Isn’t blue for boys? Yes, you read that right! I was asked this question a short while ago and I was equally shocked. I thought we had moved on from these questions to more pertinent ones.
I was asked to wrap a gift—a set of clothes for a one-year-old baby. The response I got from an elderly person on seeing the gift was, “Why did you wrap it in blue? Isn’t blue for boys? The gift is meant for a girl.” I had absolutely no response. Considering the day and age we are living in, with people having conversations about gender, equality and breaking gender stereotypes, I assumed we would be on the same page. That’s where I was wrong. Though this question was coming from a person who had helped raise two daughters—teaching them basics in electricals, repair work around the house, painting, gardening, and more, he still couldn’t understand my bewilderment.
I mulled over this experience until a colleague of mine shared a similar one. Her mother was shocked when she picked up the gas cylinder at home and put it in its place as she felt that she should have waited for her brother to return home and do it. My friend has also noticed that her father never helps out with household chores like cleaning the toilet or kitchen and that work is designated to her mom. To give you a little more context, my friend is the one who has bought her family a car, yet she isn’t expected to pick up gas cylinders. She has supposedly reached ‘marriageable age’ and has been asked to meet guys but she can do this independently through online platforms too, ‘to embrace change’.
This made me wonder how such sharp contrasts exist in families—conservative and progressive at the same time. They encourage their girls to go and conquer the world but still stick to the gender stereotypes of old.
Another friend of mine had a conversation with her mother about pre-marital sex. Her mother was strongly against it as she was of the opinion that such a situation could turn embarrassing or shameful for the girl if the guy were to dump her after they’d had sex. She didn’t respond to her mother but shared some valid and interesting questions with me, “Why was the guy in a position of power?” Sex is meant to be equal and consensual. “Why couldn’t the girl leave the guy after sex?” Girls can change their mind too regarding relationships and are not at anyone’s mercy. “Why would it be a matter of shame/embarrassment for the girl and not the guy? Moreover, why should it be a matter of shame at all?”
We often forget that we are privileged in being more aware and have the ability to make more informed choices, a privilege that many do not have.
Though we are trying to eliminate gender biases and stereotypes and create a society that treats everyone as equals, these conversations are limited and are taking place in our own social circles. We are not having these (sometimes uncomfortable) conversations with our parents, grandparents or anyone with opposing views. This results in echo chambers. We find it difficult to understand their views and they, ours. We often forget that we are privileged in being more aware and have the ability to make more informed choices, a privilege that many do not have.
While I wondered about the gaps that exist in the understanding of gender-related issues, across generations, my friend reminded me that we too are prone to falling into the same gaps. She has a guy friend her age (around 26 or 27 years old) who has begun meeting girls through Tinder and she didn’t think twice about it. When she came to know a female friend of hers (around 19 or 20 years old) was meeting guys through Tinder, she questioned her friend’s character, albeit unintentionally.
No matter how progressive/woke/open-minded/tolerant we might be (or try to be), we too judge people based on their gender. We too succumb to double standards. So these gender biases do not exist in people from a particular generation or gender. Initiate an uncomfortable conversation today. Ask someone a few years older or younger than you about their views. Listen. Share. If we don’t have these conversations, after a decade there will still be someone asking, “Isn’t blue for boys?”
The views expressed are the author’s own.