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:
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.
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?