So You Think You Can Cook? – On Gender Stereotyping

Tuesday, December 13, 2016



 “I was not ladylike, nor was I manly. I was something else altogether. There were so many different ways to be beautiful.”
 Michael Cunningham

So you think you can cook? And you call yourself a gentleman? Go die!
So you think you can't cook? And you call yourself a lady? Go die!

Subtle stereotyping begins from the moment a baby is born. In fact from the moment we know the baby’s gender, even before the birth. It is believed that men and women are so much unlike each other that it could be safely asserted that they come from different planets. Mars and Venus, to be precise! Neither from the Earth, by the way! After all, how can you argue with biology? Women carry babies whereas men have the upper body strength to tackle gazelles. Nobody made that up out of thin air, right?

Finding out the baby's gender before birth is of utmost importance to some families since they have to know whether the baby room has to be colored in pink or blue! The infant is outfitted in his blue or her pink uniform the moment they breathe their first in the world, so that there is no confusion about their gender or ‘imposed’ gender roles. Pink is supposedly an intrinsically and essentially girlish color as it reminds us of all the sweet things like flowers and fragrances (and girls better be sweet and smell good!), while blue is for boys - the color of Smurfs and that lizard chick from Avatar. Eyyuu! Sorry, couldn't think of anything bluer, guys!

So the moment the nurse walks in saying 'It's a boy!', gender conditioning starts turning the little bundle of joy into this perfect encapsulation of the male species. While growing up, he is often told ‘Don’t be a girl!’, in case he mistakenly shows some of his precious tears to the world. That’s when he starts learning to suppress or conceal his emotions because perhaps that’s quite a girly characteristic, not humanly at all, strictly girly! So instead he is taught to toughen up. Men often get to hear phrases like, "Take it like a man!" or "You throw like a girl!" as if they are supposed to be terms of endearment or derogation. Men might want to burst into tears at times but they got to bottle them up! If a man cries while watching 'The Notebook', it could mean only two things. Either he has lost his grip or he is femininely soft, sensitive and romantic (as opposed to his innate role - not at all a hero material!). Men, hence, should have their tear ducts removed and donate it to women! (Free of cost, please. Women are financially challenged!) Emotions hit only women! We see crying men as weak and lame! How lame! Men are only expected to behave according to the role defined by the society; a father knowing how to change diapers and lull the baby to sleep is considered 'progressive', while it should just simply mean being a dad.

So, while growing up, our little bundle of joy is encouraged to develop the right set of male interests like driving a car or riding a horse (the unicorn, specifically). At the same time, he would be discouraged to take interest in household chores. He will be pushed to be ambitious while choosing a career and discouraged to pick careers such as teaching, fashion designing, painting, etc. as they are seen to be ‘mild’ career options meant for girls.

On the other hand, if the nurse comes in declaring ‘It’s a girl!’ the equation reverses quite a bit from that moment. While growing up, she will be welcomed to express her emotions and be a crybaby. She will be taught good manners, which include talking gently and being submissive and sacrificial. She will be encouraged to develop the supposedly feminine interests like cooking, cleaning the house, washing the dishes etc. She wouldn’t be allowed to be too ambitious while planning a professional future for herself, so most likely she’s discouraged from choosing careers such as civil services or defense services as these are too demanding for the species that need to find a workable balance between family & work life. In doing so, she is being taught how to be the stereotypical woman. Wow! Ideal! Hence, killing her individuality and turning her into a set specimen of a woman!

If she’s seen playing sports, she’s told to "Be a lady!" and if she’s seen displaying signs of weakness, she’s told to "Man up!" Women are good to go as 'weak' because they are supposed to stay home; ah peanuts! Firstly, running a house is no picnic, by the way! Secondly, women working outside homes show immense strength and confidence.

Why are we limiting our children and putting them in gender-specific jars? Wouldn't it be better to teach them that no matter what their gender is, they could do anything they set their mind to? Kids shouldn’t be swayed toward specific gendered activities, rather encouraged to explore and express their creativity to become true individuals and not to lose on their individuality.
  
In all honesty, many of us are still policing our own gender roles out of fear of being ridiculed for not being 'manly' or 'feminine' enough to fit in with the rest of the herd. The struggles are similar on both the sides due to gender stereotyping and owing to the expectations put on them as a result of it. We are judged everyday on the way we behave and carry ourselves. Women are judged on the way they look, their weight and what they wear. Men go through the same body image issues as well as other criteria of judgment such as how much money do they make and so on.

We are born into this world as unique individuals but it’s the society that breaks down the uniqueness of each one of us and fuses us all as one. Men and women are individuals; much more than just male or female. Our gender does not define us as people; rather, it's just a part of who we are. We are no lab rats for the society to let it condition us through its narrow spectrum. We need to understand the fact that it is perfectly normal for women to speak their minds; men to have emotions; women to work outside the homes; men to enjoy cooking! It is not our job to understand why a person lives their life a certain way; it's our job to respect them as we would want to be respected.

Here is to all the beautiful men and women I know and everyone else out there, and to the beauty of our individualities! Cheers! 

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10 comments

  1. Touché. What a clever piece of writing. Loved the photo, goes great with the theme of the piece.

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  2. Love this post, so inspiring

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    1. Thank you :) Appreciate your kind thoughts!

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  3. It's really interesting that you write about this. I was actually watching an article on what role gender plays in our lives and how society molds this into our brain. Really good food for thought.

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    1. Thank you, Fluky. Yes, how children are taught to behave in the early years has a great impact on their minds in the long run. So, it will be an ideal approach not to define gender roles and let them decide for themselves what feels good to them.

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  4. There's still some judgements on things where women can do and can't, and where guys must do and not. However, now, so many things have been changed and there isn't anything like that. People should move on from those thoughts.

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    1. Yes, people should definitely move on from such thoughts that bar them from doing things they feel drawn to. Thank you, Claire!

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  5. Wow you bring so many interesting points to light in the post! Thanks for sharing!

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Amna's Goodreads Bookshelf

To Kill a Mockingbird
Animal Farm
Of Mice and Men
The Alchemist
Me Talk Pretty One Day
Romeo and Juliet
Lord of the Flies
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
The Odyssey
A Tale of Two Cities
Frankenstein
Moby-Dick; or, The Whale
Les Misérables
Eat, Pray, Love
The Poisonwood Bible
The Joy Luck Club
Middlesex
The Memory Keeper's Daughter
Lolita
Under the Tuscan Sun


Amna Tariq Shah's favorite books »