Wednesday, May 25, 2016

A hands-on gender sensitization/normalization activity for boys

I was raised in a household with 3 women (mom, a 7 years elder sis, a twin sis) and one where we did most of the chores. As the littlest and clumsiest runt of the litter, I was assigned tasks that carried the least risks. Which included hanging all the washed clothes to dry and folding them when dried; and to run to the shop nearby to get essentials (packaged products ie.. for picking the right veggies etc my mom couldn't risk it).

I was thus handling everyone's bras and panties from a little age; my mom taught me to especially check the crotch section of chaddis with my fingers to make sure they've dried properly before I fold them. Never experienced any kind of shame or ridicule from it.. it was the same as doing the gents' chaddis and banyans.

I was also sent to the shop to buy sanitary napkins too whenever suddenly needed, and was never told to hide them from view.. it was same as carrying a pack of tissues. At age 7 or so when I cracked a joke about a napkin's ad on TV, my mom immediately sat me down and explained me the entire menstruation cycle, and told me in clear words that it's a wonderful and essential inner cleansing ability that women have which enables them to successfully give birth later on, and that there is nothing wrong if a drop of blood is left on the toilet seat or here or there, I should just put water and wipe it off as any normal stain. I still felt uncomfortable with the napkin ads on TV for some years, but never made fun of them.

After growing up, seeing all the silly nervousness and taboo around these things amongst others I feel like I'm seeing the funny quirks of a superstitious race. I feel extremely lucky to have been raised in such a way by my late mother who grew up in a conservative Jain village household in Gujarat. I took time getting ok with seeing sleeveless, miniskirts, ladies shorts etc because I didn't see them when growing up; still get a nervous around those because of my conditioning. But bras and panties : no issues. I recommend to all parents of boys to make them do these chores as a daily/weekly practice, as a hands-on gender sensitization/normalization strategy.

this came out as a rejoinder to my friend Nancy's post:
"Okay, we know women wear bras, do you need to show what sort?" my mother asked me. "Fine, may I leave my bras and panties to dry on a clothesline on the terrace?" I asked back. More rage followed—how could I have even thought such a thing? Neighbours can't look at them, their eyes will burn and kids will be scarred by nightmares. Such catastrophic, visionary and anxious consequences! The last time I checked, lingerie doesn't bite, or does it?"
She had shared this: Why Do Bras in Public Terrorise Some People?

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