Gender stereotypes: do you subscribe to them or challenge them?

September 1, 2010

A couple of weeks ago, a blogger friend tagged me for a Not So (Wo)Manly challenge.

The original tagger called this “Sinners Against Gender Stereotypes” and explained it, thus:

Please list at least ten things you have ever wanted or done which your gender is not supposed to.

The tag is called ‘My Sins against Gender-Stereotypes’. And you must tag twelve blogging friends or else you will be cursed to wear blue pants if you are a woman and pink shirts if you are a man – for next twelve years.

I’ll point out two things at the outset:

  • I’m not a big fan of the word “sin.” And using it in this context is a little offputting to me, since the lifestyle I’ve chosen and the individual I am is not a result of my sins against anything. It’s just who I am.
  • I won’t tag 12 blogging friends, but I invite you — man or woman — to share your experiences/anecdotes of ways in which you’ve charted a path for yourself that’s against conventional ideologies of what men and women should ascribe to.
  •  Gender stereotypes: do you subscribe to them or challenge them?

Also, bear in mind that I am, in now way, saying I’m better than other members of my gender who subscribe to the stereotypes that abound. I’m just sharing with you who I am. Take it or leave it.

That said, here are some stories from my life that expound on this topic:

1. I never played “house.” While many four-year old girls around me brought out their utensil sets pretending to have tea parties and elaborate dinners, I sought to play doctor or lawyer or mechanic. Ladles and saucepans bored me. So did dolls. I was more intrigued by board games and building blocks.

2. I’m competitive. To a fault. Most women I know give in when it comes to their loved ones. Not me. Stubborn as a mule, I will not let up on my position even for my mom. (Sometimes, especially if it’s my mom.) I like to win and I don’t believe in conceding for “the greater good.” If you don’t have the chops to play fair and play hard, then don’t play with me. Also, don’t be a crybaby when you’ve lost.

3. I like speed. If I were in India, I’d say speeding, too. I wasn’t ever reckless, but enjoyed the thrill that comes with weaving in and out of traffic and pushing one’s vehicle to the limit. It’s such a great adrenalin rush. Don’t think I’ll ever drive again in India (and yes I conform to the laws here even at 2 a.m.), but I do want to drive down the Autobahn once before it gets regulated.

4. I don’t fancy malls. Almost every woman I have known loves spending time in the malls or doing window shopping in “boutiquey” towns. I can’t stand it. And I don’t understand it. Why would you want to tire yourself walking for endless hours inside an air-conditioned enclosed structure when you could be out there taking in beautiful views hiking up a mountain? Retail therapy is lost on me completely. Read my confessions of the “non-feminine” kind here.

5. I talk straight. I won’t say “you know…the male part…” coyly. It’s a penis. And it’s fine to say that word. So, is saying breasts or clitoris or vagina. They’re all body parts. Get over it already!

6. I do not know my fabrics (organza, cotton, chiffon, polyester – they’re all the same to me). I also do not know my castes, religions, or religious observances. And I certainly do not fast unless ordered by a doctor.

7. I won’t allow you to shut me up in the name of our culture. I have a voice and a distinct identity … just because you think I am supposed to be a demure, shy, spoke-only-when-you’re-spoken-to domestic servant, doesn’t mean you’re going to get that from me. I am all for respecting our elders, but don’t expect to use your age as a way to dictate to me who I should be. You’ll be disappointed.

8. I don’t like manicures, pedicures, facials, or waxing. I get the last one done only because I am borderline hirsute (at least I think that) and the monthly ritual makes me feel clean.

9. I will not use my womanly charm to get anything done or receive favors. I rely on my intellect, sharp wit and occasional humor. Also, I’m a big fan of earnest hard work and equality.

10. I believe in myself. I don’t need a male figure to tell me how good I am. I already know.

I could go on and on, but it’s time I pass the mic.

What do you have to share?

P.S. This post can also be found on Desicritics — hop on over to see the comments there. Also, if you’re so inclined, there is a Facebook group dedicated to Sinners Against Gender Stereotypes.

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10 Responses to Gender stereotypes: do you subscribe to them or challenge them?

  1. Anon1No Gravatar on September 1, 2010 at 9:43 pm

    I don’t make an effort (anymore) to either ‘subscribe to’ or ‘challenge’ gender stereotypes.
    I think the biggest service one can do for oneself is to do what one wants !

    Don’t let anyone, man or woman, tell you it’s silly to play with dolls or be competitive.. irrespective of whether you are a man or woman..

    It’s silly, I’m tired of it all !

  2. MansiNo Gravatar on September 1, 2010 at 9:54 pm

    I like where you’re going with this. Someone else called me a “tomboy” after reading this piece elsewhere and I thought — there’s a label for everything isn’t there? You go one way, you’re this; you go another, you’re that.

  3. Dave Roy on September 1, 2010 at 10:02 pm

    I know I certainly don’t subscribe to a lot of male stereotypes.

    Does that make me “un-manly” or something? If so, I don’t care.

    My wife is the one who fixes things and is mechanically inclined! So she does that. I vacuum because her back won’t let her.

    It’s best to just celebrate who we are and not worry about all of that. And if somebody does and judges you by that, then what does that say about them?

  4. YogasavyNo Gravatar on September 1, 2010 at 10:43 pm

    I do want I want when i want. Just because every women is doing it does not mean I have to do it as well.
    It is a waste of time and energy to be slotted into something and to follow it blindly. Be yourself male/ female or whatever you wish.

  5. Debosmita NandyNo Gravatar on September 2, 2010 at 4:41 am

    Hey, thanks for taking up the tag :-)

    I can identify with you on so many counts.. even when I did the tag, my aim was to portray how I am an ‘individual’ with different traits (some womanly, some not so) and not how I defy all norms of being a woman. I am proud to be one, but at the same time, I do not conform to what ‘society perceives a woman to be’ :-)

    You are one strong, straightforward woman and I am glad that I found you in the blogosphere..

  6. No Gravatar on September 1, 2010 at 11:54 pm

    I can’t be bothered anymore, Mansi. And I do identify with you in many points given above. There was a time when the tag ‘feminist’ was worn by me almost like a fashion statement. But I have let go of that as well. It is just another fad . . .
    I do what I want and though sometimes I get conscious, I am oblivious to gender stereotypes. But that does not stop me from giving a piece of my mind to people who brand and stereotype me on account of my gender. After all gender is a performance (a la Judith Butler)!!!

    Joy always,

    P.S: Sometimes commenting here gets skewed up and I find myself lost so I just read your posts and don’t go through the hassle of commenting :)

    • MansiNo Gravatar on September 1, 2010 at 5:51 pm

      Dear Susan, I am so sorry about the trouble you’ve had commenting. I’ve had other people telling me that the comment system takes forever to load and sometimes they just can’t connect with the profile they’d like to. It’s one complaint too many. I apologize for the inconvenience and have uninstalled the Disqus commenting system.

      As for your comment about the post — it is spot on! Gender is also an accident — just some weird coincidence at a cell level and so many man-made stereotypes around it. Makes me wonder sometimes that people don’t have enough to do with their time! :P

      Thanks for stopping by, as always, and I do hope that the simple commenting system will once again encourage you to share your insights.

      Best always.

  7. AnnaNo Gravatar on September 2, 2010 at 12:03 am

    Stereotypes are a fact just as non-stereotypes. They are all fodder for the characters of my books. Such things make the people in my books real.

  8. Cyndi BriggsNo Gravatar on September 2, 2010 at 6:59 am

    Mine – I love, love, love to be alone. Love it. I love people, too, but I have no fear at all of doing things by myself. I have a lot of women friends who fear eating, seeing movies, or traveling alone b/c of what people will think of them. I just can’t imagine having to have someone with me all the time to do the things I love. Thanks for this though-provoking post!

    • MansiNo Gravatar on September 3, 2010 at 1:53 pm

      Thanks, Cyndi, for sharing. I love that you value your ME time so much — don’t know enough people who do :-)


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