That word up there, wew, seeing it there makes me like I’ve loaded a ton of responsibility over my shoulders and I’d be making tons of enemies soon. Well, I’m not going to be criticizing anyone’s opinions or offering up my own on the various sex terminologies that have come up in the past decade or so. I was watching The Mentalist, the TV show with the blond guy who’s always smiling, and there was this one statement he made. He says something along the lines of “You wouldn’t drive your sister’s pink bicycle all the way across town for…”, I think he meant unless it was really important for the 10 y/o, he wouldn’t have driven long on a pink bicycle.
At that point I kinda recalled my childhood, me being reluctant to drive this cycle called the Ladybird and also not wanting to enter this shop called Sri Muruga Sarees, because it had the word ‘Saree’ in it which is a female attire.
So where do these ideas come from and where does sexism begin? From the earliest of years, we are taught to associate pictures with words. Take the picture book from your elementary school for instance. The small shiny book, with a shiny red thing in a particular distorted non-geometrical form, that had five little letters written next to them ‘a-p-p-l-e’. We form an idea there. An idea that says if you see this red thing (or green or whatever color we want it to be, we later learn. Thanks genetic-engineering) in this particular peculiar shape, it’s an apple. Similarly what images do you associate when you say man or woman. The term is broad but I see very specific images. The first thing that pops up in my mind is of a very muscular person (imagine Goku), waist-up half portrait, camera angled up from below, portraying a towering, fearful, strong person, light effects that emphasize it. The image speaks for itself. When I think woman however, I see a full body image, she’s actually lost in the background with weak colors blending in, wearing a headscarf, sitting down with both her legs bent half in one direction, I can’t see her face, she’s probably holding a baby, I’m probably thinking about Mary in the stables(?), though I am unaware of how that story goes. It’s a weak image. It speaks of love and care primarily, but it if you take the layers apart, the underlying tones sing of cowardice and frailty.
That is the first image that pops into my mind. It’s the unconsciousness part of my mind kicking in, the auto-pilot. I, consciously do not have opinions that lie anywhere close to what my mind projects on first thought. That however is the base on which the rest of my thoughts and ideas are assembled. The base. These ideas are thus what were fed into me when I was a kid, unreasoning, pure and paper white.
Every word goes with an idea. We usually draw from a well of ideas but for collectives such as man or woman we have strong pre-processed images attached with the words. When we see a man or a woman, we already have an impression of them, because we are able to categorize them, they fall into something already though you have absolutely nada inkling about the smallest thing they have done or had done to them.
Sexism is inherent, (kinda?) we were into all this hunting and things ages ago. We still have the flight or fight thingies going on inside our head though we face a fraction of the dangers we used to back then. Similarly, the roles that were asserted aeons ago are still with us in a way. Television conforms to these gender roles mostly. Unless, the story itself revolves around a strong female lead. And what do we have even then? Charlize Theron, in her tight clothing and boyish haircut. Where’s the girly stuff in the strong female lead? We only get to see them as outliers and they in no way affect our deepest impression of the female being. We see qualities that are inherent to men, and we think they’re different, brave and strong like a man.
I blame the media!