Gender inequality is one of the immense dilemmas of today’s society around the globe where human society is already full of issues in different realms of life. Some are by nature but most of them are human-made problems. These issues create hindrance in social, economic and educational development in the society. Among such issues gender inequality is also a burning one which has not only segmented the society into segments but also have inverse impact on the society. For instance, there is a negative impact of gender inequality in education on economic growth and employment (Klasen&Lamanna, 2008) which consequently imbalances socialization of men and women to harmonize social matters. There are numerous myths regarding biasness and stereotyping behaviors of men and women. In this paper I discuss, analyze and convey a message on a particular issue in the society—the myths on gender in the society which are used to disgrace women. The paper focuses some socially constructed myths which are thought true by the members of the society. Finally, the paper suggests to remove such meaningless stereotypes in the society which not only imbalance the socialization among men and women but also are obstacles in the human development. I start off this paper by asking few questions like, what are some of the myths which society thinks realities. Why these myths do exist? What is their impact on the society and gender? What can be done for these to eliminate from the society?
As a female member of the society, I have felt that there are a lot of gender biases in our society. People are not aware what gender and sex is. Therefore, due to this ignorance they look into each other with a hatred sight. This is what Leach (2003) calls ‘gender-blind’ culturewhere individuals of the society do not know that gender plays an important role in the life of people. How these are segregated? I have seen many such myths/beliefs and concepts from my personal experiences where gender, especially women, is thought to be victim of every evil. Males keep distance from them in the practical life by thinking them naqis(minor). In the consequent paragraphs I will share some real myths which exist in our context and show segregated approach towards women. Ironically, women also perceive these as reality which is due to socially constructed beliefs internalized innately by them.
For example, in my context, may be in may contexts too, it is a common behavior that if any woman is fighter/assertive and quarrels with others she is called a bitch/dog but a man in this virtueis titled as brave and it is proudly announced that “he has done a Manish job”. How and why that same quality is seen differently for that same creature? Once, there was an event in my neighboring where a woman was very assertive. Another man commented on her behavior “in the presence of that woman, her husband needs no dog to keep for protection of house”. This and such similar comments from men on women not only create social barriers but also impeded in social development and taking part women in daily-life activities.
Another similar tattoo is common in the society which really bothers me. It is said that when there is a man in the gathering of three or more women, he is also a woman (feminized masculine). If so then what about that male who may be in a family with female family members? Or it only implies for not relative women? It indicates that what the societal norms towards womenare and how these teach others to follow.
When we look into the society with gender lenses, there are so many socially constructed so called behaviors which on every step deject the gender equality. I highlight another very burning aspect of every-day behavior of males towards females. When a man falls in love with a woman, he is implicitly esteemed as an ashiq (lover) except the girl’s family. But when the sameishq(love) is performed by a woman, she is titled so badly that I cannot dare to write the word. What a pity! And what a justice! Love is an affection which is totally positive but why does society take it in gender biased way? If it is the need of a male then also can be the need of a female. The disparity may be because woman is thought a symbol of honor for a family which is also an irony. I think it should be the same for men also, thus gender equality can be maintained.
As mentioned earlier that the honor is forcefully related to woman while male is also an equal part of this asset and should be to reduce the evils. How it looks awful when a woman is associated with sexual desires, she is termed as asmat frosh(honor seller). It may be bad but why a man with the same character is not given any similar abuse? And probably, in the society there is no practical penalty for men as compared to women who are usually assassinated. Again, the question arises whether woman is the tikadar ofizzat(the only responsible of honor) in the family? A many such segregations are so blindly associated with women that it seems an underhand-scheme for their suffocation. My intention is not to prove that whatsoever women are doing is good but the argument is that if there is an evil and any sex commits it, the label should the same for the evil doer.
Ironically, in most of the culture women are not allowed to have choice to select a life partner. While men have are given free-hand to accept or reject life partner. Another cruelty which was shared by a colleague is that in a particular context of rural area of Pakistan, women are not allowed to plough fields with yokes. It is not because women cannot do this but there is a strong myth behind it that if women will plough the field crops will not grow well. It is strange and gender sensitive case but why don’t people experience it practically whether crops will grow well or not if ploughed by women?
By observing such oppressive myths, on the one hand it seems that these are totally betrays. On the other when these are analyzed and seen the foundations on which these are based, it becomes clear that these are due to socialization in the context. In this regards Beynon (2002) rightly asserts that dominance of men in the society has its history a long way to the past. Myths have been part of the culture for a long time where members of the society blindly enforced these beliefs and showed man-dominancy. These have no connection with the nature because gender, by its definition, is not interchangeable with sex. Former is socially determined while later is purely biological (Leach, 2003). The gender can be changed while sex cannot, as Leach emphasize that” only women can give birth and only men can produce sperm”(ibid). This also implies that nothing in the society is segregated into gender but only stereotype behavior which creates boundaries in the life of men and women. These stereotyping threats may impact badly on the women. As Inzlicht, Tullett and Legaultin (2011) in a recent study have found that stereotype threat has a negative impact on human and cause underperformance. Likewise, research has also proven that such stereotyping has negative effects on women’s relationships, her functional status, and her ability to care for her infant (Afifi, 2007). Then why women are still vulnerable in the society?
It is obvious that there are many issues related to gender segregation. As Gazdar (2003) highlights that “female disadvantage is a persistent feature of most aspects of the life in most places”(p. 1). Labeling women with undesirable notions is a big issue among them. If we look it in an educational perspective and relate it with school environment, it seems that schools are not fulfilling the requirement of gender equality. For example, in some contexts girls are metaphorically said ‘silver’ while boys are referred as ‘gold’ (classroom discussion, 15 April 2013).
In conclusion, there are many stereotype myths about women in the society from their male counterparts. These are merely myths rather than realities and should be removed. So why do myths persist despite of so many efforts? Probably these have strong socio-historical underpinnings which are so rooted in the society that people blindly follow them. Even single-sex also concedes it and aligns themselves with the myths. Secondly, myths about any sex have an adverse impact on the societal affairs, particularly in the social environment where any sex can underperform due to such labeling. To address emerging issues in gender, as a way forward, we need to realize the issue and then confront the obstructions and pitfalls which hinder harmony among men and women for better life.
The contributor is a student at the Aga Khan University, Institute for Educational Development.