Lot of debates lately about women, their rights, attires, behaviour and what not! There's more analysis being made of the victims rather than of rapists. There are a million theories about what's right and what's wrong for women, but very few which endorse the view of 'Leave it to her to decide'.
Anyway, my post is not another such theory or a rebuttal for any. Just some thoughts on how much male/female behaviour is shaped based on the littlest of things. The Hindu's article on masculinity taking the example of Swami Vivekananda's posture and the following angry comments on it got me thinking on how such mindsets are imposed at an early age and live on through a person's life.
There are a lot of things that I disagree with my folks on and feel quite enraged about when it comes to attire or demeanour. As a child, I remember my grandmother and Mom telling me not to stretch my legs while sitting on the floor because that's not 'girly' enough. And then there are a lot of comments I'd hear from neighbours, aunts and other women -
Don't laugh too much, people will mistake and/or you'll have to face sorrow later in life
Wear bangles, otherwise what's the difference between a boy's hand and a girl's hand?
Don't walk like a man
You're a girl, you're supposed to know kitchen work. How will you please your future in-laws? (in Telugu, 'aadapilla ingitham inthaina ledu')
He's a boy, don't let him sit home. He should go out, make mischief and be boisterous
And of course, the standard - 'You're a boy, don't cry like a girl'
Oh come on, he's a boy, he won't do household work. It's your responsibility as a girl to keep the house clean and be responsible for household work
... and a lot more.
These look small and ignorable when you listen to them in isolation. But when you look at them in the context of the recent outrage against rapes, it hurts! It's a fact that women are subjugated from a very early stage - do this, don't do that, you're a girl, you need to behave etc. Most of these might not be conscious, yet lead to submissiveness in women in long-term. The worse and scarier part is the fact that none of these restrictions or monitions apply to men. Boys are free to go where they want owing to their mere existence. They can play on the streets, pick a fight with neighbours and their kids, make mistakes - in general, do whatever they wish to!
I feel that's where the problem is - drawing clear lines and bringing up boys and girls in extremely different ways with different outlooks. The sense of entitlement most boys enjoy right from their childhood sows some real bad behavioural traits. These might not be notice-worthy for most people, but they are bothersome and merit attention. There are some behavioural norms we can't avoid due to culture, societal setup and whatever other reasons. But beyond that, there is no need to enforce rules on one gender alone. Yet there exist such rules, and are passed on from generation to generation.
It's important that everyone respects themselves as individuals, and give the same respect to others too irrespective of gender. This needs to happen right from childhood - to make them see each other as equals, respect each other's space and value the other person's qualities. A distant dream, considering the societal setup we have... would love to see it come true in my lifetime.