In a recent conversation, a female colleague used an interesting parenting term. I am trying to raise my children in a ‘gender agnostic’ way, she said. While I may not have articulated it like this, I would like to believe I have been applying the same principle in my role as a parent. In other words, raising kids without gender-driven social conditioning. In other words, allowing them to make every life choice, personal or professional, without any constraints imposed by the nature of their sex. In other words, encourages them to have a world view that is not seen through a ‘man-woman’ lens.
This often leads to interesting exchanges. I remember an episode with my son (who is yet to cross the double-digit age threshold), a few months ago. He was clearly in a mood to spar with me, in his mischievous, impish way.
Mom, he declared, women can’t fly airplanes. I didn’t miss a beat in telling him that there were lots of women flying airplanes, including fighter planes. I reminded him of a recent wedding in the family where both the bride and groom were Indian Air Force (IAF) pilots. How could he forget! I chided him. And how could he not know that Netflix is currently streaming a very popular movie on Gunjan Saxena, the ‘Kargil girl’ – a decorated IAF pilot who flew in the combat zone during the Kargil war
This one sorted, he threw his next sally. Mom, he announced, women don’t play computer games. Now I was on the slightly shaky territory. He is the one playing online games with his global community of cyberworld friends most of the time. While I am by no means a ‘gamer’ and don’t have a handle on how many women or girls are taking to this (relatively) new phenomenon. But I had other arrows in my arsenal. Look at me I said – I am an electronics engineer who has worked in a space agency (once upon a time). Forget about playing computer games, I told him, women who were my college-mates, batchmates, and ex-colleagues, are actually working in companies that write the code to run those games, and design the devices on which they are run. Playing the games is the easy part, and no doubt many girls were acing the playing bit too. That kind of convinced him.
The next shot from his side was – “Mom, girls don’t play football. Certainly not, said I, didn’t you see the movie ‘Bend it Like Beckham’. It has a footballer heroine – so clearly you know that’s not correct and only want to test me. This point was settled too.
But he was not done yet. Mom, he said, as though a brainwave had struck, women don’t drive trucks and buses. Finally, he had me stumped. Of course, I kept a deadpan face and said something on the lines that possibly no one from the woman community had opted to do that yet, or we may not know the ones who had. But in my mind, I knew he had scored a goal. That was till I read this article in May 2022:
Laxmi Jadhav Creates History
Laxmi is the first woman recruited by the Mumbai transport utility as a bus driver, and many others are expected to follow in her path
I celebrate and cheer and raise a toast to this gutsy woman who has bent yet another stereotype. Who has taken one more step to create a more equal world? Who can be held as an example to future generations of boys and girls, to show that anyone can do anything if they set their mind and heart to it
And yes, I immediately shared the story with my son!