Misogyny (more laymanly known as an emotion that exudes hatred for women) comes in two forms. One, which publicly brings down, demeans and degrades them. Through abuse. Through objectification. Through inequality.
And then there is the other kind. One that is the silent, invisible kind. Yet, it is also the more dangerous kind. The internalized misogyny.
If you’re wondering what exactly I mean by this, I urge you to watch this commercial. A father visits his married daughter’s house, only to realise that the son and husband play no role in the household chores. While his daughter juggles a demanding career and domestic responsibilities simultaneously. And the realization hits him, that her husband is not to blame for this. It is he, who by never helping his wife in household chores, set the wrong example for his daughter. By allowing her to believe that cooking and cleaning in only a woman’s job. A social norm she probably never questioned. A classic instance of internalized misogyny. And sadly, there are many more.
Look around you. When you think of abusive language, pretty much every abusive word is targeted at mothers, sisters and their private parts. Every poem we learnt as kids taught boys to be ‘little men’, and girls to be ‘sugar, spice and everything nice’. Every 90s kid growing up in India will remember a handful of popular Bollywood songs and lullabies, where parents sang different dreams to the children, based on gender. The boys would make their parents proud with their accomplishments, and the girls would grow up to meet princes, who would come on horses and take them to castles. Possibly things are changing, but even the ideal portrayal of what how certain objects, colour and actions have been segregated into sexes, making us categorize them as masculine or feminine.
Blue for boys. Pink for girls. Toughness for men. Crying for girls. Guns for boys. Dolls for girls. And the list goes on.
In the era we live in, if a more equal, tolerant and inclusive world has to be promoted, it cannot be only done through posters, social media hashtags, or commercials preaching women empowerment. Like charity, it too must begin at home. Possibly beginning in the kitchen. By working on instinct, not bias. By telling our boys that cooking and cleaning is as must their job as it is of their female counterparts. By telling them that even they have a right to tears, for there is a reason both men and women were born with a tear duct. By telling them that the next time to hurl an abuse directed as somebody’s mother, they might as well abuse their own, for rarely does slang language not meet with something equally crass in response.
And as for our girls, for us to be able to take them from the kitchen (a domain traditionally expected to belong to them), to the boardroom(a domain that traditionally excluded them), that confidence has to be imparted to them at home. Where they have to to be made aware of the world that lies beyond the confines of domestic life. For this is not at attempt at reverse migration – make more men stay at home, and make more women go to work. The core idea is to make both worlds accessible, and accepting of all people, irrespective of gender.
This is not me romanticizing what the ideal world should look like, but being optimistic about it. For I know every long journey starts with a single step. And creation of feminists (which includes both men and women) in the kitchen is possibly the first.