Tuesday, November 27, 2018

The evolution of a man

I attended a girls' college where most of my batchmates were bouncing between three or four options – MBA degree, teaching with a B.Ed degree, hotel management, and air hostessing. Anyone who dreamt of travelling the world and living independently wanted to be an air hostess. None of us dared dream of becoming commercial pilots. A couple of girls wanted to be in the armed forces, but they assumed they would have to quit after five or ten years.

The funny thing was, even as we thought of getting jobs in multinational firms or in hospitality, we tended to focus on “decent” jobs rather than occupying positions of power, or demonstrating leadership. None of my friends ever said that they wanted to take over their family businesses or become CEOs. None of them said they wanted to own an airline or a chain of hotels. None of them said they wanted to be Vice-Chancellors of universities. Our dreams were smaller and always, at the back of our heads, was the thought that we would probably have to get home from office before our future husbands did.

Life, however, has a way of upchucking all assumptions about the self and the world. A year later, I was a journalist, pulling long hours, going everywhere alone, often at night, and being surprised and shocked at how systems, cities, countries worked. I couldn't possibly have returned home to cook for a man who worked ten-to-six, and I didn't want to. Yet, I do recall saying to my boss, a male editor, that it was a woman who was responsible for bringing up children. He mildly argued that a father was equally responsible but, clueless fool that I was, I insisted that mothering was central to parenting.

Now I blush to think of how deeply entrenched the bias was inside my own head, and in families as liberal as my own. In the years since, a lot of things have changed.

This is extracted from a longer column I wrote about how gender roles have evolved over the last two decades. Link here (behind a paywall)https://www.gqindia.com/content/new-roles-play-21st-century/

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