By: Rajsi Jagtap
Hi, I’m Rajsi and I’m here, not to tell you that gender is fluid, but to ask you how it is not. I was born on October 16, 2000. Good twenty years of life and not a day when I haven’t incessantly been reminded of one thing vociferously - I am Female. I have a set of reproductive organs responsible for keeping our species thriving and I Bleed every month; I play probably the most functionally indispensable role as a part of my species.
I’m supposed to be obsessed with the colour pink, appreciate stories where the woman is in most cases, a damsel in distress- put in that position without a say in it, only to be rescued by a man and be treated as a token of his valour. No really, think about it. Ravan kidnapped Sita because she was a ‘thing’ viable to be possessed and passed around at will by anyone who could. She was abducted and treated with less respect than she commanded, only to be won back by her husband and be subjected to a test of ‘purity’ to prove her celibacy after having been in the presence of another man (without her consent, by the way). Even in death, Eurydice wasn’t enough to be the one to wager a deal with Hades for the possibility of life; it had to be Orpheus, her lover, the man. Rome wasn’t built in a day, but Troy was burnt to ashes in one because it was pivotal for every honourable warrior to prove that Helen was a “whore” who could be owned by any one man if not the other.
I was taught to remain filial; to not behave rashly because my anger will always be invalid, even if witnessed. I wasn’t supposed to lift heavy weights and always stay under the protection of a male. Because just by myself, I wasn’t enough, and my “NO” meant nothing unless sealed and stamped by another man. I am expected to trade my intelligence for beauty because that was what ultimately decided my worth. I was born with indignance towards misogyny that I would eventually require to profess, to absolve myself off the debts I owe to all the women before me, who’ve fought for my existence to be deemed worthy.
On the other hand, even though I am not a male, I sure was taught what men inherently are supposed to be; loud, powerful and independent. They could do all the strenuous work, go out after sunset for a leisurely stroll without fearing for their lives, and have political opinions without the collateral damage of harassment. Boys like blue, they grow up playing with cars and remote-controlled JCBs. Men don’t cry; they are expected to come off stoic, and can’t afford the luxury of speaking of being hurt. They aren’t allowed to feel hurt in the first place. As a man, you can party as much as you like, but you also have to do well because providing for your family, would at a point, be solely your responsibility.
Freddie was a “homo” who died of HIV, regardless of whether or not people own up to liking his musical talent. Launcelot was a witty court jester, but he wasn’t a man because he earned off his comedic talent and not by something that lined his brows with sweat. Alan Turing broke the Enigma, won the allies the war, invented the first computer ‘Christopher’ and was as arrogant and shrewd as men in his time had the liberty to, but he wasn’t a man. Only men who were attracted to women, who could subdue them into being filial were real men. Alan was a homosexual; an abomination in the name of humanity and a desecration compared to the image of the Adam that God created.
Men are required to be apathetic when necessary, which is why they are the ones supposed to light funeral pyres, without a single tear hanging off their lashes. Men are supposed to be sports aficionados but can’t be invested in fashion as a form of self-expression. They are better drivers, or at least they have to be better drivers. They can have body hair, but not too much. Oh, and skincare isn’t manly. You aren’t man enough if you understand the difference between SPF 10 and SPF 50. Augmentation through makeup isn’t for men. Most men would feel ashamed of using a chap-stick in public; something that keeps your lips from cracking and bleeding. Men aren’t supposed to be affectionate with each other because holding each other in times of distress isn’t a “bro’s job.”
Despite these being the specifications of women and men that fit into the social construct of gender, we come across exceptions every day. Moreover, we fight to be able to celebrate those and earn them unanimous, unambiguous acceptance.
Rani Jijabai was a woman, but she was the one who led and moulded the Maratha Empire, one of the greatest there ever was, into existence. Rani Laxmi Bai was a female, a mother too, but she fought as valiantly, if not more, as her male warrior counterparts. Walt Disney, a man, created the very “Princess Stories” most of us identify as a part of our childhood. Michael Jackson had a shrill voice and delicate facial features and yet remains one of the most cherished names in music. Serena Williams has a very sinewy, athletic body but is also “feminine enough” to be a mother. She has twenty-three Grand Slam titles, which is three more than Roger Federer- point being, women can and have won comparable feats as men and sometimes, even more.
Stefani Germanotta, the woman we know as Lady Gaga, is the only person to date to have won a Grammy, an Oscar, a BAFTA and a Golden Globe in one year despite not fitting into the standard definition of women as dainty saints. Her beauty lies in her unfiltered, raw and honest demeanour considered too wild and unbecoming of a woman, but we have accepted it as her expression of her femininity. Jim Parsons, our Sheldon Cooper, according to the norms of gender, is a cisgender male, despite being gay.
Women have traditionally been kept from getting educated, yet most of our teachers are females. So are they not women? Chef Vikas Khanna is a man but probably cooks better than a lot of women. Mrs. Rama Bai Ranade, a child bride, did what was considered immoral of women- she learnt to read and write, all the while rebuking all the sexist duties of women in her day. Women are considered weak but can do anything a man can whilst bleeding. Men are considered incapable of giving birth, and yet Thomas Beatie, who identifies as a male, carried full-term gestation in place of his wife and gave birth to a healthy child. “Men don’t cry”, and yet every day we remind them to. Women shouldn’t raise their voices against what is unjust, yet here I am. Every rule has exceptions, but does a rule hold true if every facet of it has exceptions?
Carl Jung, one of the most respected psychologists of all times, classified personalities based on four basic cognitive parameters, with two alternate characters each. Any personality is then defined as an amalgamation of the varying percentages of all parameters.
If we base gender on personality, we would foremost consider emotions as a parameter. If you’re emotional, you’re a woman, and if you’re not, you’re a man. But those rules hardly do justice to the definition of humanity. Maternity and paternity basically have the same functional necessity to a child, yet are seen as different. A mother loves her child just as much as a father does. So what exactly is the difference between a mother and a father? Fitting into the moulds of gender defined by society? Having certain anatomical features? But we see these notions disproved every day.
We say we are proud of women, but who is a woman? A mother? A sentimental human? Someone who’s more vulnerable to violence? Someone with long hair? Someone who likes wearing her nails in a myriads of vibrant hues? Someone with less than average height? Someone who can be open about their emotions with ease? But we’ve seen how not all women fit that description. We’re all different combinations of these characters.
What about men? Is a person a man simply by having a penis and a lower body fat percentage? For having being conditioned into acting out his ego? For getting a pass at using expletives? For liking football more than figure skating? For taking fifteen minutes to walk out of a mall? For the ability to do unassisted pull-ups without any training? For being expected to be the partner that proposes? For not having a colourful closet? For having a baritone voice? For balding as he ages? For walking on eggshells with his own emotions because no one cared to explain to him? For being called a ‘stud’ for having multiple sexual relationships instead of ‘slut’? For being expected to open doors and pull out chairs? For adding one more plate to their barbell? Each and every one of these things is subjective to any person and independent of their gender. So what even is gender?
Gender is whatever you want it to be. Gender is feeling comfortable with whichever side you lean towards. The idea of gender being fluid detangles all the discrepancies created due to the polarisation of gender into absolute groups. Gender is fluid. Gender is a part of a person they get to define based on their perception of the role they play as a part of the human race. The moment we call gender fluid, we understand the words “Queer” or “Non-binary”; words which a lot of us have trouble grasping.
Humans weren’t built to be rigid enough to fit in the same definitions of identity till the end of time. We were built to evolve. There is no irreplaceable utility to gender, nothing that stops anyone from having the literal capacity to do a certain task.
We are all built on the same blueprint; what differs is the exact amount of qualities we possess as humans. Our understanding of each other should be based on the fact that we are all humans, with the same circuits in our brains, different only in how those circuits gradually get hard-wired. There is no set number of genders. There may be groups of people who identify with others with similar predispositions, but not all individuals have to fit into these pre-constructed groups; trying to pick between black and white leaves no space for the various shades of grey. Any law that doesn’t encompass explanations to all the properties of the phenomenon it aims to explain, has historically been scrapped and replaced.
I identify as a woman because I align myself with the attributes I consider feminine. That said, I’m well aware that mine isn’t the only definition of femininity there is, and the same goes for masculinity. Each of our definitions overlap with others’ in some way, but accepting that they aren’t the same, leaves space for everyone’s definitions of self to fit in. I am a woman, and I can be a mother, but I understand that a woman isn’t the only one who can be one.