Stereotyped minds: Hard to break


By: Saroj Thakur

I am sad on account of something that substantiated the fact that certain things never change!! And when it comes to change stereotyped images of women it is much more difficult to change. During a tutorial class, a couple of days ago, in the Mechanical Engineering group, I gave them a topic to ponder over and speak about. The topic was related to women. “Women on Shop-floors” to be exact. Though the topic was a bit confusing but I had given them hints about the context in which this topic was given by a company having placement interviews for Mechanical Engineers.

I thought that may be they would take the cue and take the discussion in the right direction as I was teaching them the importance of context to understand any particular topic. There were twenty eight students in the class and I started asking randomly about what they had to say on the topic. I was surprised to find that they spoke about the stereotyped images of women and could not think beyond.

Each one of the students spoke about the women as avid shoppers, the women as sales girls helping in brisk business or spending spree of women, but no one touched the topic anywhere from what it was! They were innovative enough to think of women as good at bargaining, spending husband’s hard earned money on shopping or how irrationally they behaved on shop floors etc. etc. I was suddenly sad, as these students were not just ready to think beyond the cultural and social stereotypes that constitute their references.

Their imagination ran wild about the topic but was no where near to the topic! Was it something specific to male members of the society to think of women as stereotyped images made them to see and psychologically block all other options? And I thought of my own son. Once I sat smugly in the bed with my son taking up knitting in my hands. It was after a long time that I had started to knit as I had left all such works when I was busy doing my research work. All these years my son watched me, with a book in hand, sitting with him. But that day it was different. He kept on stealthily looking at me with a kind of strange gleam in his eyes and when he was not able to contain himself any further, he put his arms around me and said, “This looks like my mom!” I was taken aback by such a revelation and asked him what made me look like his “mom”? Was I not his mom? How and why did he make such a comment? With a mischievous smile he said, “My mom with knitting pins in her hands.” I was alarmed and coaxed him further, “Tell me which one you liked the most — the one with knitting pins or the one with a book in hands?” He made it sound as if I was a split personality — Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde — a kind of two-in-one! He avoided answering me, but later confessed that it is the mom with knitting pins in her hands that he liked the best. My God! I wondered where had I gone wrong in raising him, as I prided myself for raising him as a person who would admire such qualities in his woman.

He somehow still carried the stereotyped image of a mother or a wife, in short, a woman in his mind that best of my conditioning could not replace. He was not a child at that time but a student of engineering. Though he admired me a lot for being different than the average multitude of women, but would have preferred a stereotyped mom. The million dollar question that still remains unanswered is how well to raise and condition sons in the present society where they widen their horizons and think beyond what the staple diet of soap operas and popular cinema might lead them to!

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