Category Archives: gender roles

Reflections of a almost five year old on Fairy Tales

I have recently introduced Migu to popular fairy tales and now our bed time reading as well as meal time stories are generally Cinderella, Rapunzel, Snow White and Sleeping Beauty.

As I have blogged in the past,here and here  Migu does not like to consume stories in a docile way. She has to constantly comment or critique a story. So this is how our story telling session on Snow White went.

Snow White had a step mother who had a magic mirror.

Migu : Wow step mother and magic. Is she like the fairy godmother? Will she wave her want?

Me : Well, no step mother and fairy godmother are different, sort of very opposite to each other. Will you let me continue?

As I continue we come to the bit about the mirror.

Me : The step mother asked the mirror, “Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, who is the fairest of them all?”

Migu : Wait, wait, I am the mirror, you are step mother, now ask me.

Me: Ok, Mirror Mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?

Migu : Goldilocks

Me : Not Goldilocks, Snow White.

Migu : But that day you told me Golilocks was also beautiful.

Me : Never minds, its another story. Can we continue.

After some time, as we come to the bit about Snow White falling after eating the apple

Me : How do you think she revived?

Migu : How? How?

Me : A handsome prince came and saw Beautiful Snow Whites Body. When he kissed her, she revived.

Migu : Thats not fair. Thats what happened to Sleeping Beauty. You are simply saying this.

Me : No that is the story.

Migu : Why is it always the prince?

Me : I dont know, can I continue?

Migu : Ok

Me : The prince and Snow White got married and lived in a castle

Migu : No, that is what happened to Rapunzel

Me : So its a different prince, and it was perfectly OK for him to marry Snow White.

Migu : Getting irritated, there is always a prince (She said it in Tamil, so all who follow Tamil can truly understand the impact of a line like Eppopathalum Prince, Eppopathalum Prince.

After some time,

Migu : I dont like these stories, I only like Red Riding Hood.

Me : Why

Migu : There is no prince, only a wolf.

The Feminist in Me : You go girl, yes you dont need a prince.

Like I have written before, I didnt really question any story while growing up. I dont not always fantasize about a life similar to the one which I was reading about, but I accepted it and never thought to challenge their choices. I am glad Migu is growing up, questioning stories, and maybe unconsiously breaking stereotypes and challenging possibilities and choices.

Advertisements
Tagged , , ,

Can we gift a kitchen set to a boy?

I was stocking up some birthday presents recently, expecting a slew of birthdays in the coming months. One of the items I purchased was a kitchen set. As I was packing it away, I suddenly wondered, most of the upcoming birthdays are for young boys. Will I be able to give a kitchen set to a boy as a present??

There has been a million discussions on gender stereotypes in toys before, and as for myself, I am very determined that my daughters toys will not reflect these stereotypes. If I had a son, I would welcome somebody giving him a kitchen set. Better still, I would have bought it myself. But still, I hesitate to actually hand it over to a boy. I feel that it warrants an explanation from me to the parent as to why I am giving that particular gift, when I would actually give it unthinkingly to a girl. Handing an item like that to a boy seems like a political statement, whereas to a girl, it is perfectly normal, even desirable.

There has been extensive debates on gender equality in India in the recent past, and one of the major themes which emerge is that until we start teaching the boys that it is also their responsibility to share in what is perceived as ‘women’s work’, nay, that it is desirable to do this work, then gender equality is a myth. The slogan of teach your daughter it is good to go out and play is meaningless, if it is not accompanied by teach your son it is ok to cook. So why can boys not play with kitchen sets?

My daughter, is, to use a stereotype, quite ‘tomboyish’, and I am somehow confident that she will find a space for herself. We are definitely encouraging a lot of girls to break gender stereotypes, and girls wear jeans, trousers etc. Many young girls I know are going to football, tennis and whatever classes, as well as traditional song and dance (which they were earlier expected to attend). But where are boys ever expected to break their stereotypes. Do they have any role models for cooking. Yeah superchefs like Sanjeev Kapoor are great, but these men cook for the world. It is part of their business, they earn money through cooking.  DO they ever see a man doing their daily breakfast and agonizing over what to pack in their school dabbas.

It is an extremely problematic way of breaking stereotypes if only one group is encouraged to do what the other group is always doing. By saying that, we are essentially saying, it is great to be outdoorsy and adventurous. Yes, but it is also great to be homely and play with dolls. Neither is better than the other, and I should have the right to choose what I want to do, when I want to do it, irrespective of whether I am a little boy or little girl.

So yeah, back to my earlier question? Can I give the kitchen set to a boy. I think  I will now. And I endeavor to give it, not as a statement, but as a perfectly normal gift. Will any of you think of giving this gift now?

Tagged , , , ,