She was floored. He had held the car door open for her. He was taking her out to dinner. He was driving and she was sitting beside him. They reached their destination. He again got out and held the car door for her. Then he escorted her inside, and held the chair for her. Rutuja was liking every bit of this and a smile was playing on her lips all the time. What was she thinking? – “Serves him right, for not helping me around in the house?” Was this her way of paying back? What was he thinking? Was he showing his respect for her, was he being servile or was he just engaging in a typical PDA, or was he showing how he had an upper hand over her, in a subtle way?
Elsewhere, Monica was in a café with her boyfriend. They were engaged to get married. Both were earning the same salary. She suggested they should go Dutch. He said he would pay one day and she, the next. He said, they were in it together, and nothing was solely his or hers. They would take care of their expenses together.
Shuchita was an independent consultant and worked from home. Her meetings with clients (who were mostly male, purely a matter of coincidence) were at Starbucks or a CCD or any other central. mutually convenient place. Every meeting though, ended with her male counterparts footing the bill. She did try to ‘pay’, but her efforts were politely ignored. She does not know, whether that’s normal or not, she does not know whether she should feel good or not if they don’t allow her to pay the bill.
Gender stereotypes are not a new thing. While men are built by Nature to shoulder most of the work that requires strength, largely physical, women are built by Nature to nurture and take on most of the soft roles.
You still find great women drivers who can do a parallel parking with amazing ease and back up equally smoothly without brushing against that quintessential pillar. There are women who change flats with a jack just as easily. The daily wage woman labourer too carries heavy loads while straddling an infant on her waist or in a cloth sling. In villages, women fetch water in 10 and 20 litre buckets/handis easily and daily, sometimes even twice a day. Closer home, women are proving their mettle physically and mentally – look at our Rio Olympic record – wrestling, vaulting, badminton – all physically tough games and not a man in sight where medals were concerned. In corporate boardrooms, women are superseding the men or maintaining shoulder length with the men, at the same time taking care of home and hearth.
Men on the other hand, are also seen doing their duties at home, also taking on classic women roles. The house husband who works from home and takes care of the baby without a babysitter, while the wife is away at work, I have a neighbour, who does. The husband who makes it a point to make the first cuppa for his wife every single day; the husband who cannot drive and does not see it as a blow to his ego, again, I have another neighbour here; then there is the young man who treats his girlfriend /wife with equal respect, even in front of his parents or guests and does partake his share of the load at home. The husband who takes care of weekly groceries or who makes the bed or takes care of the laundry load as a practise.
Gender equality is taking on different meanings, the right ones perhaps.
And this is a welcome thought. Why after all, should equality mean that a woman should need to smoke or drink just to prove that she is as good as a man? She should do it out of her own choice and not out of compulsion. Why should men not pick up their own plates or cups after they are done? Why should the man hold the door or chair for a woman just because his forefathers did it or that is what makes him look good as a man?
Gender equality should not be out of compulsion or to prove a point or to reduce the male ego or to establish feministic supremacy. It should be the freedom to choose what the man or woman wants to do with his or her life, work, chores, daily habits. It definitely should not be a pseudo thing, this equality bit. . But then there are other more naturally occurring phenomenon and questions. What if the husband wants a child and the woman does not? The husband cannot, even if he wishes too, carry a child right? How does a couple deal with this one then?
Movies like The Intern and Ki & Ka are handling this subject from a modern perspective. TV Commercials like ‘Share the Load’ are doing their bit in establishing certain norms for equality in this day and age.
Between a couple, married or not, gender equality should at best be ‘respect’ for each other. Levelling off and arriving at a happy, common ground, rather than fighting over one-upmanship or one-upwomanship. Different strokes for different couples.
After all, men are from Mars and women are from Venus, so same difference, what say? But lest we forget, men and women still love to meet on Earth, ain’t that enough?
What are your views on gender equality? How do you as a couple get to a common, happy ground. Do you feel that we can eventually get to a point where there is complete gender equality?