“Why a girl is never a hero? Why only a boy is a hero?” These are the perpetual questions raised by both of our twin daughters. Be it fiction, non-fiction, storybooks, mythology, cartoons, newspapers – whatever and wherever, both the girls keep raising the above questions.
To be honest, if it would not have been for my daughters’ raising these questions persistently, I would not have even realized it. It has become so obvious in popular culture and so ingrained into my mind that I was oblivious to have myself become synonymous with it. What is it?
Every child would raise these questions
My twin daughters are no wonder kids. If they can raise these questions “Why a girl is never a hero? Why only a boy is a hero”, I am certain that most of the other girls of their age would also ask similar questions. Why limit only to girls? I am sure that boys would also raise the same questions.
Why limit to girls and boys of the current generation? I suppose, my wife and our mothers too, when they were kids, would have raised these questions, as well. I do not remember if I asked these questions. Do you remember asking these questions in your childhood?
That is precisely the point. Only the children ask these questions. When they go on to become adults, somehow somewhere these questions stop existing to them. Along with their childhood, they leave it behind. What is it?
Every adult would not raise these questions
When the adults read the storybooks to their kids, why would they not be alarmed by the pronoun “He” staring at them all around? When the adults see the cartoons and movies with their kids, why would they not be perturbed by a boy/man saving the day and the world, all the time? At the time of narrating a mythological tale, why would adults not be concerned that it is always adventures and heroics of a God – invariably a man.
An adult takes it for granted that is how things have been, things are and things ought to be (Why a girl is never a hero? Why only a boy is a hero?) It becomes a norm, it gets accepted as a fait accompli, it becomes a part of life. What is it?
Is it the market or the psychology or something else or everything put together
There is a big market for kids’ story-telling material. It is all about imagination, they say, and is limitless / knows no boundaries. Majority of these kids’ stuff, if not all, is dominated by male heroes. Why is this, so-called, imagination only getting limited about the little specific around the gender and nothing else? Why cannot writers and artists centre their imagination around a girl? Is there no market for a female hero? Would parents not buy such stuff?
Or is it something that is even more deeply ingrained into our psyche? We do not think that women are worth it and can do good stuff on their own. They always have to play second fiddle – a Sita to a Ram and a Chutki to a Chhota Bheem. Imagination, an extension of our thought process, cannot exist in isolation and is a reflection of the story-teller / the society. These story-tellers, irrespective of gender, do not seem to think highly about the female gender, apart from being a side-kick.
I do not seem to get it. Is it the market that won’t accept the girls in the spotlight as the central characters? Is it our (man’s) interpretation of the women and their role in society and life, at large, and women being a party to man’s version of themselves? Or is it something else? Or everything of it? What is it?
Exceptions are not the norm
I know that the situation is not as bleak as I have made it out to be. We have exceptions. There is a Jhansi Ki Rani and there is a Kalpana Chawla. There is an Ela Bhatt and there is a Hima Das. But, that is all. These are the exceptions and not the norm. List down 20 notable women in public life in India, (no, the Bollywood examples do not count), and you will yourself know the status of affairs.
If you choose to live in denial and say that a situation is improving gradually, looking at things optimistically, I have nothing much to say. Just that, coronavirus came and turned our version of normal and acceptable life upside down. It is a forced change, though. Why cannot there be a similar and swift change in our outlook towards girl/women? What is stopping us?
A hero is now considered to be a gender-neutral word and is also increasingly used to refer to a woman (source: https://www.dictionary.com/). A lip-service. In real life, we are far from the notion, nowhere closer, not even started.
I continue to have no answer to my daughters’ questions – Why a girl is never a hero? Why only a boy is a hero? I don’t want them to forget the question as they grow older, unlike their mother and grand-mothers.
What would be your answer? What is it?
PS: Please do not bring the sham of International Women’s Day into the discussion to say that the situation is changing for good. I find it for the worse. I am referring to a change for my daughters’ generation, and not for the nth generation, down the line.