It’s High Time We Understand That Responsible Behaviour & Mutual Respect Has No Gender

I thought that the world is changing and that things like domestic violence, body shaming people, homophobia, and the like are going to end soon. Aren’t we all unlearning misogyny, patriarchy, and our privileges every day?

Not to sound classist or elitist, but I live in a posh locality. Things are generally in order here. Recently, people have been walking their dogs and buying groceries while following social distancing and so far, everything’s good. Or maybe I should use the past tense here. See, there is this thing that people keep saying, “ignorance is bliss”. I never really thought about this saying till yesterday. I missed one important point, by the way. I am of an Indian origin and I live in Canada with my husband, twin baby daughters and our pet dog, Skittles. I am 29 years old and I think (I think I should have used past tense again as some things have changed since last night) I had seen enough and knew enough. I also thought that the world is changing and that things like domestic violence, body shaming people, homophobia, and the like are going to end soon. Aren’t we all unlearning misogyny, patriarchy, and our privileges every day? But I realised yesterday that I was living in a dreamy world that I will call Utopia (of course, you can disagree. You have the right to. Dissent is important, I have realised recently; the right to speak and object — one of the attributes of Utopia?)

Before I digress, I will tell you why I am at my laptop typing ferociously for the last 10 minutes, trying to make sense of this world and its workings while pinching myself out of my dream of everything-is-good-with-this-world. As I was kissing my daughters good night yesterday, I heard some strange noises in the neighbourhood. As told, I live in a posh society with adjacent villas and realised that the noise that I could hear inside my house, were the ones of domestic violence. Domestic violence — something that is a normal practice in Indian households (I am not stereotyping. I have heard instances from and of people I know, back in the country — both from our housekeepers and some ‘elite’ neighbours, as one would say). I am ashamed to say that I have internalized patriarchy in such a manner, that I was almost shocked to know that the neighbouring lady had hit her husband last night (I saw his bruised face as we were both walking our dogs). I don’t know what had happened between them, but what is it that gives one the right to hit their own spouse? Where is the equality that we talk about? And why is hitting one’s wife (and other female relatives) so normal that I had automatically assumed that the wife was the one who was being beaten up last night?

I came upon some disturbing news recently. A teenage boy committed suicide because a girl had associated him with a group of people who used to assault and degrade women verbally. In his suicide note, he mentioned that he is doing this because no one would believe him and he cannot prove that he was innocent. In another case, some boys from highly educated (and possibly influential) families leaked some intimate pictures of their girlfriends and girlfriends publicly and were talking about them in a derogatory and inhuman manner. In a similar case, some women were found doing the exact thing but with the men they knew. And here I am, a millennial, thinking that only men do these things (and that it is normal for them). There are two important problems in this thought process -

a. The prejudice that only men abuse and violate others, ergo disrespect and irresponsibility has a gender

b. It is normal (and almost acceptable) for men to behave in such a manner.

While writing this, I am in no way denying that there are enough men who clearly contribute to the problems of society in general, and women in particular. But not shifting the focus of the discussion, both the genders should make it a point to be respectful to others and not live in old prejudices and stereotypes. Another instance that comes to me is from one of our office dinner parties. I was telling them how my husband and I have equally distributed the household chores as both of us work (frankly, we share one house. We should share our responsibilities too). Almost all of my colleagues’ wives work but none of them could say that they divided the chores equally with them. They often whip up some dinner and do the dishes, but they don’t think that maintaining the house is their responsibility. “It is a woman’s job”, some had said. It had definitely disturbed me when they made fun of my husband for being ‘too womanly’ and for not being ‘man enough’ as he was the one in charge of mopping the floors, but I let it slide that day. These recent incidents have made me think about these so-called gender roles and the expectations that we have from people based on these roles. And that is why I have been typing on my laptop. I realised that I need to speak. It probably won’t make much difference, but my daughters need to know that it is high time we understand that responsible behaviour and mutual respect has no gender. Both men and women should be independent and both of them should respect the other for their life choices and their personality/identity. There are no gender roles in the books; it is the society that has imposed them on people. It is high time we fight for our rights to exist with self-respect. Not a man or a woman, but as equal humans.

By the way, did you notice how while talking about genders and responsible behaviour, I talked about the genders in just binaries, very conveniently? Not involving the gender spectrum is a problem too and such a big problem, that it needs to be talked about in a separate article with its own space and not just shoved in while talking about the binaries. (Yes, I am talking in metaphors too). Maybe I will hit the keys on my laptop once again when I see someone doing something that they are not ‘supposed’ to do, according to the ‘rules’ of the society. Until then, I will just keep my eyes, ears, and mind open and be more sensitive to people and my surroundings. Didn’t I tell you that we, as a generation, are trying to unlearn our privileges every day?

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Originally published at https://www.fuzia.com.

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Fuzia stands for Fusion of different cultures & ideas. We are a global community of females that aims to promote creativity through guidance & help from experts