Of “homely” girls and gender stereotyping

I have often been proffered unsolicited and completely unwanted advice on how to become more “lady-like”. Now, what’s this about men and lady-like behaviour? Smart, articulate, educated young men of my generation actually seem to believe the crap they dish out in the name of advice. Someone I know kept offering me such advice until I told him in no uncertain terms that such advice was completely and totally useless because I wasn’t planning on listening to him. And pray, what did he want me to do? It’s simple really. Be everything I am not. Apparently, men like talking to, going around with and outrageously flirting with smart, bold young women, but when it comes to marriage, it’s the “homely” girl who is most-wanted. Don’t believe me? Check out any matrimonial ad, or even one of the numerous match-making programmes that run on TV, and you’ll find the same requirements repeated ad nauseum: slim, fair, homely, educated but not too much, earning but not more than the man…such rules!

I find it inherently unfair that such restrictions be imposed on anyone, man or woman. Just as a woman is often expected to be docile, demure, shy and soft-spoken, a man is expected to be the very anti-thesis of all this. If you’re a man and soft-spoken or gentle, you’re as damned as a woman who is bold and outspoken. What’s this about gender stereotypes that forces people into little slots, however ill-fitting that slot might be? Why can we not accept people for what they are, instead of expecting them to live up to our expectations of how they should be?

Contrary to popular perception, gender stereotyping is not exclusively a problem that women face. Men who help at home, are soft-spoken or are happy handing over decision-making to the women in their lives are often labelled Mama’s boys or hen-pecked husbands. I find a lot of commentary in public spaces anti-men, when that’s only part of the reason gender stereotyping hurts women so much. In reality, the problem is more systemic. The same system which expects women to be Mother Earth incarnate, bearing all ills also expects men to be aggressive and dominating. I sometimes wonder if it is as difficult for men to conform to those stereotypes as it is for women to do so. Am sure it must be.

The question is, will all this ever change? Will be learn to accept a woman for who she is without expecting her to make a million compromises and be a doormat all her life, or without expecting a man to change his basic character? I hope to live to see that day!

2 thoughts on “Of “homely” girls and gender stereotyping

  1. Jay says:

    Here is how I see it.There are a million(make it billion) douchnozzles in the world.We cant really expect all of them to change.I completely boycotted social functions appalled by mediocrity,vanity displays of wealth etc.Like Vivekananda said to a student when he asked for his help in reforming the world.He said world got no problems,first you reform yourself. 🙂 Or as Ramakrishana(I think) said we cant remove dirt from the world,can only wear footwear.

    It is not a defence for doing nothing or saying everything is alright(which most definitely is not).But,the fact of the matter is most societies including Western societies are patriarchal societies.
    Switzerland got women’s suffrage only in 1971!Unfortunately your last para feels like you are making this into a women vs men thing.Of course,I am sure mothers&aunties have also hammered this “homely” instructions not only men.

    Bottomline is,it is an agreed paradigm and majority of people in any society are *always* mediocre or atleast below average.Like they say,when you are on side on majority,it is time to reform.ha ha

    The worrying factor is,why you are giving a damn about others’ opinions.
    Surely,you are not living in Saudi Arabia or Taliban Afghanistan where you are *physically* quarantined.
    Take a chill pill and get over it. 🙂

  2. Julie Buz. says:

    Amru, dearie, it’s no about living to see the day – it’s about living to see the man! And you will, one day you will. Don’t stop believing. He’s out there somewhere, looking for an emancipated, educated, outspoken and independent woman in her own right. And he’s WONDERFUL. :o)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *