Tags

I had a great experience last week… after 6 ½ years, I was to spend 3 days alone with my son… taking care of him, getting ready for school, making his lunch… and completing my work too… all these years his mother or grandmother(s) had been doing all of these… that was a great opportunity I thought…. And it was… we had a splendid time…

All the time I was with my son, I kept getting calls – from friends, in-laws, my mother, my wife, neighbours… all of them had the same thing to say / ask

1. Is everything ok?

2. How was the day?

3. Is Rohit (my son) missing his mother? His grandmother?

4. Do you need help?

5. Should I make his lunch box… no problem you see I have to make one for my son as well.

6. Come over for dinner, both of you…

I had mixed feelings about it all… a warm glow at having a support system… then a sense of being patronized (was I so incompetent that so many people had to offer help) and then a sense of frustration…

Why frustration you may well ask… it is like this

What did I actually do in those three days… managed the house and my work… what was the big deal? It was only for 3 days… My wife has been doing all of this for the last 6 ½ years… I tour a lot and she is often alone with our son…

Millions of women do this juggling act ALL THEIR LIVES… I don’t remember anyone calling them up and extending support… Why? Just because they are women and are expected to do it as part of their role? This is precisely what is wrong with us all… we think in stereotypes… these stereotypes are fixed in our mind from birth…

1. This is not the way girls behave…

2. Boys will be rough and boisterous..

3. A gun for my son and a doll for my daughter…

4. Blue for the boys room and baby pink for my daughter…

I do understand the theory that men and women are wired differently… I have read those Mars – Venus books… what comes naturally is cool… Do we HAVE to reinforce it with our stereotypical thinking and training? This is where gender bias creeps in…. both women and men are affected…. My callers were mainly women…

I work on the issue of gender in the development sector. There are a number of frameworks to understand the gender issues.. Does one really require frameworks… methinks not… the common person does not need any frameworks… examples of bias are all around us…

1. When I do some work (however itsy bitsy) in the house, my mother proudly (ac)claims “Makarand helps around the house so much”… Helps who? Is it not my home? Am I not responsible for its maintenance and smooth functioning?

2. An HR professional in a large company, a woman incidentally, rejects a proposal for a crèche in office because …’there were very few women executives’… Could men employees not avail of the crèche? Is the mother alone responsible for the child?

3. A man gets transferred to another city… better posting / opportunity… discussions are only centered around ‘will his working wife get a transfer there or a job there’… is there any consideration for the wife who may be doing well in her career and may not want to shift? How many cases do we know where the woman has been transferred and her husband shifted?

What we need to do is consciously overcome these biases.. it is not easy… I know… I have been trying for years and am not even close… however I feel that these little things ultimately matter more that the larger issues of reservation for women in parliament, gender polices in organizations, complaints committees for sexual harassment at workplace etc… (before you pick up the cudgels let me tell you that I do work on these larger policy issues as well… )

This mail is not o development professionals. Its for the common person. I am more interested in what all of us can do…

Let us make little changes in our attitudes… the way we look at our lives… the way we look at women and their roles… ultimately all of us, men and women, stand to gain a lot… Let us make our (and our children’s lives better)… let they not be afflicted by the same stereotypical thinking that are going through.

Makarand

Advertisements