Rage…all day, all night

My daily encounters with gender stereotyping make me rage. Often, there is no one to rant to, so the rage takes the form of an angry monologue in my head. I seethe for a while and then feel unhappy with myself for doing nothing about it.

Two recent incidents come to mind:

Incident one

Fiance and I were having a conversation with an Indian Uncle about our life plan. Do you know of them? Indian Uncles are 45+, unrelated males who are either friends of parents or parents of friends (moustache and Chivas belly optional). In our three-way conversation, the Indian Uncle enquired about and took a keen interest in learning about Fiance’s education and career. I waited for him to ask me the same questions, but they never came. After a while he said (paraphrasing), “God has deemed that Fiance have a career in Finance and that you be a home maker.”

For all my chat about rage and feminism, I didn’t correct him. I didn’t want to ruin the flow of conversation, or be seen as an annoying ranter. I was clearly not the topic of discussion, so why should I draw attention to my personal goals and ambitions? But the incident left me angry me for days, and I lashed out at him when he condescendingly addressed me as “sweetheart” in a debate a few days later.

Incident two

I was at the gym trying to work out how to use the Lat Pulldown machine. I had used them many times before but hadn’t seen one with weights on both sides of the machine. There was someone using it so I asked him if it was any different to what I was used to. Turns out it wasn’t. While I was waiting for him to be done with the machine, we got chatting about our workouts. I told him that I wasn’t ready to squat with weights as I hadn’t perfected my technique yet. He went onto mansplain, “A strong back is important if you want to squat with heavy weights, but I doubt you would ever do that”.

DA FUK?! Why assume that I don’t want to squat with heavy weights? I hope you will take my word for it when I say that he came to this conclusion on his own.

In today’s day and age of third wave feminism, this is simply ignorant. Unfortunately, I did not correct him then, but instead ranted to my friends over Whatsapp. Why? The same as above: I didn’t see myself squatting with heavy weights in the forseeable future so there was no point in interrupting the polite and friendly flow of our conversation.

*****

A part of me thinks that I still win despite keeping quiet, because I know what I am capable of in my mind. In the long run, I must prove my worth to myself, and not to the Indian Uncle or the Condescending Gym Man. I also don’t need their approval to feel good about myself. But it infuriates me to think that these people may go on with their daily lives, unleashing their mindless stereotyping on the world and judging women to be a certain way. I dream of a world where men and women can be viewed as true equals. We may be a century away from this world but how will we get there if we let the stereotyping go uncorrected?

I have resolved that I am going to do away with my pacifist ways and be vocal with my views at all times, just like the people described above. There is a big risk (especially with Indian Uncles and Aunties) that this may not be received well, but all you can do is explain it in a calm and rational way.

How do you deal with your encounters with stereotyping, gender or otherwise? Do they make you rage? Do you set the record straight or let them ride off into the sunset?

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4 comments

  1. Hi there!
    I am just 17 years old but I could relate to your post a lot. I come from a typical orthodox Indian family where mostly all my family members (excluding my parents) are like the same uncle you described.
    Let me narrate an incident. As I’ve completed my 12th grade, I am usually flooded with questions from my peers and family that what next?! This weekend I was on a visit to my grandma’s house. There someone asked me the same question. Then my aunt said, “Just 4 years of college and then marriage. She is a girl so she doesn’t needs to study that much.” And just like you, I barely said anything. Though a volcano was on a verge of erupting on the inside, but I kept quiet because it would have been sounded rude and impolite.
    And as you mentioned, there is a big risk with Indian uncles and aunties. You never know when they get melodramatic and create a scene. I wish that someday I can explain them in a calm and rational way, a thing which is so hard to do to overcome my rage!
    Cheers!

  2. No offense but I see you stereotyping “Indian Uncle” and “Condescending Gym Man” just as much as you seem to think they stereotyped the fact that you are a woman. Why so much rage when you cannot seem to get over your own stereotypical point of view? You seem like someone who would know the quote “Be the change you want to see in the world.” And if you ever see this world turning into the myriad of hues of feminism, you have to begin to heal your inner anger. Call me judgmental or “stereotypical,” but it seems like you have a lot of unresolved issues, perhaps a childhood that was not all a bed of roses because you grew up in an environment where boys were preferred over you, and this may be none of my business, but may I ask, what exactly is it that you are fighting for? Is it feminism or equality? They are very different things you know. Because if you think you need to prove to yourself your own worth, then at the end of the day you are still struggling to have an positive image of your own self in your head. You may or may not be a feminist, but if you are judgmental enough to give these nicknames to other people you meet everyday, then why are you so annoyed that they seem to be doing the same? Isn’t being a kind person with a generous spirit more important than “proving” something?

    May I ask why do you think everyone around you is out to get you? Maybe the said “Indian Uncle” has a story different to that of yours, or this “Condescending Gym Man” really had something positive to say before you dismissed the conversation you were having with him.

    Don’t get me wrong, I am a woman and I am all for empowerment and all, but I perceive feminism a tad bit differently. I have stopped stereotyping people and I be the change I want to see in the world. Heck, I am not even a Gandhian but I do want to be a better person, and if I have these unresolved anger issues, I will never be able to live a happy life. They say beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder, and while I agree everything is not fun and games, yet I try to build into my own stamina instead of lashing out at others. I mean, don’t get all worked up and say I am being over dramatic about this post, because clearly I appreciate what you have written and this is why I am making the effort to write this lengthy comment.

    I hope that you get over whatever it is that is bothering you. I quite like the way you write.

    1. Hi Aarti. Thanks for taking the time to comment. I am glad you raised the point about whether Indian Uncle and Condescending Gym Man are stereotypes. I felt like I worded my post carefully enough, to avoid stereotyping both men, but I need to be clearer.

      But first, let me admit that I am prone to stereotyping. Aren’t we all? We use them as shortcuts (often incorrectly) to process the vast amount of information that is thrown at us. I absolutely agree that we need to change our behaviours to solve the problems we complain about. Like you, I try to stop myself when I find myself stereotyping. But it’s a process – One that can move faster if you are prodded along…the prod was partly the motivation for my post.

      Now to clarify. When I used the term “Indian Uncle”, I meant it to describe an older (to me), unrelated Indian male. Nothing more. Apart from the comment about the moustache and Chivas belly (which were playful side-remarks aimed at my dad), I wasn’t using the term to convey a belief (negative or positive) about all Indian men. He may well have a story to tell, but I wanted to convey the increased interest that he had in the other male in the conversation. Both of us were just as likely to be as well qualified, but whose story did he want to hear?

      With regards to “Condescending Gym Man”, I wasn’t using the term as a stereotype. It is a title that I used to describe a specific man in a specific situation…in which he behaved condescendingly. I don’t intend to deny him or other gym-going men of the various attributes they may have. Also, I can assure you that we had a productive conversation where he made many positive points without once being dismissed by me. Again, I wanted to highlight his assumption that I couldn’t / wouldn’t want to lift heavy weights because I was a woman.

      I too believe in being a kind person with a generous spirit, but am against having an institutionalised belief of how men and women should be. When girls grow up believing that their achievements are not as important as boys, it affects how they conduct themselves in the future. I believe this explains why we see such few female leaders in business and politics – a point that has been well-researched in Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean in.

      I hope you find this useful. Happy to discuss further, on here or by email therowdyrani@gmail.com.

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