Are Boys and Girls equal? A question to ponder upon…

By Vivek Subramaniam

‘Are boys and girls equal’?

A question to around 150 boys of class 6 and 7 graders…

Guess the answer? A unanimous ‘No’.

Boys are stronger, boys are more active, boys are smarter, boys are doctors, boys are astronauts, boys are mechanics and many more. Throwing ‘rockets’ at girls is good fun and anyway they will never say anything because they are girls.

Are both your parents working’?

Boys whose mothers are home makers do not raise their hands.  When asked if all the work that gets done at home is not work, they say that’s the mothers job.

Boys do not fold clothes and make the bed in the morning. Even if the mother has a full-time job, house work is something for the mother and girls to do.

‘Is it OK to have fun by eve-teasing girls’?

A question to around 7-800 boys who are in finishing schools of institutes training them to get jobs as retail sales persons, delivery boys of e-commerce companies, basic data entry jobs etc.

Guess the answer – Majority say ‘Yes’.

When asked why – peer pressure to look macho to friends – so whistling at a girl or just brushing her shoulder is a way to show that I am such a ‘cool dude’.

Here is the really revealing insight that we found in our interactions with these boys – The way a girl dresses is one of the biggest signal of her being ‘available’. So, if she dresses a particular way, she is not cultured and hence gives me (the boy) the prerogative to tease.

When then asked if they would be OK if someone did that to their sister – the immediate response is ‘No’ and that I will ensure that I do not let this happen to her. However, when asked that if it is not OK for your sister, how is it OK you tease someone else’s sister, there is dead silence.

Plus, there is a clear distinction at home – the brother gets the privileges first and only then the sister.

‘Are girls and boys equal’?

A question asked to about 150 girls of grades 6 and 7, and many hundreds of girls completing high school

The answer – In my mind we are equal, but everything we have to go through it clearly is not and hence it is OK and we are not equals.

Here is the interesting part – The strongest message they get about not being equals is from their mothers, sisters, aunts, friends who are girls.

So, this women’s day, let us do two things:

1.      Teach our boys to be boys who look at people as people and as equals – teach them and show them that they need to fold their clothes, make the bed, wash the dishes and buy vegetables. Teach them that as much as they can wear shorts so can girls and that is not a mark of character. Teach them at the youngest age to be respectful.  

2.      Teach our women to believe that they are equal and not make other women believe that they are less – to not accept disrespectfully behaviour towards them and if a boy throws a ‘rocket’ at her to launch it back at him.

Diversity is truly about thoughts and putting those thoughts in action. It is about putting social and financial systems that don’t celebrate the man but celebrate the human being.

If we genuinely need to celebrate women’s day, more than the girls the boys have to change and question the need to specifically celebrate a day for the ‘women’. Clearly, we are doing many things wrong. Till then are ‘boys and girls’ equal will be a question that will continue to remain a question…

(I work very closely with a NGO – Equality for Women. Under this we run two programs – Dads for Daughters and Dignity for Women. Under the Dads for Daughters program we talk to boys (currently the focus is boys of a certain economic background) on why we should look at women as equals. Under the Dignity for women, we speak to girls and tell them to be economically independent, not take any form of harassment and abuse and really get them to start thinking that they are equal and no less. The data used in the write-up is from the many sessions we have run through the two programs)