Is fulfilling the role of our gender a necessity?
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From the day we were born and probably a few months before that, when parents become aware of the gender of their unborn child, gender upbringing starts to take place. Clothes will be bought according to the colours ‘appropriate’ for each gender (e.g., pink for girls and blue for boys) and parents begin to imagine how they should bring each child up – according to the gender.
Well that is mostly what happens, as far as I have gathered by observing people I know and strangers shopping for toys and clothes for their children when I am out and about. There exists a certain level of expectation on how a child should be brought up, what a child should grow to become and largely according to the role of each gender in society (e.g., “Sit properly, you’re a girl!” or “Boys don’t play with dolls!”).
Indeed it is true that there are certain biological functions that helps to map out a fraction of our gender role in society, namely the family unit of marriage and reproduction, there also seems to be little room for considerations should one grow up to choose otherwise. That is what has been troubling me of late.
While the government has been encouraging citizens to get married and have children, I have been standing on my ground of non marriage and being voluntarily childless much to the dismay of some of the elder folks, my parents being one of them although they hardly express it anymore. Being hounded with questions and people enforcing their ‘traditions’ and reminding me of my ‘appropriate role’ as a women lately has put me to much distress.
Many men might wonder why I feel so distress over the questionings and patronising reminders, but most will never fully understand because they have always been allowed to be the ones to harbour non-committal stance towards marriage as they are generally viewed as the ones with ‘nothing to lose’. It is with the view that the woman has all to loose if she is not in a marriage because the question of chastity comes in, for example,
“The man might make a scandal of you and then leave you. Then how do you face everyone in the family? That has a lot to do with general moral rules that our society abides by. Get married, at least it legalises everything and you won’t lose face.”
That was said to me during a conversation with a friend I have known since my school days a few years back when we were discussing upon the issue of marriage.
Indeed I am human and like many others, I fall in love too. However I do not believe that love should be subjected to legalisation (going through the Registry of Marriage) or be expanded further to create a family unit. A relationship between a couple in love, in my opinion, can be purely kept in such a way that both are equal individuals who care, respect and love each other to form a companionship or a partnership. It does not necessarily have to involve the establishment (e.g., Registry of Marriage) or to go through further family unions (marriage, in-laws etc).
As a woman, I have chosen to do without such formalities because I have seen many other women around me giving up their dreams and equal treatment of individuals to become a good wife, mother and daughter-in-law in order to fulfil the ‘natural’ instinct to form a union, to pro-create and to be part of a larger family. Most of the married women whom I know, have lamented many times that they have no time for themselves because of obligations towards the husband, children, parents and parent-in-laws. I strongly hold the belief that love between a man and a woman can still exist deeply without such formalities of legalisation and recognition which will in turn involve all sorts of obligations in exchange of personal freedom (for both parties involved).
I was recently met with the comment that I am not being fair to mothers because all mothers hope to see their sons and daughters finding a good partner for marriage. I have also been told recently by a different person that my biological role in society is to bear children and that I cannot run away from that. It was also said to me that marriage on paper will help me keep the man I love from straying away. As irritated as I was by the remarks, I do not deny that the first two have no validity but the third is purely absurd.
First of all, the first remark was made totally from the perspective of someone who is a mother and I respect that perspective. However despite that, all of us have a choice and our choices should be respected, especially one that concerns a lifelong commitment because at the end of the day, it is the life of individuals we are talking about. If one wants to be in a marriage, by all means go ahead but if one chooses not to, then the person should not be subjected to remarks made with a rather patronising tone.
Secondly, as much as the biological role of a woman is to bear children, it is her body and she has the right to reject the function of childbearing if she feels that she is not mentally and physically up for the task. That at least, has been agreed upon my friend who had said that to me in a recent chat on Facebook and I thank him for the agreement.
As for the last remark, I have to say that men and women ‘stray’ for many reasons and a marriage certificate will not help keep a man or a woman. Also, the idea of ‘keeping’ a man or woman is unacceptable to me. If someone wants to go, he or she should be allowed to do so. Why do we seek to ‘keep’ people we love in our possession if he or she is happier in the arms of another? From personal experiences and observations, I think it is better to let go than hang on in situations like that.
Having said all that, I do understand that in the past, the question of choice is not one that is freely available to most men and women. Marriage was an obligation and to choose otherwise was highly frowned upon. However one needs to recognise that with the opening up of society, men and women are now presented with choices. Those choices should be respected, whether or not they choose to be in a marriage or otherwise and to be applied to both men and women. Laughing off a man’s decision not to enter marriage by calling him a ‘commitment phobe’ and frowing upon a woman’s decision not to enter marriage by calling her ‘an irresponsible woman’ is simply double standards in terms of attitude. And it is worse when the labellers are women themselves.
Choices should be respected and nobody (especially another woman) should patronise a woman, by imposing degrading comments on gender roles and responsibilities fixed in society by men since ancient times for it does not make one a better man or woman by telling another to obey the ‘rules of society’ and the ‘roles of the gender’.
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