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!