Shilalekh

What Life Teaches Me Everyday

Category: Gender Issues

Respect thy Teachers, Respect thyself

respect others teachers women

The other day I met a close relative who has just fixed his son’s marriage. He has chosen a homemaker over a career-minded girl. He went on to explain (though he never needed to explain anything, in my opinion) that they wanted a homemaker to take care of the family. His son claimed that if the need be,

I can get her a teaching job anytime I wish.

The statement threw up so many issues simultaneously that I just had to write about it. I wondered about quite a few things as I mulled over this statement.

  • Was the girl being ridiculed?
  • Was teaching as a profession being ridiculed?
  • How easy is it to become a teacher?

Respect for Women

In my previous post on gender neutral parenting, I had talked about how we don’t even realize that we behave in a gender biased way. We drop statements reeking of gender bias at the drop of a hat. And it’s more evident in a marital setup when the talk is about the daughter-in-law. One doesn’t care about her wishes, dreams and plans. It is taken for granted that she will go along what her new but real (I personally call it adopted) family has planned for her. She may try to defy that at her own peril.

Respect for Teachers

The groom I am talking of is an engineer by profession and working in a private firm. I wonder how he can manage to get his wife appointed as a teacher in a school. I know there is a dearth of teachers in the country. Former HRD minister Kapil Sibal told the Rajya Sabha in 2010 that India is short of 12 lakh teachers and 5.23 lakh posts are lying vacant. In the four years that have passed since, the figures have increased incrementally. But does that mean anyone can really become a teacher as and when one wishes to. And why only teaching? Why not, say, an office job in a private firm? Office job is a very vague thing and encompasses many roles. Anyone with good communication skills, good educational background has a fair chance of getting entry-level office job and excelling in it.
Teaching is a very focused profession where you must have thorough knowledge of your subject, know how to handle students and need to work not only out of need but passion. We are what we are because of our teachers. If not for the teachers, who toiled day and night to instill knowledge and manners in us, where would we be today? But still we have developed contempt for teachers and the teaching profession as a whole. Very sad and very unfortunate.

I have brought up two very disparate things up here but these are two issues close to my heart, may be because I am both. I would love to hear your comments on prevailing conditions on respect for women and teachers.

Baby Steps to Gender Neutral Parenting

In my previous post (Women: Instruments of Change) I said that I’d be coming up with some ways in which we mothers can bring up our kids in a gender neutral way. When I started randomly jotting down actions that are gender specific or gender biased, I ended up listing some really mundane things like:

  • It’s okay for boys to pee in the open.
  • If the mother is ill/indisposed, the daughter of the family is expected to manage household chores

I think the most shocking part was that we probably don’t even notice that we are doing this. Not done. Not at all done. It’s the little things that make a difference and we will have to take care of it. Here are a few ways in which we can make a small start.

Say No to Gender Based Games

It is inherent in our mindset to typecast games as “boy games” or “girl games.” And this classification is pretty strong. If a boy plays doll-doll with his siblings or friends, he is deemed to be “sissy.” God! give him a break; he is too young to understand this gender divide and behave accordingly.

Avoid Categorizing Tasks Based on Gender

Again, we have been conditioned since our own childhoods to look upon tasks as boyish or girlish. Going to the neighbourhood shop, moving heavy objects around the house, tinkering with electronic toys, etc. is boyish, or must be done by boys. On the other hand, cleaning up the cupboard/room, helping mom to set the dinner table, folding clothes, etc. are considered a girl’s job. Frankly, in the age group that we are talking of, all jobs can be and should be done by all kids, irrespective of their gender.

Don’t Decide on Acceptable Behaviour as per Gender

My daughter, who is all of 6 years, had her teacher advise her to behave in a certain way because she is a girl:

  • No running around in the class
  • No fighting with classmates, especially boys
  • No shouting and talking loudly
  • Be obedient

Thankfully, my daughter hardly ever obliged and the poor lady had a tough time disciplining her!! I think all of the above guidelines should apply equally to girls and boys to inculcate good behaviour.

Revamp Our Vocabulary

If you think I am going too far, believe me I’m not. Some of the words that I wish would disappear from the dictionary of mothers of small kids are – tomboy, girly, boyish, sissy, macho. And here are two sentences that I just hate:

  • Don’t cry like a girl
  • Be strong like a boy

What I’ve touched upon is but the tip of the iceberg. But a start has to be made somewhere and this is what my suggested way is. My idea is to start a discussion on the issue and I welcome ideas and suggestions from all my readers. Meanwhile, Happy Parenting!!

Women: Instruments of Change

I ended my last post on a positive note, feeling buoyed by government’s prompt Anti-rape ordinance. There’s time left till it is ratified by the parliament. The issues and points that will be debated endlessly in the next six months are innumerable; some important, some not so. It remains to be seen what shape the law takes finally but what makes me happy is that the government has shown that it is possible for it to take prompt actions if there is willingness. That it opens up lots of other cans of worms is another matter.
What the government is doing aims to define actions to be taken once an incident of sexual violence has taken place. But we all know that prevention is better than cure. So what can we do

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2013: A New Beginning?

I have been away from my blog for almost a month and a half. Like most of you I was busy vacationing and rejuvenating myself with my family at the cusp of 2012-13. I got back home on 14th Jan and promptly went online on 15th to get my creative juices flowing again. It’s my practice to just open my blog and go through my old posts to get into the groove. When I saw the date of my last post – 16th Dec 2012 – something just went berserk inside me

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