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Kathmandu Post: “How Abnormal is Normal?”

NO ONE chooses anything about their birth! What you are born as, or into, or where, are all completely and totally random.

Whether you are born in a rich or a poor family you had no hand in it. Whether you were born black, white, brown or yellow; whether an American or a Japanese or a Norwegian or a South African; whether you were born a Christian, a Muslim, a Hindu, a Buddhist or an atheist you had absolutely no say.

That you are now a Nepali who takes pride in the fact that you were born in the same country as Buddha was born in…well, if you really think about it, you could well have been born as a tall slender Masai worrier in the Serengeti plains, where many of those amazing animals featured in the National Geographic or Discovery or Animal Planet channels come from. As a matter of fact, there are as men and women in Tanzania and Kenya, the countries that share the Plains, as there are Nepali citizens in our country. If you can tell me why you, me and the rest of our countrymen were born in Nepal while all those Africans in Kenya and Tanzania, why that absolutely had to be the case, then I am all ears!

By the same logic, whether you were born a man or a women or intersex or anything other, YOU had no choice.

HOWEVER, regardless of the particulars of what you were born as or with, what is unquestionable, and should really be obvious, is that every single one of us is a human being.

While there might be some differences between us, especially between those living in vastly different geographic regions, when you get down to the fundamentals, humans are more alike than different.

The most important intangible needs of pretty much every human being, for example, are to be valued, to live a life of dignity, and to be loved.

If you are unable to accept the context and circumstance of your birth as an accident, and unable to recognize that everyone else also has the same fundamental needs as you, then that’s a failure of your imagination.

If, however, you can imagine being born as someone else under a completely different set of circumstance and living a completely different kind of life…then kindness, empathy, and compassion will come easily to you.

You’ll recognize that anything else that constitute a difference between humans — such as class, caste, race, gender, nationality, culture, religion etc. — which in turn lead us to treat one another differently, are human creations. That is, they are social constructs! In other words all man-made — yes, MAN created, MAN erected, MAN sustained, MAN perpetuated!

One such social construct is gender.

What defines or makes a male gender or a female gender in Nepali society are just a set of Nepali culture inculcated and accepted beliefs about who and what they are, which many hardly ever challenge or question.

If you are a Nepali boy or a man, the videos below will force you to challenge your ideas of gender. They’ll also give you an opportunity to put yourself in the shoes of our girls and women and to view things from their perspective, to imagine what their world and life is like in this insanely patriarchal and misogynistic society of ours, something many in the country struggle to do. In this society, the accident of birth as a woman is paid with some dear price, partly because we, men, don’t recognize it and don’t empathize with it sufficiently.

The seven-part short videos, produced by The Kathmandu Post, in reversing gender roles, neatly demonstrate how gender is indeed just a social construct. (Here’s what Kathmandu Post had to say about it and where some of the videos are also featured.)

Incidentally, the series was supposed to consist of ten parts but I was able to locate only eight and, what’s more, the one labeled “Final Part” was actually the same as Part five.

Anyway, here they are, the seven videos.

Part 1: Harassment in public transports

Part 2. Doing Laundry

Part 3. Household Chores and Expectations from In-laws.

While in many Nepali homes, it’s recognized that it’s the daughter-in-law’s responsibility to do the household chores and follow the demands and expectations of also the in-laws, it’s not so in many other countries. As a matter of fact, there are many countries where a married couple do NOT even live with the parents of the husband. In other words, this role which partly defines a female gender is a Nepali social construct.

Part 4. Gender Roles and Expectations in a Partnership

 

Part 5. Menstrual Taboos and Superstitions

Part 6. Menstrual Taboos and Superstitions

We do have superstitions in Nepal that dictate what people can and cannot do, or should and shouldn’t do. Not surprisingly, such dictates places more restrictions on the females than males. Following through with the dictates of a superstition, regarding what girls and women can and cannot do, invariably, again, defines female gender in our country. In many countries, many of these superstitions don’t even exist. So, given that those practices and prohibitions are limited only to Nepali girls and women, they are social constructs, created by us, not absolute defining characteristics of the female sex.

Part 7. Family Expectations

The accepted female gender role of girls and women as someone the parents has to find a man to get her married off to live with and look after the husband’s family is a social construct. This is NOT how girls and women “find” partners in many other countries.

Once again, the one thing that I hope you get from the above videos are two facts: sex, we are born with, but gender is a social construct.

For sure some — some, not even most, forget ALL — sex-based and therefore sex-defining roles have their basis on anatomical and even physiological differences between the sexes. Many of the roles assigned to a person and the expectations others have of him/her — regardless of whether the “others” are just another human being or family members or that invisible but powerful “samaj” (“the society”), as we like to say in Nepali — defines the gender of the person.

That definition, varies from one society to another, which is precisely why gender is a social construct.

To give some more examples, in some societies around the world females do not have even the freedom to move around on their own, while in others they do. In some societies around the world females have a right to the properties of their parents, while in others they don’t. All of that which were depicted in the videos as gender roles in Nepal do NOT all pass for gender roles in for example Sweden, or Denmark, or Holland or Australia! In some societies around the world females are allowed to do pretty much everything males do — and they do too!

To reiterate, many of the roles, and social and cultural beliefs and practices about who and what the different genders are — what they can and cannot do, what they should and shouldn’t do etc. — are not absolute. As a matter of fact, because most societies around the world are patriarchal, some more than others, gender-defining roles are essentially just expedient for the males! After all, they were MAN-made!

What do you think?

 

 

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