Recently, while visiting my relatives in another town, I came across a rather strange situation. My sister-in-law (my younger cousin’s wife) suggested a visit to a nearby Mughal monument. But since my brother had taken the car to work, we had to manage on my sister-in-law’s two-wheeler for our ride. Having not ridden a two-wheeler in about ten years, and being an alien to the roads and traffic of another city, I preferred to ride pillion with my sister-in-law who is used to riding to work on her two-wheeler everyday.
Before, during and after our small journey, I came across many reactions from people who saw me riding pillion behind a girl. Right from the neighbors, the traffic policemen to the guy at the parking, people reacted as if they were highly amused at the scene.
Which makes me wonder, why is it considered so unusual for a female driving a male on a vehicle. Why is it so ingrained in our psyches (specially males) that it should always be the male to drive a vehicle while traveling with a female ? Is it just an ego issue ? If so, then why ?
Even during college days, it was a common sight to see dating couples zoom around on motorbikes. But I don’t recall seeing a guy riding pillion behind a girl, even though many of those girls were used to riding their own vehicles when alone. I guess they were too scared of being the laughing stock if they tried going against the ‘norm’.
Why are people stuck with stereotyping absolutely normal everyday tasks with gender ? I realized that we have been unconsciously promoting such stereotypes into people’s minds right from childhood.
For example, during our school days, both girls and boys were encouraged to participate in sports. While girls were quite active in sports like badminton, table-tennis, basketball and athletics, but when it came to sports like football and cricket, it was absolutely out of bounds for girls. And no one ever even dreamt of girls participating in boxing. But haven’t we heard of a certain multi-world-champion called Mary Kom ? Why shouldn’t schoolgirls be allowed to play football or cricket ?
And also, we never used to have any mixed doubles matches for badminton, tennis or table-tennis at school. Boys and girls were never allowed to consider that they can actually compete together against one another. Though one thing which I still remember about our school’s annual athletic meet was the absolutely exciting relay race in which each team used to comprise of four girls and four boys in alternate succession.
Why can’t girls compete in the same game against boys ? Agreed sports like football are high contact sports, but why not cricket ? Or for that matter, basketball, handball, volleyball or water-polo ? And I don’t mean a team of girls competing against a team of guys. But we can have teams comprising of both the genders competing against each other.
As the student in-charge and treasurer of our college sports society, I proposed such an idea during our annual sports fest. I suggested for a “Six-a-side” cricket competition in which each team would comprise of three girls and three boys. Amazingly, this idea was taken up like hot pancakes as participation poured in and we had an amazing and fun-filled day of cricket. I did tweak the rules of the game to make it a level playing field for girls. But it was pleasantly strange to see so many girls wanting to play cricket, something which they are usually denied right from childhood.
Strangely, most of my team-mates from the college cricket team gave it a miss. I came to know that they were very uneasy sharing a cricket field with girls. In other words, they felt too manly to compete with girls in something that is considered exclusively a men’s game. Maybe they were shy to hit a ball from a girl bowler or just too ashamed by the thought of being hit by a girl batswoman. But to their own surprise, most of the matches were closely contested with girls proving a handful for the boys.
I feel that such a concept of mixed gender sports would actually help in discarding at least a few of the male-female stereotypes and would perhaps help in neutralizing the sense of ego that many males grow up with. If not those, at least such a concept would help curb the practice of sledging and misbehavior on the field.
Sports can be an effective tool to promote mutual respect between the two genders. Specially since stereotyping is probably the biggest hurdle in the path of achieving gender equality.
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