The sheets on the calendar turn faster each year. There is more ‘grey matter’ adorning my scalp. Like a friend once suggested, I’d like to pass that off as a sign of wisdom and believe that I’ve grown wiser. In the December that went by, I was trying to reflect upon the good, bad, ugly, right, and wrong of another eventful year on this planet. It’s all a blur.
Somehow, my childhood seemed less complex and less terrifying. I’m an optimist by choice but I’m still unable to ignore a fear that is silently creeping into my system, a fear that was non-existent before. I’m worried about the kind of world my children are growing up into. On one hand, we wake up to the news of terror attacks, bomb blasts, rapes, and murders. It is the new normal. On the other hand, we splurge left, center, right, top, and bottom. Weddings are more elaborate and so are the other rituals. We party more, buy stuff on an ordinary day like there is no tomorrow, watch more reality shows on television that are far from real, watch soaps that are getting more slippery, and thrust our dreams onto our children and insist that it is indeed their dream. Exaggerating and portraying a very bleak picture of the present, am I? I’m worried nonetheless and long to see a few changes. No, that’s a lie. I actually want many things changed.
If it were possible to make one ‘national resolution’, I’d say, thwarting patriarchy. I believe it is at the root of the many unrests and is well concealed. I’d want a more level playing field for all our children. I’d want them to respect their freedom and space and that of others. I’d not want them to blow up or rape a fellow being. I’d want them to live in a truly free world where they can lampoon anyone and not get shot for it. I’d not want them to kidnap young girls or be kidnapped for exercising the right to education.
As a mother to two boys and an aunt to four nephews, I’d like to tread the line carefully. I’d like their circle of friends to be inclusive. I’d like my children to know that attraction to the opposite sex is but natural. What is NOT natural is the feeling of entitlement and the sense of power (patriarchal) which makes them take a NO for a YES. I’d like them to know that while it is perfectly okay to ask a girl on a date, it is absolutely NOT okay to stalk, hoot, or harass someone emotionally, verbally, or physically. I’d want them to know that home and the associated chores is their forte too and that their sisters and girls among friends have an equal claim to higher education and a successful career.
Even with all the conscious treading, the soon-to-be-six Varun refuses to wear pink or insists on using Spiderman toothpaste, and says no to Barbie paste! He finds it amusing when his grandpa chops veggies and asserts that it must be done either by grandma or mom. Children absorb information from so many sources and besides the home environment, TV,Cinema, and commercials, fuel their imagination.
I’d like to make an appeal to the people in the make-believe world. To be more responsible with the content they dole out. The innocent, intelligent minds of our children are capable of ingesting good stuff. There is sexism in the commercials, an overdose of it in movies where it is dished out in the name of humor or comedy. The actor Santhanam’s comedy to name one. He is verbal diarrhea on legs. He seems incapable of doing three scenes without booze or three lines without sexual innuendos.. In one of the Tamil flicks, you’d find the protagonist and this excuse for a comedian harassing an airhostess (the heroine). And you have another senior hostess almost advising the heroine to put up with it. There is touching and groping. In another scene, the duo follow a girl on a two-wheeler with most part of her face covered. At the traffic signal, when the girl uncovers her face, you’d see the hero spit. Seriously? Since when did these things become funny? Today, at least in Tamilnadu, it is practically impossible to innocently use the words ‘figure’ and ‘item’ because it is a derogatory reference to a chic woman.
You rarely find an inclusive commercial that shows a man cleaning the toilet or obsessing over a dish-washing liquid. There is always a woman who uses spices or flour of a particular brand and waits on the other family members at the dining table. The family has to collectively certify her cooking prowess (and the credit goes to the brand of course!). It is always the man who insures his life for the well being of his wife and children. Women’s lives are not worth insuring of course. It is always a man who applies for a home or car loan. The quintessential provider. Some brand (Fair & Lovely) suddenly decided to be gender-neutral and introduced fairness cream for men! Numskull of an idea, don’t you think? Where a brand can responsibly denounce discrimination based on color, it promotes ‘fairness’ and implies that dark-skin is a serious lack. I can go on.
One can hope though. Hope for a systemic change. Changes in the way the parents engage with their sons and daughters, sensitizing them to gender issues. Changes in the way the parents model their thoughts and actions, leading by example. Changes in the way teachers engage with the students and encourage inclusivity even while allowing room for mistakes, fun, and infatuation. Changes in the content media dishes out because children suck up to it more quickly and also internalize the messages. Some changes from within and some from the world outside. I told you. I’m an optimist by choice.