While traditionally people largely associated men with masculine behaviour such as being unemotional and physically strong; women were expected to do domestic work and be soft spoken. However, in recent years there has been a change in this association.
In my family, as well as families of my friends, I have seen ways in which we are criticised for not acting a certain way. At home, most of my discussions with my grandmother are about me not learning how to cook meals or do certain chores. She tells me to speak quietly every time I raise my voice about something. Sometimes it hurts my feelings because according to me, I am simply expressing how I feel or my opinion on a subject. However, she sees it differently. She grew up in a traditional household where she never raised her voice and took care of the house. To try to make me understand why I should be soft spoken, she often tells me instances from her childhood and her married life, but I usually find it difficult to believe that women like her grew up in a place where raising their voice or doing something rebellious concluded that they are from a bad household. Yet, I try to understand her position because after spending her entire life living according to traditional norms, it is understandable that it would be hard for her to change her thoughts now.
On the contrary, I feel like my parents are more broad minded. Certain aspects of traditional ideas may come up occasionally, but overall my parents don’t impose decisions on me because I am a girl. In fact, they take my input regarding a lot of decisions, and we make them as a family. I haven’t even seen cases in my house where my father is imposing a family decision on my mother, both seem to be equal partners, which is exactly opposite of the stories I heard from my grandmother. Both my parents are also working, it is not that my mother is solely dedicated to domestic work and my father has no role to play in the house. Both of them go out for work, and my father plays a significant role in housework as well as childcare along with my mother.
Within a peer group, different people have different approaches to certain ideas. I am able to draw up a direct comparison between my current peer group and the people I used to be around in my previous school. In my previous peer group, there was a lot of talk about girls having a lot of friends being attention seekers and they were judged for every thing that they did. Boys who cried were teased and made fun of, and overall the school atmosphere used to unintentionally divide most people based on their gender rather than their interests or their rapport with each other. In a way, it was a suffocating environment.
My current peer group is far more open and accepting. We have a mixed friend circle, we comfort anyone who cries and no one passes comments and judgements based on how we mingle with our friends. Girls and boys play the same sports together, which were in a way forbidden in my last school, and small things like this are what really make an environment that is less constricting and open for everyone, regardless of their identity, to be comfortable. Teachers are also accepting and I haven’t come across anyone trying to segregate us based on us not behaving how ‘girls and boys are supposed to behave’.
Social media is a good place to express and an excellent space to meet new people, but certain aspects of social media are toxic. Being an open platform, all kinds of people comment, give criticism, love and hate. People have an ideal body type that they associate with a girl or a boy, as well as the content they post. I have seen accounts with models, where girls often comment things like “you’re beautiful, I wish I looked like that”. The same models are criticised for being confident and wearing clothes that are ‘socially unacceptable’, as well as wearing too much or too little makeup. This hypocrisy on the internet troubles me, and often takes a toll on the mental health of several people.
However, social media isn’t full of hypocrisy and hate. There are a lot of good people that I have interacted with online, and although I have never met them or met them a long time ago, they have become an essential part of my life. Social media is also a great platform where I can anonymously write and get to know more people. There are several mental health groups, body image pages, and celebrities spreading positive messages on the internet. Some of my favorite are Jessie Paege who talks about body image, and Matt Berstein who posts makeup posts and news on the LGBTQIA community. I believe that influencers like these are the ones that make the internet a safe and positive place for anyone to be whatever they want to be.
Overall, I feel like there are subtle enforcements of female and male gender roles that I see around me and often experience, but my family, peer group, and people on social media as well as I learn something new every day and become more broad minded. Personally, there was a point in my life when I believed that a girl has to act like a girl and a boy has to act like a boy, but I don’t believe in a gender binary anymore. I believe that people can be whoever they want to be as long as they don’t hurt each other.