Gender Norms? patriarchy? IDENTITY?
Updated: Nov 14, 2021
"Gender", creation of nature, they say. But the norms? they are a human contribution to the hierarchy and discrimination in our society. 'Male' and 'Female' are the two genders we were being told about since we were very young. But as we grow up, we come across realizations, meet new people, know their identities, and recognize ours. Gender, though being assigned at the time of birth doesn't guarantee that a person would identify themselves the same way. A person assigned "male" at birth might identify as a "female"; maybe someone doesn't fall into this male-female spectrum and identify themselves as "non-binary"; even a person might be moving between these spectrums and identify as multiple genders. All these are common realizations among people but are mostly unrecognized in our society. Talking about transgenders was often forbidden in Indian households; most of us had no idea about terms like cisgender, agender, polygender, etc. Why is it so?
Born as a "Female", we were assigned some roles- gender roles: 'kitchen and household is your responsibility', 'being independent isn't important for you', 'speak softly', 'do whatever the "man of the house" asks to do', 'dress yourself soberly', 'grow your hair', etc.
But what if a woman doesn't want to do any of these? what if they prefer shorter hair and dress in the so-called masculine clothes, but identify themselves as "female"? Does it fall out of place? I always wondered about this. What if a person's choice doesn't fall in line with the assigned roles? They are forced to adapt and become a different person. Or else, society just calls them "rebel" and ends up abandoning them. But if we look more closely, the fact is that our society denies recognizing a person's identity unless it falls into the good-old norms and roles assigned according to their sex. People deny understanding the differences between "sex" and "gender", leading to an extreme crisis of identity among a large group of individuals, especially the ones who cannot fit into this binary spectrum.
When a mother tells her daughter to be obedient to her husband and give up on her career just to fit into this patriarchal society, the mother being a woman pulls down another woman. I often wonder how women pull down other women. Once a child is born, discrimination based on their sex begins; from their clothing and the disciplines that are taught, to the future plans for a girl child starts with a question, "What is the benefit of spending on a daughter who will be married off someday?". Hence they are assigned the roles of being a "good daughter", a "good wife" and a "good mother". Each of their responsibilities is designed in a way that they are meant to serve others, especially men, sacrificing their own choices, dreams, and independence. I feel these thoughts are not changing over the years, these have reached an extreme level where a woman suggests and teaches another woman to become dependent on a man, asserting that it is their "Duty", while it is NOT.
Every individual has the right to dream and every human being is entitled to have their independence; they can pursue a career of their choice, wear whatever they like, present themselves the way they want, the way they identify themselves. Nobody is restricted to the assigned roles that are merely based on their reproductive organs- the roles assigned according to their sex. A person explores and realizes over the years, how they identify themselves and it doesn't fall in line with the conventional male/female spectrum- does it mean, they lose importance as a human being? certainly not. If we, as educated human beings, fail to recognize them, it is our fault, it is our ignorance in accepting the truth about someone's identity. We deny to accept one's identity, force them to adapt to societies' norms, and end up wasting their lives, taking away what they deserve: their identity.
But how long? how long shall this continue? We have been fighting for gender equality for centuries, and it's time, we speak up for gender identity and expression; it's time we accept human beings for who they are because gender roles are just social constructs that cut off human potential by assigning roles based on weaknesses and strengths which again is related to just a person's sex.
Let's educate ourselves. If we decide to accept a person, we can expect the same from them. As Judith Butler said, "There's no gender identity behind the expressions of gender; that identity is performatively constituted by the very expressions that are said to be its results". It's true and society has no right to force an "identity" on someone based on their physique.
Maybe someday we will live in a world where inclusiveness would be nothing new, impressive, or heroic; it would be normal and not something to talk, debate, or lecture about. Hope to see that day sometime soon.