However much we’d want to believe of ourselves as a progressive people, we still see our regressive and close-minded thinking creep through our minds’ crevices, more often than not. Which is why, showing body hair on women continues to be a taboo (ironically, hair-removal creams’ advertisements show women applying the gel on their spotless, hairless arms and legs) and boys wearing make-up continues to be unfathomable. In an attempt to explain how this narrows down the understanding of gender to binaries, a Facebook post by Diksha Bijlani, a slam poet, has gone viral.
She wrote about how her 9-year-old little cousin, who is a boy, loves wearing make-up but because of this, ended up being the topic of many jokes in their household. “Today he applied lipcolour & got called a “chakka”, was met with giggles. So he hid behind the curtain & under the bed, shielding his face from the camera & from his mom,” read a sentence from her post. And hence, Bijlani and her brother decided to undo the conditioned binary understanding of gender, by letting the boy know he has company by wearing lipstick themselves. He did not feel uncomfortable anymore, smiled and then posed for the camera.
Talking to indianexpress.com, Bijlani, who is a resident of Allahabad, said, “the categorisation of preferences into the binaries of pink vs blue, makeup vs no-makeup, housework vs no-housework, is going to rob our kids of the freedom of self-expression.” She further added that it is a result of a narrow understanding of gender when it really is about the expression of one’s true self than gender.
Read Bijlani’s Facebook post here.
“One of my youngest cousins, 9 years old, is also the most “effeminate” in the house. Let’s call him Little Cuz. He loves to paint nails, wear lipcolour, wear skirts, learn home science! But in this stereotypical alpha male-centric household he’s often the pivot of jokes. Today he applied lipcolour & got called a “chakka”, was met with giggles. So he hid behind the curtain & under the bed, shielding his face from the camera & from his mom. Somehow it is always the female figures that feel most “embarassed” with their masculine, hardy sons trying makeup. Or anything feminine.
In such a house, it takes constant work as elder cousins to undo the conditioned gender binary, to normalise simple gender neutral acts which are deemed feminine. So we all wore lip colour to make him comfortable & accepted. He felt a special kind of empowerment when he saw my brother wearing it too. My brother gave up all archaic definitions of toxic masculinity & complied to positively influence Little Cuz. Little cuz came out after a while & smiled for the camera, comfortable in his skin.
So important to realise that we owe the responsibility of giving every younger kid a safe space to embrace his place within the gender spectrum. So important to tell them their gender is a spectrum, a repertoire of places they can visit without losing their identity. I hope all of us can tell the kids we know that they are valid, they are accepted, & they are beautiful today. I hope we don’t become the bullies we warn them of.”