For a while now we have been talking about friendship between men and women and how it is an important measure to bring an end to gender based violence. For this post I want to share something very crucial that shapes who you are today with regards to your beliefs around gender inequality.
“Are your parents friends”?
Think of the time when you were a kid/baby…
Go as far as your memory allows.
What images of childhood can you remember?
Now notice who is in those images? Your father, your mother or both?
Apart from those specific images, think about the relationship between your father and mother…
Who fed you? Who bathed you? Who took you to school and karate classes or piano lessons? Think of your father’s involvement in the process of raising you.
If they were friends (which means a team), they would probably have shared all those chores, may be not 50/50 but at least 60/40.
Keeping the chores aside, did you see them as friends?
That means, did you see them-
- laughing together?
- consulting each other about decisions?
- asking if one was OK?
- sharing common interest activities?
- spending time together- not watching TV or completing a chore but real quality time paying attention to one another?
- if they fought, did they say mean and hurtful things or simply raised their voices for a moment and cooled down?
- did they practice name calling and remining one another of past mistakes?
- did they swear and curse?
If your answer to the first set of questions is YES, I am confident that you are a feminist or one of those people who believe in gender equality with or without the feminist tag.
If your answer is NO and you can relate more to the second set of questions, I doubt that your parents were friends and this could impact you on many levels.
We are born link a blank sheet of canvas. The first people who ever draw on that canvas are our parents. What they draw on the canvas remains there forever. This canvas is the environment a child witnesses. It consists of recognizing our own existence, our gender , our age and most importantly the stereotypes and beliefs of our parents.
If our parents believe that women are inferior to men, we believe the same at least unless we grow up, get education, explore what the world believes in, critically examine our family assumptions and make a choice which ones to follow. And this happens only if a person has skills of analysis and dares to come out of the comfort zone of the traditional beliefs, which many don’t.
As a baby, I remember and have pictures that my Dad would bath my sis and I usually and he spent time with us. Since my Mom was not working, she certainly spent more time with us but I certainly remember my Dad being very much in the picture. Few of the special things he did as a Dad were:
1. He never asked my sister or me to learn how to cook and clean. He came from a family where women were uneducated and ill treated by their husbands, therefore he made it a point to never make us ‘feel like a woman’ and insisted more on education and dreams.
2. He cooked occasionally while the two of us kids assisted him with tiny jobs so we all bonded over in the kitchen.
3. He never ever had an argument with Mom infront of us kids. If they had something to talk, they would only do it when we were asleep. My home has always been a ZERO VIOLENCE household.
4. He stopped people when they would discuss marriages, husbands and typical orthodox topics that little girls must not be bothered about. He did not wanted us to feel like we are alive only so some man could marry us one day.
5. He encouraged us to drive, go out, take charge, do our things just like he would do for a son. This attitude never let me feel like I am less than anyone else.
On the other hand, my Mom always had her fair share of doubts and principles.
The point is, I could see that my parents are best friends. There was no one my father would trust more and no one mom would prefer spending time with. They did not share their issues with even their closest siblings because they had each other. They still are the same. Despite the busy life and chores they would find moments to spend together. Lunch and dinner is always a family thing but their evening tea is their special time.
This time is the part of fresh evening when the sky changes color and my mom’s tea spreads its aroma around the living room. Dad is home and with the tea they share what they did, what they are going to do or sometimes pure, blissful silence and smiles.
Now I am not saying that there is no fight. All couples fight and so do best friends. But they don’t fight because one feels the other is lesser or inferior to him/her. The first impressions of gender inequality are portrayed by your parents. If you see that inequality as a child, you would much likely feel that is ‘normal’ because it was normal at your home.
What we see is what we become. It is human nature. The neurotransmitters in our brain are like mirrors. It is not just monkeys who copy your actions. You do the same as you see. Violent video games have scientifically proven to make children violent. It is called The Mirror Effect.
On the other hand, it is also possible that if you have witnessed extreme inequality or violence as a child, you would understand how deadly its impacts are and you would prefer to never go there again. Never make the same mistakes your father made with your mother. There is hope of course but for every one child growing in an abusive home, there is a lot more darkness than light at the end of the tunnel and sometimes their lives end before the tunnel.
So, this is what I want you to do:
Question your assumptions…do you see friendship between your parents?
based on their relationship, how close or far is your sketch of your ideal partner?
If you have that partner, is he/she better or worse?
How stereotyped is your own relationship with your partner? By this I mean, do you do certain things around the household becase you are a man/woman and stop your partner to do certain things cause of the same reason?
If you fight, do you fight like friends who fight or enemies who would suck on each others blood?
How quickly do you make up after fights?
As a couple, are you like your parents?
What specific assumptions do you live with?If you have any interesting insights by reading this article, please share them in the comments section, that is where we catch up and have our cup of tea 🙂