Friday, April 08, 2016

G is for gender

I was explaining something about buses to Xena and was in the middle of my sentence "... so that the driver uncles and driver aunties can..." when she interrupted me.

"Driver aunties?? Mama, there is no such thing!"

"Of course, there is such a thing!

"Driver aunties??"


"Can you show me?"

Okay, so it took us a couple of weeks before we finally found and boarded a bus with a female driver. I was beside myself with excitement at having spotted her. However, as we entered the bus, I didn't say a word, waiting for Xena to notice the rare phenomenon. Though I actively seek out such instances, I try not to make a big deal of them in front of Xena, so she gets the idea that this is a normal thing. I use the word 'try' loosely because sometimes the sight of an elderly Malay lady, complete with headscarf and sunglasses, owning a giant double-decker bus like a boss, is just too much awesomeness for me to handle.

"Mama..." she whispered to me excitedly, "Driver uncle is an aunty!"

I was laughing in my head, but I just responded with a "Told you."


This was settled, but there are sooooo many more!

"All my friends' helper aunties are aunties."

"All the construction workers are uncles."

"All the nurses are aunties."

"All the taxi drivers are uncles."

We have not gone into the whys of gender inequalities yet, but where possible, I expose her to the 'anomalies', but in some cases, it's impossible to find a live one for demonstration purposes. And Xena is someone who won't take my word for it. She will immediately ask me, "Can you show me?" And then I have to be content by googling and showing her that there are male helpers, female construction workers, male nurses and female taxi drivers, just that we don't have as many as we should. But things are changing, and hopefully, soon we will.

A few weeks ago, we went for a visit to the fire station. On the way, I asked her if she wanted to be a firefighter when she grew up. She responded with indignation, "I can't be a firefighter, Mama! Only uncles can be firefighters!"

Here we go again.

So I told her that there were firefighter aunties and I would show her on the net when we got home. But we were in for an awesome surprise. Within a few minutes of entering the fire station, we spotted her. A female firefighter, in the flesh. Amidst 32895743895743 male ones, of course. She was the only female firefighter there. And she was kickass.

The female firefighter putting on the oxygen mask and tank on me during a demo (Okay, the tank was really really heavy and I could barely walk. I really salute the firefighters for rushing into burning buildings with that kind of load on their backs!)

Xena took one look at her and turned to me in amazement. "Mama, firefighter aunty!" She said with a big grin.



Porkodi (பொற்கொடி) said...

Indeedio haha!! Can't believe she is growing up this fast.

shell said...

This reminds me of a recent incident with my toddler.
He loves to point out things on the road.
ON our evening walk:
Baby: Mama, car. Cars are driving.
Mama: Yes baby. Cars are going. Men are driving the car.
Baby: No mama, people are driving the car!

Nandini said...

A subject very close to my heart. :) I've been changing the genders of characters - especially animal characters - in the books I read to my kids since they were babies. "No such thing as a boy thing or a girl thing" is a motto we repeat a lot.

Angad's favorite color is purple and wears pink (I am always on the lookout for pink shirts in the boys' clothing section, and they do exist!). He openly likes and wears and chooses flower-patterned clothes and blankets, dolls and tea sets at playtime, etc.

And, thank god, Nupur ventures outside of pink to say her favorite color is green or yelow quite often, despite overwhelming pressure from her friends and even teachers to be pink pink pink all the time. She too chooses trucks as often as she chooses dolls.

This is VERY hard work. The gender-programming we inflict on kids is insidious. In spite of all the work we do at home to reinforce gender neutrality, my daughter especially still comes home saying stupid things like "I'm a girl, I can't have a boy best friend". UGH.

Kavity said...

Loved this post and most others on your blog. Thanks to many years of your inspiring A-Z challenge series, I too have taken up the challenge this time, and have even successfully made it to the mid-mark of M. Keep writing, your blog is truly a pleasure to read!

Sayesha said...

Me neither! :O

Awesome!! :D

I totally get you. In spite of everything I attempt to say/do, she still comes back from school with some shocking statements that make me want to pull my hair! :/ It is VERY hard work indeed!

Thank you! :) I just checked your blog out. The grammar nazi post is very interesting. :D