Assigning Gender Roles.

Gender is believed to be a spectrum, with Femininity at one end and Masculinity at the other. And, according to this belief, all individuals are placed between the two extremes. But, as the Feminist Movement unfurled in the 1960s and 70s, the Patriarchal system was put in a vulnerable position. Questioning the system, which had been prevalent for generations, resulted in a sudden recognition of other genders and people started realising that there are many more genders than just the two.

If a layman were asked to imagine a ‘Perfect Couple’ or a ‘Relationship Goal’, he would most likely visualise a Male and a Female in acquired roles of a heterosexual relationship. There would rarely be an instance where a homosexual relationship is thought about when one is asked to think about a Perfect couple. There’s a major problem which arises when we consider a homosexual relationship. That problem is the problem of identity. As is seen in the society, the concept of homosexuality still hasn’t been fully accepted into our society. The aforementioned statement may vary from country to country, but by and large, there still exists traces of homophobia even in developed European countries.

Gender identity is a personal conception of oneself whereas Gender Roles are manifested within the society by observable factors like appearance and behaviour; however, in most individuals, both identity and roles are congruous. The manifestation of Gender identity and Gender Roles in Popular Culture shapes the way people in a society perceive different gender and relationships. For explaining this better, we can take the example of an episode from Modern Family, an American Sitcom. In this episode, the gay couple Cameron and Mitchell invite their fathers, Jay and Merle over for a day hoping that their fathers will get along. But, as the episode proceeds, the two fathers just can’t foresee their differences as they keep arguing about trivial matters. When the episode is about to conclude, both Jay and Merle confess to each other that the only reason that they don’t get along well is because their sons are both gay for each other. The two fathers couldn’t get in terms with the fact that their son turned out to be gay and hence every time they tried accepting them as they were, something would trigger inside them, reminding them of their Gay sons. Throughout the episode, it is noticeable that the two fathers were trying to prove to the other that his son was not the ‘woman in the relationship’. The disagreements between the two men were based on the fact that their sons were in a homosexual relationship and still, the fathers were trying to assign the roles of a heterosexual relationship to them. This obligation to find the ‘wife’ or the ‘husband’ in a homosexual relationship is the manifestation of the hidden repressed form of homophobia.

Although, Modern Family is an example of a developed Western country where people of other genders are recognised and given a legal identity. Countries like the United States and the European Countries not only recognise other genders, but also have a considerate amount of representation of such genders in Popular Culture; the movies and the TV shows. But, in India, this isn’t the case. Here, genders apart from the Male and the Female are far from recognised, they are rejected. In India, the total population of transgenders is around 4.88 Lakh as per the 2011 census, and it has just been increasing ever since; and yet there is no representation of the other genders. If we take into consideration the Popular Culture of India, specifically the movie industry, there are set roles for the people from other genders. The personalities they have are stripped from them and they are only portrayed in a certain, mostly comical, way. Even if there is any proper representation, it is the bare minimum which is neglected by the better half of the population in the country.

Recognition and identities of the other genders can only be talked about if there is acceptance by the people. And, acceptance doesn’t only mean letting the other gendered people stay in your neighbourhood; it implies accepting them as they are. Not assigning them roles of a non-existent heterosexual relationship, trying to find out who the ‘wife’ or the ‘husband’ is. And, this kind of change requires a radical amendment of the mind-set of the population. Normalising the concept of the existing other genders is one of the solutions which can lead to solving the major problem of assigning roles. For introducing ready acceptance in some orthodox institutions and families, careful persuasion can be used. The reactions given to the people who come out of the wardrobe, especially in India, must be changed. Assigning roles to people who do not ‘fit in’ is done by everyone, no matter how accepting they are. However, this can be changed by changing the way people look at gender, as a whole. This, in turn, is a very difficult task as it depends on how an individual is brought up and what they are made to believe. Thus, the change can be implemented only if it starts at the grass root level.


-Manasvi Nag.



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