Pink isn’t a colour. It’s a symbol for girlhood. Boys aren’t built for household chores. Girls are ‘ballsy’ if they take up sports. It is unusual for parents to see their sons taking up an interest in makeup. Can we count more of these gender-specific assignments in our day-to-day lives? We can build up a mountain of such instances where general perception tells us that certain ‘jobs’ and ‘hobbies’ have a particular gender’s upper hand in them. It’s high time we understand everything can’t be and won’t stay either black or white.
Why should we find it problematic? When we impose on people of our community specific gender roles, we are keeping them from their opportunity of exploration. We are nipping their interests and desires in their bud stage. We are limiting their chances of discovering their field of excellence, their chance of leading a better, more satisfactory life. The other side is that we have normalised and are still normalising these gender specific roles to such an extent that the willpower to go beyond such lines is inviting bullies in our lives. We ourselves are the bully sometimes because we are the products of this same system. And these similar gender specific concepts have been fed to us.
We can look at a few examples where international courts have spoken on the matter of gender role divisions in households and workplaces alike.
A case of 1989, Price Waterhouse v Hopkins yielded a verdict that discriminating any employee just because of their non-conformity towards the stereotyped idealization of their gender does amount to sex discrimination.
In a U.K. case of White v White (2000), the decision has clarified how both men and women of modern day families are capable enough to undertake varying natures of responsibilities. It has defied the idealistic views of masculinity and femininity in the eye of law.
Jespersen v Harrah’s Operating Co. Inc. (2002) was a case filed by a woman who had to lose her job because she refused to cooperate with the condition of compulsory use of makeup during work hours mandated by her employer company. Although the verdict wasn’t in her favour, the court did support her sentiment suggesting points that could have made her valid claims stand strong against the discriminating company.
Our courts in Nepal have been hearing cases of sex-discrimination in an increased number but yet the sexes of our society don’t seem confident enough to report the normalised bigotries they face everyday and everywhere.
How many of our mothers will go knock the judiciary’s door because for once they thought they had other things to indulge in than the kitchen work? How many guys are willing to take their issue to the respective administration because they were bullied into believing they were a gender outcast for proceeding with softness?
If we think time will gradually do away with this situation, we couldn’t be more mistaken. Any positive and fast-paced change needs action. Are we approaching this issue with the right questions and have we been catching the nerves where it’s hurting? There is a pressing need to rethink about what more our anti-discrimination laws require to curb gender-specific brain-washing and undo the polarization of opposite sexes such concepts have created.