Indian Sons And Misogyny

by Indu Partha, @indupartha

So, I was driving home from work today when a guy told me that I knew what to do with my big fat butt.  As if that wasn’t enough of a compliment, the flatterer went on to tell me that my booty was like two planets.  Be still, my beating heart.  What girl in her right mind wouldn’t fall head over heels for a smooth talker like Jason Derulo Because of course, this guy was singing to me through the radio.

The first time I heard that inspiring anthem, “Wiggle, Wiggle,” I laughed at the stupidity of it all.  The next time I heard it, and paid more attention to the lyrics, I winced at the misogyny of it all.  But the moment that really made me cringe?  Hearing three 11-year-old boys, on the verge of middle school, at a stage in life where they are beginning to not totally eschew girls, singing and giggling in the back of the van, “You know what to do with that big fat butt.” I told the kids, “Can we find a better song?” and left it at that.  I do plan to sit down with him, though, and have a conversation about how “real girls” should be treated. I’ll tell him:

    • What would your sisters think? You have two older sisters who you love, respect, and admire. How do you think they would feel if a guy they knew told them to “wiggle, wiggle?” If you don’t think your sisters would like it, chances are, the girl(s) you are speaking to won’t either.
    • Have real conversations with girls. You don’t need to show off for them, tease them, or flirt with them. You can and you should ask them about their hobbies, their interests, the things that they like to do outside of school. In other words, realize that girls like to talk about “real things” just like your guy friends do.
    • Compete to win. Surprise! Girls like to win just as much as boys do. And they like to win after a fierce and honest competition. Give them a run for their money. They sure as heck have no plan to go easy on you.
    • It doesn’t take a lot to ruin someone’s reputation. Learn to stand up for the girls in your life. If the guys around you are talking about how “loose” some girl is, or what a tease she is, or make remarks on her body and looks, speak up. For that matter, it makes no difference if the “victim” is male or female. “In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”-MLK, Jr. You know the difference between right and wrong; sometimes you have to help others see the difference, too.
    • Girls are more than just pretty faces. While it is human nature to like to be called attractive, and a heartfelt compliment on a nice dress or pretty hairdo is always welcome, keep in mind that girls like to be complimented for much more than their looks. Tell them how funny they are, and how much you enjoy being around them. Let them know you appreciate the way they stand up for others and how hard they work in class. Compliment them when they have the highest grade in the class or score the winning goal.  Encourage them as they compete in typically boy-dominated classes like Robotics and Engineering, and help their voices be heard.
    • Learn to ignore gender stereotypes. Boys/men can clean the house, take care of kids, cry, be sensitive, and kind. Girls can be bad cooks, be corporate CEO’s, decide not to have kids, and be cutthroats. You decide who you want to be and how you want to behave. Society shouldn’t dictate that. Work to support the choices made by all, and work to ensure that everyone has a choice.
    • Be respectful. Watch the words that come out of your mouth. Is it a kind thing to say? Is it a necessary thing to say? Are you going to hurt someone if you say it? Stop and think. I know you’ll make the right choice. Sometimes, boys feel the pressure to act tough, say “macho” things, and be the “top dog.” It’s okay to veer away from this behavior. Do what you know is right; people will, in turn, respect and like you even more for not getting caught up in the tide.

If you think about it, the above rules would apply to everyone you interact with; not just the girls. And that is the point. We’re all equal. Equal people should receive equal treatment.

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