Beginning with our early childhood experiences and continuing developmentally up to the present day, we have received many messages about how one should and should not behave because you were female or male. Here i am just writing some points in my life.


I am making two lists: one of "shoulds", “oughts”, musts” and one of "shouldn'ts, “ought not”, "must not”. These lists represent the composite of the gender-role rules that I have learned. Some of these messages may have been verbal or non-verbal, may have been reflected in ways I was rewarded, punished, and ignored, and may have been modeled by others. These messages may have come from a variety of sources: significant others, acquaintances, the media, printed materials, and from institutional structures and policies. In recalling these messages I think it is useful to work with developmental periods of life, e.g. childhood, adolescence and to focus on those factors and people who were influential in life during that period.

Gender-role message identification

I grew up in a middle class family in a semi urban area in Ernakulam. I have only sibling who is male, 5 years older than I am. While I think, back to my childhood I do not specifically remembers the short gender sensitive messages that influenced me. However, some are still in memory.


"SHOULDS", “OUGHTS”, MUSTS”

1. You should study like that girl

2. You must go to the shop and buy things for dinner- whenever I asked to go to shop and buy things; I used to say why I should go. Mother says that it is because you are a boy.

3. You must come back at 6 pm to the house – When mother says this, I used to say that, “mom, I am not a girl, I can take care of myself” which means the message that girls are unable to take care of themselves are internalized by me at that time.

4. Cleaning the house - Mother used to say one sentence when she is really tired and still some house cleaning left “why I did not get a girl” – This means that if she get a girl, the girl will help her in the domestic work and now she have to do this herself as she got two boys. The meaning can be interpreted in such a way that only girls are supposed to do domestic work.

5. You should follow family values.

6. You should provide for the family as it is the duty and of the man.

7. Men as a community should respect women so as you.

"SHOULDN'T, “OUGHT NOT”, "MUST NOT”

1. You should not cry as if girls do.

2. You must not play with dolls.

3. You shouldn't wear girls dress

4. You must not be shy.

5. Do not act like girls for such silly things

6. You should not act like incompetent women.

Gender -role restructuring

Let me explain some points in the above list.

1. You should study like that girl - Mother used to point out to some girl’s mark [because marks of boys are usually lower] and say that I should study and get marks like that girl. This gender rule was often makes me annoyed. I have not received any benefits by following this gender rule however it was not internalized in the behavior pattern.

Later on also I heard from so many people that girls are outnumbering boys in academics and boys should learn from this and study like girls.  When I try to engage with those set of questions but it gave me another set of questions. They are so wide and scattered with a lot of confusing and obscure portions. I believe that all children should enjoy basic rights and experience the joys of childhood equally; that all children should become productive, socially sensitive, and democratically skilled citizens. But when parents start comparing them with other gender, the children feel inferiority and later develop into a discriminatory stance against the other gender. I felt a feeling of shame when mother used to say this and later on I understood that it was a product of patriarchy.


2. You should provide for the family as it is the duty and of the man – The source is Malayalam weekly. I know many girl students who tend to be inactive after completion of their course being a house wife or just some no risk jobs. Of course it is due to the patriarchal norms of our society. Because of this men are given the responsibility to work and provide for the family. This provide men a lot of burden and responsibility to take care of family. In my case, I have an elder brother to take care of the family and me. However this gender rule strikes me often.

These gender rules are often discriminatory and promote patriarchal attitude among people. Gender is a social construct and the rules also. One should change some internalized gender rules within them. For that one need to contemplate into them, analyze them and change them.


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