Tag Archives: girls

Be Careful What You Tell Little Kids Through Toys

nasa

 

I don’t much believe in women’s day – don’t ask, it’s a long argument – but suffice it is to say that for me, the fact that we need a woman’s day is unfortunate – will rant about this on another post soon.

However, there is one thing I do like about all this hullabaloo around Women’s day – the fact that there are these great stories that come out of every corner of the internet, and I make my girls read them – to drive home the point that they are no different from boys (they know that, but I feel the need to reinforce it in the face of so much inequality that women face today)

One such example of a story I read was about Lego – the toy company – making female NASA pioneers as Lego figures. I think it’s a brilliant idea and, refreshingly, moved away from the gender stereotyping the company has done in the past (Lego girls is pink with beach and salon stuff the boys one is blue with all the “boy stuff” to make – you know the typical). In my opinion, the company has redeemed itself a little bit.

This is what toy companies need to do – to make gender neutral toys (hear that Kinder?). Children have impressionable minds, and the toys they play with – or the ones people gift them – tell them something about who they are supposed to be. Sure, that’s not how it should be, but that’s exactly how it is – when you give a girl a kitchen set to play with, you’re telling her that this is what she’ll enjoy, because that’s really what should come naturally to her. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with girls playing with these. The problem happens when that is all they play with – the “girlie stuff” – that’s giving them a message, even if unintended. Anyway, I think I’ve made my point (and I’ve said it before – you can read more about it if you like)

So, back to Lego’s NASA women – it’s a great idea. And, I cannot believe I am saying this. Why? Because I have hated Lego Friends – it’s all that women stand against today and I look at it as exploitation for mercenary gain. But, this is more of  give-the-devil-the-due kin fog thing. Like I said, they’ve redeemed themselves a little – even if it is an overt way to compensate for their other follies.

The next time you want to gift a Lego, go for the NASA one – for both girls and boys. It’s equally important for boys to grow up believing that women are equal to men – in every possible way. They too need to question the inequality and help break it. So, if you have a son – go ahead and gift him a Lego female NASA pioneer set.

 

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My Daughters Are Not My Sons. They Are Daughters. They Are Not Tomboys, They Are Girls.

daughters

I have three daughters. Yes, three. And no, I wasn’t “trying for a son”, as most people ask me, a question that only reveals their supreme narrow-minded stupidity than anything else. Why else, implies their tone, would anyone willingly have three daughters. I don’t know, but wanting to have them could be one obvious reason. Not sure if the obvious is obvious after all, especially those who walk around the world with “to-let signs in their eyes”, to steal a dear friend’s phrase.

I don’t bother replying to these questions, despite the fact that my silence is taken for consent, even lament. Also, the truth is that even I do answer, in some misguided sense of wanting to educate the world, it would be wasted breath. Such deep-rooted parochial ideas are not about to change with any answer I can give them, no matter now persuasive. So I’ve learned to ignore the questions, the prying, and the commiserative looks I get from people – which I find amusing more than angering.

However, for all my fortitude on the matter, there are days when I my patience wears thin – especially when I am told that my daughters are “going to be like my sons”. That gets my goat. What does that even mean? What can a son do for me, that a daughter cannot? I once asked this to an unsuspecting lady who probably said this to me with the expectation that I would proceed to unburden my worries onto her and express my deep gratitude for her understanding. Instead I asked her what she meant by that remark. She was taken-aback, but recovered quickly and added that they would “do what sons do”, and beamed as if she had shed invaluable light on the matter.

I didn’t press any further, because it was evident that she would be unable to articulate what she meant, and continue to make generic, seeping statements which would irritate me further. Besides, patience is not a virtue, and I didn’t want to be rude, so I let it go.

But the truth is that she’s not alone in thinking this way. I get only two kinds of reactions when people discover I have three girls. Actually, make that three kinds– shock, sympathy and reassurance. I am pretty used to it by now. I know the look. Mostly, though I don’t let it get under my skin, but there are times when I want to shake the people out of their idiocy and tell them to take off their blinkers.

My daughters are my daughters and they will remain so- they will not turn into sons if they do “what sons do”. It’s infuriating how the world wants to put people in boxes.

Think about it – if a girl wears shorts and plays sports, she’s a tomboy. The dictionary meaning of that word is – “a girl who enjoys things that people think are more suited to boys”. That says is all – people think. So we are saying that if you do boy things (someone please define those for me), you’re a tomboy. I reject this outright. My children do “children things” – play in the park, climb monkey ladders, swim, play sports, chase each other around the house. They are kids and this is what kids do – they play. Who decided what activities are “more suited to boys”? Give a kid a ball and he of she will play with it – it has nothing to do with the gender.

As a mother, I see my kids play with girls and boys equally, and they do everything. There are boys who come over and play with kitchen sets, does that make them “girlie”. I don’t think so.

It’s all in the conditioning. We do it from the time they are born. We think a child would be inclined in one way or the other and we make those decisions for them. We hand cars to boys and dolls to girls, and then we hold up statistics to bolster our arguments on gender. As I have said before in a making a case against gender-based toys that Kinder Joy puts in their pink and blue chocolates, that we think we know better. But we don’t. My girls like the “blue-for-boys” Kinder Eggs, because they prefer the toys in them.

And no, they are not tomboys, they are girls, they are children who love to play, to create, to not want to be told what they should do. They are my daughters. If I had had sons, they would have been my sons. It’s as simple as that. Why is this so hard to understand?

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I have no words. Sickened to the gut.

The past few months have been shameful for any Indian with a conscience. Or wait, I correct myself – I cannot put a time frame on this. The past few months have brought to light what has been happening  in the Indian society for, well, for more years than anyone can put a number on.

I am talking about rape. Rape in it’s worst form. I never thought I’d put an adjective before the word, because ANY form of rape is violent and needs a swift and un-bailable  march to prison,preferably to the gallows. However, when one hears of little toddlers being raped and being subjected to unspeakable torture, one starts to believe that one rape is worse than the other. Extremely unfortunate, but true.

Four months ago, a woman was gang-raped and brutalized in a Delhi bus. After she was tortured (an iron rod was inserted into her which reached her intestines), she and her male friend were thrown out of the bus.

The nation erupted in arms – from candlelight vigils to angry protests – the country came together to say that it had had enough, that it would not take police apathy and political reticence to crimes against women anymore. The media feverishly covered the protests (where girls were roughed up by policemen) and brought in experts to talk about the “problem” at prime time.

That was then. Nothing happened. I say nothing because if some micro change took place it was not noticed and frankly it was too small a step to make any difference. The system needs to be shaken up and revamped. A revolution is needed. Nothing short of that will do.

There have been more heinous rapes. If you are in India right now and watching ANY national news channel, you’ll be sickened to the gut. Little girls (ranging from two to thirteen) are battling for their lives in hospitals after being repeatedly gang-raped and brutalized.

The people have taken to the streets, again. They can do little else to show their anger. Again, women have been roughed up (slapped) by policemen. It’s deja vu.

As a mother of girls I cannot tell you what that TV image of dolls kept on the stretcher of the girl who is being wheeled into Emergency at AIIMS does to me. My hair stands on end and I cannot imagine how someone can do this to a child. What’s even harder to imagine is the reaction of the police. They refused to register the complaint and then told the parents to shut-up about the incident. Goddammit, what the F are they made of? Here’s a five-year old girl, found in semi-conscious state after three days with stuff inserted up for vagina and all the cops could do was offer the poor (as in literally, poor) parents money to stay silent.Do we even have words to describe such behaviour?

The distasteful truth is that such an attitude has pervaded the entire (well, almost) police force. Rape, even of little girls, is so common that the police do not even register the complaint. We all know that. They may do it for the rich, but almost never for the poor.

Scores of children go missing every day in this country. Nothing happens. They get sold, abused, killed and no one bats an eyelid. Sure there are “measures” taken, but that’s a pile of BS – ask any domestic help about this and they’ll tell you that the cops do nothing. In fact, they make it worse but rounding up innocent people to show action. It’s a pathetic state of affairs.

The system is not going to change. Pardon my pessimism, but I can’t say it’s unfounded. Some say that the people must bring about the change, as they have in other societies. I guess, that’s the only way forward, but to me it seems a tad bit unfair that we must now take to the streets, neglect home, work and children to make our voices get heard and win safety for our children. It makes me wonder if we live in a civil society? Do we? Is this how modern, civilized nations treat their women? Is is asking for too much that the police punish, swiftly, those who brutally annihilate lives?

There are too many questions and not near enough answers.

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