Student - 7 april 2015

Blog: It’s not feminist to challenge gender roles

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Whenever the Nepalese community in Wageningen had a get-together, the women were expected to serve the men. Seriously?! We are all educated people on scholarships selected from hundreds of candidates.

Although I come from a patriarchal country (Nepal), I was raised in an educated and open-minded family, where my brother and I were treated equally. At home, I didn’t have to work in the kitchen, like girls in most other Nepalese families. Also, my father served me tea in bed every morning, just like he served my brother tea. Other well-educated Nepalese people in Wageningen can be shocked when they hear this. To some people you are only a role model if you are educated and also perform good gender roles. What amazes me is that women give me more serious criticisms and free advice about the gender roles than men.

I have no problem with working in the kitchen. In fact, I love to cook (which I learnt from my father). But let it not be a gender role.

My brother and I were truly treated equally. Except when it came to the 'puja', a ceremony where all my relatives came together to worship the Gods. At this prayer ritual, my brother and male cousins had an important role to play, while the girls were just there to observe and nod their heads. I didn’t mind my brother – who is younger than me – in an important role, but I didn’t like it that the girls had minimal or no roles, just because we were girls.

There are lots of issues around socially determined gender roles and I have always questioned them. Every time the answer was the same: ‘It is just the way it is. Don’t let it bother you.’ But I couldn’t stay indifferent about it. Whenever I raised the issue, I would be judged to be either an activist or a radical feminist. I remember a woman once telling me: ‘Although we study much, we will always be inside our homes because this is every woman’s lost karma.’ I still have not figured out why I got such comments, nor do I intend to find out.

I do not seriously care how people are raised and I do value traditions. I have learnt all rituals and can perform them accordingly, be it by Hindu or Buddhist custom. But isn’t it time to alter these traditions? I think every person has a right to live as they want; let’s not force social pressure upon each other.

Re:acties 2

  • Tom

    The perceived mentality of people (how educated he/she may be) depends on the society they are brought up in. The condition is similar in other developing countries and some developed countries also. So, its normal that your Nepalese friends want the ladies to serve the men (whether you are in scholarship or not, nobody cares). Thank you for raising such critical issue.

    Reageer
  • Hana

    Just for instance...Mothers cook food for their children , take care of them..Lets not challenge the role of giving and caring with gender roles..lets celebrate womenhood and embrace it on ethical perspectives...

    Reageer

Reacties 4

  • Didi de Mildt, SP&C Wageningen

    The term 'Radical Feminist' in itself is a label that people stick on you to suggest that you are the abnormal one. Keep on thinking freely, you may be helping other women to develop their own views in society as well as towards their role in religion.

  • Ellen

    great article Mary. I recognise so well the nepalese customs and we always feel bad to see hoe women are treated.

    Brave to never want to adjust. Nepal needs women like you.

  • hans

    "What amazes me is that women give me more serious criticisms and free advice about the gender roles than men."
    "I remember a woman once telling me: ‘Although we study much, we will always be inside our homes because this is every woman’s lost karma."

    By these two statements, do you mean that women have been the hindrances in social uprising of women itself?

  • Vero

    How is it not feminist to question gender roles? This IS feminism. That is nothing to be ashamed of. Don't fight the label of feminism, embrace it and fight the patriarchy you describe!


Re:ageer