Tag Archives: Gender Issues

Can We Stop With The #BoysAndTheirToys in 2018?

VENUS_MARS

Relationship experts, Internet proverbs, and magazines at the dentist’s all tell us the same thing. Men are from Mars, women are from Venus. Men are from Mars, women are from Venus. Men are from Mars, and women… well, you get the gist. Two planets apart, millions of miles away — now repeat it till you believe it.

But that’s the thing, it’s a myth. Men don’t necessarily need to come from Mars – they can come from Venus, Saturn, Neptune or even Ganymede (that’s Jupiter’s biggest moon for the astronomically unaware). In fact, they can come from anywhere they want, just like they can be whoever they want to be.

We might have been conditioned to believe that men need to be (or behave) a certain way, but the dictionary has never told anyone to be a classic d***hebag who smokes like a chimney and eats like a pig. Like I discussed last time, men aren’t a result of their toys, tempers and tastes, they are a result of their manners and their mottos.

Years of conditioning aside, it all usually starts as soon as you come kicking and screaming into the world. See, as a child you don’t understand the ramifications of what you say or the fact that one day, you’ll be embarrassed by what you’ve done – it’s like an Archiesversion of being sh*t-faced drunk and uninhibited – and no one has taught you that you have to behave a certain way just because, so you usually screw that up. You say the wrong things. You act the wrong way. You ask for the wrong toy.

As a child, I’d never had a kitchen set of my own – I had a lot of clowns, cars, books and GI Joes – and any time that I found these miniature cooking utensils freely available was a revelation. I would usually snatch an hour or two with them at my cousin’s, or play house with them with the girl next door.

It was pure, unadulterated joy, and I used all of it to bake make-believe macarons. It was big joke in my extended family, but I didn’t really care (also I really didn’t know). So finally, on my seventh birthday when my parents asked me what I wanted, I thought I’d jump at the idea – the only sort of jumping I would ever do.

I remember being really nervous about not getting anything at all, but I was also nervous that I’d be laughed at, so I checked and double-checked to see whether I really could ask for anything I wanted.

“Yes, please,” they said.

So I asked for a kitchen set. I don’t really remember the exact reaction, but it was politely explained to me that I couldn’t have one because kitchen sets were for girls.

I was crushed. So I asked for books. Video games. Toy cars. Spaceship models. The complete He-Man collection (side note: I got greedy).

For me, playing house wasn’t just about clanking those tiny utensils together; I wanted to act out all the ideas in my head – scripts I’d never be able to live but knew by heart. My crazy imagination was dying to see all the stories I scrawled in my little notebooks come to life.

And then Lego came along, and changed everything.

Conventionally, there was nothing wrong with a boy playing with his Lego set – I could build houses, and cafes and parks, without being disturbed. But the attempt to ‘Masc’ things up wasn’t far away – I got the fire station starter pack one birthday, but I ended up making a fancy condo (albeit with poles) with that as well.

The boys toys stopped coming my way though, and my bedroom filled up with books (and even more Lego sets), but it was a distraction from the seemingly endless amazement that I wasn’t macho enough – not playing sports or climbing trees. As long as I had my nose deep in a book, no one asked me why it wasn’t looking up football strategies online.

Eventually, my fascination with building homes and stories helped; I went on to become an architect, and then a writer, so I could say it all worked out for me – but my childhood remained the same.

A lie.

There’s been some progress, at least in moving away from the ‘pinkification’ of girl’s toys and allowing them the freedom to play with what would traditionally be called boy’s toys – their cars, dinosaurs, cowboys and all that.

It’s an important fight and we need it, but when it comes to the other side of the coin – little boys just dying to pick up a play doll or a play house – it’s a harder sell. Not to mention that in 2018, gender is not just about ‘boys and girls’. Everyone is finding their own way. Boys can play with girl’s toys and girls can play with boy’s toys. Heck, there’s no such thing as boy’s toys and girl’s toys anymore, just like there’s no such thing as a man’s job and a woman’s job.

How can I be so sure?

A few weeks ago, as I played house with my nephew, I asked him what he wanted to be when he grows up. He wanted to be a superhero, his grandmother, a policeman and a race car driver, in that order (He also said he wanted to be ‘happy’, but he’s always been a bright kid). He’s four years old.

His reasons for wanting to be his grandmother were simple. She made all the decisions at home. He wanted to do the same thing. We both high-fived and had tea with the underlying matriarchy in our makeshift hall.

My four-year-old nephew might be a doll (no pun intended), but the rest of us still have a long way to go. Countless dreams (and bones) get crushed every day because men are supposed to be breaking their heads (and their backs) at the workplace, or the gym. So here’s something for you to take away – do what interests you, not something that ticks all the boxes for becoming the quintessential man.

Am I gay because I played with dolls and kitchen sets, or despite the fact that I really couldn’t? Would it have really made any difference? With ‘traditionally masculine’ sports’ stars now coming out of the closet, there really is no fail-safe to stop your child from becoming ‘less macho’ (not even a good ol’ football can save him. Sorry about that.)

If you’d rather your child grow up sad and ashamed, the toy really isn’t the problem here. If they grow up to come out as gay or bi or trans or seem “less of a man”, it’s not because you bought them a Barbie doll when they were seven (it’s probably because they are built in a different way then you are.)

And even if it turns out to be true, so what? Be proud of them and pat yourself on your back for being such a great influence!

Just buy that kitchen set. You’d only thank yourself later when your son (or brother) gets you Eggs Benedict in bed.

You are welcome.

PS: My parents are, and have always been, great and very accepting and shielded me from a lot of bullsh*t (homophobic or otherwise) in life. They eventually did get me that kitchen set, only they pretended it was for my sister.

The Guysexual’s Guide To Freedom

 

freedom biyatch

What does freedom mean to me?

Wearing pyjamas on a Monday. Heading out on a vacation in the middle of January. Eating (and owning) eight bars of dark chocolate in one sitting. Netflix binging all week. Not replying to a text right away. Not feeling guilty about any of it.

Freedom might mean a lot of different things for each of us, but for the quintessential gay man in India, it means a lot more — the freedom to dress how they want, the freedom to love who they want, but most importantly, the freedom to be who they want.

At the end of the day, what else do you need independence from in India? You don’t need to answer the question; it was rhetorical.

But then again, the answers needn’t be. As Independence Day charges at us with all its tri-coloured glory, here are 15 different ideas that (gay) men need instant freedom from, this 15 August:

1. Body-shaming
I’ve said it before and I will say it again — square, round, fat, skinny, triangular, muscled, average, toned, thin, beefed up or even trapezoid — gay men (or anyone, for that matter) come in all shapes and sizes. As long as they are not a trigonometric equation, learn to appreciate all of them.

2. Patriarchy
Fun fact: did you know what makes a man (or woman) highly irresistible?
Their ideas on equality (and inclusivity).

3. Section 377
Because Section 377 is as redundant as Pahlaj Nihalani’s opinion right now. Let’s dust off the Constitution of India, and dust off those blues, shall we?

4. Bigotry
We all need to left swipe on extreme right wing propaganda – especially the one that opposes anything that is even remotely LGBT, including your (just the right amount of inappropriate) man crush on Rahul Khanna. Respect other people’s opinions like you would respect your mother on her birthday (or Mother’s Day).

5. Self hate
The only kind of people who hate gay men more than the bigots from above?
Gay men themselves. Internalised homophobia is real, boys and girls — it’s time to address the problem out in the open. Just like you should be.

6. Crocs
You might need freedom, boys — but your open toes don’t. The monsoons are over, so keep those crocs where YOU don’t belong — right at the back of your closet.

7. Judging relatives
Just like Apple’s license agreement and the disclaimer at the beginning of every movie, opinions of overbearing relatives are ticks that don’t need your attention.

8. Social media stress
The world might be going to war (here’s looking at you, North Korea and the United States of America) and I’ve still spent hours wondering why my #TransformationTuesday isn’t getting any Instagram love at 3 pm. It’s time to switch off the smart phones, and switch off that stress. I’ll probably go to the gym and work on my glutes instead.

9. Toxic love
No, the fact that he pinged you at 2 am, three months after he cheated on you (and effectively dumped you after) does not mean he’s trying to get back into your life. He probably just wants to get back into your pants. Love might be a lot of things, but it’s never deceitful. Nothing toxic can ever come out of a genuine, romantic relationship. Always remember that.

10. Notions of heteronormativity
Some people believe in monogamy. Some people believe in polygamy. Some people believe in free love. As long as you are practising safe sex, leave your notions of what is right and what is wrong right next to the used condom wrappers.

11. Gender appropriation
If Kiran, with the gender-neutral name, wants to dress in a way that’s slightly gender-fluid, don’t be a douche about it. No one needs that kind of negativity in their life — especially when they are trying to walk in six-inch stilettos in a busy Mumbai street.

12. Bullying
Just because I was okay with the fact that I spent most of high school getting pushed against lockers (and the occasional fellow nerd), doesn’t mean I am okay being dragged down a trail of comments by internet trolls, thank you very much.

13. No sugar diets
If gay men gave more importance to positivity than their protein supplements, the world would be a sweeter place to live in. Cinnamon bun intended. Empty calories aside, cutting sugar out just leads to an emptier life.

14. Bad television
The only thing worse than no LGBT representation in film (and other media) is shitty LGBT representation in film (and other media). Think of it this way — every time a gay person is portrayed as a promiscuous, sassy fashionista with no morals (or a wrist bone) on screen, a baby seal is clubbed to death in Antarctica.
Or worse, Chetan Bhagat comes out with another book.

15. Peroxide hair
Just one word: Nope.