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?