Saturday, February 23, 2008

stereotyping


Let me warn you that this is a rant….. no point cursing me at the end of this…..i hate stereotypes….and try to stay as far away from them as is possible….am not again putting myself on a pedestal and standing in judgement….i am just asking why?? Why do we want to segregate, bottle and label everything??
Ever since I can remember I have heard statements which surprise me….. growing up, I rode a scooterette to college which was 15 kms from where I lived, and took computer classes after that….since the day involved something like 10-11 hrs for me, I found wearing jeans and t shirts the most convenient….not because I was particular about western wear (why not on second thoughts) but simply because I could'nt manage to keep salwar kameez and dupatta as fresh and wrinkle free as jeans and shirts…..i also wore a helmet…and a jacket against dust and pollution…..naturally people took me as boyish, aggressive and intimidating!! I've had these labels thrust at me not just by men, but more by women…. It was also taken as a huge surprise when my mom would praise my cooking…..relatives / friends and just about anyone would be astonished that I cooked!! And did it well too!! the common refrain that I got was "oh but she drives a bike and all so I thought she didn't do anything at home!!" ……… what?? Yes…. I did and I did all of that pretty well….i also was a medal winning student; I finished amongst the top 5 of my class scoring the highest ever score in english in school, won medals in college for being the highest scorer in political science two years in a row, got the second best score for my project work when I did my master's and not that I was mousy (why do we expect this stereotype??)….and not that being a high scorer gives you a plume of success later in life…most achievers either never went to school or dropped out….i took part in dance, singing and other co curricular activities and generally knew how to have a good time…….then I began working, I would be given feedback that I was too aggressive and that people felt intimidated by me…. Well tough luck for them….if people feel that insecure when encountered with a confident person (man or woman) then that says a lot about their personality…….when K and I chose to marry, no one in the extended family blinked cos somewhere they all expected it!! "oh but we'd be surprised if she opted for an arranged marriage because she was always 'fast'…..we expected this…" imagine!! I've been asked with skepticism "so do you cook?" or with a bit of mirth "so who does the cooking?" so many times that I have lost count….mostly I answer with a "of course not….we eat out every day!!" or a "no yaar, I can't even hold a knife" or a "of course I don't, that's why I got married" depending on my mood…..it has immediately shut people up….. random people who have seen my house and said "wow!! I never thought your house would look like this" (what…did I ever tell you I lived in a pigsty for you to think that) or "how do you manage to keep the house like this yaar….but of course you hardly spend any time here!!" it goes without saying that they've not had the fortune of coming home again……Its just not me…I have heard so many things that people say when they are shocked and their image of a stereotype falls flat…. For example the other day I was at a training session….the person conducting it was a petit, pretty, young doctor with a master's in psychiatry…she looked like a model…with straight streaked hair, had on a saree, knew her subject and demanded everyone's undivided attention…..naturally when a couple of guys sitting at the same table I was at kept jabbering away or tried to interrupt, she firmly put them in their place….mind you they were of the same team, one a doctor and another a very senior manager….. the next thing I hear from one of them is "this female thinks she's god's gift to man kind huh!!" oh yes she is!! For starters, she was just doing her job, something that she was damn good at….secondly, would you have paid more attention or taken less offense if she was a middle aged matron who didn't challenge your maledom so much?? I don't know…she didn't care, and that's when she won herself a fan in me….Many others….like my entire family and the extensions ostracizing a cousin of mine and swearing under bated breath that he had "got mixed up the wrong way" just because he grew his hair, people always assuming that a bad driver on the road is always a female, asking a badly behaved child if his mother has'nt taught him manners (pray isn't his dad as responsible??), so why do we expect a woman to know everything about cooking?? She may not have spent a min in the kitchen or had any inclination towards it…..why cant a man take to the kitchen?? ….why does he become a sissy if he does??....why is someone interested in books expected to look like a nerd?....why is a beauty queen / king expected to be dumb?....why is making money (not illegally) bad?....why is failure crucified so much?....why do we want to judge someone all the time? …then why do we hate it when we are subjected to it?I've also been guilty….many times….but when I catch myself trying to box people and label them, I shake myself out of it…that's the best I can do….correct myself……

2 comments:

Raaga said...

I wish I knew... and the more I read, the more I figure how much we are alike... I was all those things and I have had a full career and so when I did get married, people asked if we'd hire a cook as I couldn't possibly manage the two... I do a lot and I love doing what I do... but everyone does seem to be slotting us... and it troubles them that they can't.

Aparna said...

I know that people can get to you with all these comments but the best way to handle this is to learn to ignore them.
I have people asking me why I'm not working when I am qualified to? Exact words "What do you do at home all day?" I also have others telling me that my house looks beautiful and then qualify that with "but then you stay at home so you have the time"!
The way I look at it is that I have been lucky to be able to make the choice I wanted and be a stay-at-home mum. And if people want to compartmentalise everything that's their problem, not mine.