitchen to deal with the mountain of dishes that had piled up.
Although it seems that the women keep on losing, which is in accordance to popular belief, the men too don’t get a bed of roses. So, what exactly is the root of this dilemma? The problem seems to lie in our upbringing process, where we teach a million things to our children, one of them being a very good lesson on how to be a perfect sexist. So, to tackle the problem, we don’t need macho men or bra-burning women. We need sane parents who understand what sexism is and how it has been holding back our society from really leaping to the road of progress.
The author is pursuing MA in English Literature from Pokhara University