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Let them Be: Your Boys Can Play With Dolls And Your Girls Can Play Sports

Maliha Khan | Dehli, India

‘Equality’ is a basic human right. It is a value taught in schools, religions and emphasized almost everywhere. However, when it comes to respecting and implementing this long-held value, we have failed for centuries.

Gender equality is essential to people leading high quality lives, and yet it has been ignored for years. The fact that there is a need to talk and write about gender equality in the 21st century shows how we have overlooked this very basic and important human right.

People often debate over gender equality. Many say that the world has achieved it while many (including me) would argue the opposite. Across the world, we see women subjugated to inferior treatment. They have unequal access to resources and opportunities. Females, though constituting half of the world's population, are not given the chance to equally contribute to the world. This restraint not only limits them as individuals but also limits the growth of society as a whole.

Unless gender equality is achieved in every sense, be it economic, political or social, a country cannot achieve sustainable development. How can we expect the world to grow when half of the population is not included?

Although we have somewhat achieved equality in legal and political terms, social equality is still a big challenge. It is the small, daily things that we consider "normal" that perpetuate this inequality. While the discussion of gender equality takes place, it is often considered to be only a concern for women. Particularly, we have men who often feel that the strides made towards gender equality are only for the benefit of women. But men are as affected by gender inequality as women. 

If a girl is brought up to believe that she is subordinate to man or does not have the freedom to make her own decisions, men too have to deal with baseless gender stereotypes. Men are often expected to fixate on the material world and told to tend to the material needs of their family. They are left out to a huge extent from the caring and nurturing roles that are considered to be “feminine.” 

When a child is born, a female gets paid maternity leave. However, in most countries a man is exempted from this right. It is assumed that a woman has to take care of the child and the father is often left at the position of a financial provider. The emotional bond between a child and his/her father is not given much importance.

Growing up, if a girl isn’t encouraged to pursue sports, a boy is also discouraged from playing with dolls.

Boys are also taught to not be emotional. Peers, family, media stereotypes and the world around them want them to “man up” and not cry or express their basic human emotions. During a small research project I did in my senior year at high school, I found out that boys from a very young age were made fun of for crying by their peers but also discouraged by their parents. They were encouraged to show more risk-taking and violent behaviour. The TV shows boys watch growing up promote boys acting strong and fighting, and females as timid and submissive. Anger among men has become an acceptable norm along with submissive behaviour among girls.

This detachment from all emotions but anger and encouragement towards a violent or so called “masculine” behaviour often leads to violent relationships and a self-destructive personality. It negatively impacts the mental health of the boys themselves, along with people around them.

This toxic masculinity can only be fought by achieving gender equality. Men too have the right to assume caring and nurturing roles. They too are humans and thus have basic human emotions that need not be bottled up. This unreal and dangerous idea of a man can only be changed through attaining gender equality. 

We need gender equality so that men and women have an equal distribution of resources, opportunities and responsibilities. So that a man and a woman can stand side by side and work together equally to make this world a better place.

It can start by something as simple as accepting the idea that girls can play sports and boys can play with dolls. If we allow children to play with whatever they want to play, we will allow them to look at the world of possibilities that lies ahead of them, and not limit them to the boxes of "masculine" and "feminine" activities and attributes that society has created.


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