“Stop crying. Are you a girl?”

…was something I remember a teacher asking me many years ago. It’s something I repeated mechanically to friends while growing up. I should rephrase that last part to “as I turned older”. The reason being it’s only recently that I’ve grown up. My family’s a fairly reasonable bunch of blokes but as I think back to some of our gatherings, I cringe at the kind of ridiculous, ill-informed comments that pervaded our conversations. To be fair, it was mostly the geriatric members indulging in their finger-pointing pastime, and yet impressionable minds like ours meekly drank the Kool-Aid. I won’t get into details of what we can safely categorize today as rubbish but a significant part of their opinions were devoted to female roles. The women would subsequently get together to deride these archaic thoughts, while articulating their own theories of what defines an emancipated woman. Sadly, those were equally archaic.

I’ve been extremely fortunate to learn from excellent thinkers I’ve met on Twitter. They’ve shared perspectives and opinion, none prescriptive. Merely gentle nudges in the right direction. There are other things:

I observe the women around me and I’m astonished at what they manage.

I’m a father to a son. A gift from an amazingly talented and selfless woman I’ve had the privilege of building a life with. A woman who’s miles ahead of me in professional capability and even further ahead in her ability to make difficult choices. (Because equality is about the freedom to make choices, right? Thankfully men don’t have to make the tough ones!)

I read more news than I used to, and get pissed off.

Even so, every once in a while something yanks you out of your comfortable existence and compels you to reevaluate your paradigms. Malala Yousafzai‘s story is one such bit of news. Nothing screams “THREAT TO OUR EXISTENCE” like a fourteen year-old girl demanding education. So it’s perfectly logical that these castrated louts calling themselves the Taliban would send a gunman to shoot that fourteen year old. Shoot her they did – in the head. She survived and stood on her feet yesterday in a hospital in England. I’m not religious and this isn’t proof of god but it sure as hell is proof that my teacher from years ago was so pathetically wrong. In that one perverse question she carelessly encapsulated the lives of billions of women and shoved it down our throats like a sugary placebo. What’s worse is that she did it despite being a woman.

I’ll be damned if my son ever picks up a single sexist or misogynist thought from me. But he needn’t take me at face value. Let him craft his own opinions with his own research. I’m confident either way he’ll learn that some girls just don’t cry. They take a bullet to the head and stare back with bright, defiant eyes.

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27 responses to ““Stop crying. Are you a girl?””

  1. froginthewell says :

    I respect very much that you try to address various inequities facing women. I am not capable of writing nearly as well as you.

    However, what I find it difficult to appreciate about your writing is that you do so in a gynocentric way. For instance, when a boy is asked “Are you a girl?”, it is bad not only because it stereotypes women but also because it is deeply hurtful to the boy – the suggestion that there is something about the boy that makes him behave contrarily to the natural biological expectation. In fact, this particular stereotyping in some sense allows more freedom to women than to men.

  2. feminist-not an ugly word says :

    The equivalent to girls is “Stop crying like a baby”
    Wonder why you cant use it for boys as well.

    Sometimes the world is just sad.

  3. Kanika Goswami says :

    daddysan….i saw a neighbour say this to her 7 year old crying son….and you know the funny part? He had been beaten up by a 6 year old girl…and I politely pointed out this ironical fact to her…both Momy and son were staring at me uncomprehending…when I walked away

  4. prashal goyal says :

    wonderful piece.felt genuine and heartfelt, and at the same time quite articulate.keep up the good work

  5. moonsays says :

    You are an excellent thinker yourself. I do believe that careless use of “Stop crying like a girl.” denies our world of a safe coping mechanism. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and validating mine.

  6. Ketan says :

    While there’s an issue of sexism that’s involved, there’s another issue of crying, of tears. Why should they receive such derision? Not getting into whether tears are a sign of weakness, more important, shouldn’t we all be allowed to feel weak at times without that becoming a huge issue? What use is all this technological advancement and social reforms if we can’t afford to feel weak at times? It does take some degree of courage to admit to oneself that we’d be feeling weak at times, especially in a society that puts such premium on appearing ‘strong’ and almost romanticizes tolerance of (needless) pain. Perhaps gratuitous, but this is something that our succeeding generation, in my opinion, needs to understand to not end up making reudundant what all they’d get in legacy.

    I know I’ve digressed a lot from what you’d meant to be the subject, but I felt it important to point this all out.

    I’d cried few weeks back talking to my mom on a phone call. I’m 27, and it must’ve been after some over 18 years that she must’ve seen/heard me cry, and she had asked me, “why’re you crying like a girl?” I’d just asked her back, “does it matter how I’m crying?” My sentiment on this ‘crying like girl’-intended-to-be-barb is exactly the same as yours.

    • daddysan says :

      Well said Ketan. I was telling Nonstopbakbak the same thing below. You’ve correctly explained the issue with the first part of the teacher’s question, while I tackled the second.

  7. Vjsub says :

    It’s incredible just how many seemingly innocous statements are driven towards kids that subconsciously reinforce stereotypes. You’ve picked the most impactful one – a statement that every guy has heard at some point or the other. Well articulated,Daddy San.

  8. otherone says :

    Whole post was brilliantly written but last line of the post is something which i will never forget.
    Thanks a ton for such a nice post DS.

  9. maxratul says :

    Much respect – loved this piece

  10. dela says :

    I think this cuts both ways. While painting all women with the ‘crying little pansies’ brush is downright ridiculous, \this obsession we have with men being macho, emotionless alpha-males has been just as detrimental for men as well. We’ve all come across men who aren’t half as ‘strong’ as they’d like to pretend they are and just let their emotions well up inside, simply because letting them out is not ‘manly’. Men have emotions. Men cry. Deal with it. Can we please do away with all this fake macho-ness (is that even a word?) now?

    Strength comes from within and gender has sod all to do with it. It really is about time we realize that, while gender has a massive role in defining who or what we are physically, the stuff we’re made of mentally has little or nothing to do with it.

  11. Meghana says :

    Thank you for this post.

    I have noticed one of my good friends use this line on his 5yo son to get him to behave. It disturbs me every time I hear him say it. The friend is unknowingly inculcating something very wrong in his kid. Next time, I will make sure to say something about it.

  12. Nonstopbakbak says :

    DS,

    Very well written as always.

    I’ve come to realize that tears are not the sign of weakness, but only a means of letting go of a particular emotion. Most of the men I know, don’t cry, so it’s hard for them to express their emotion.

    Once we cry and are done with a particular incident, don’t even dare to come by us, we might beat the pulp out of someone ( not being modest here), because we have let go and become stronger.

    And no better way to say I have cried, let go and I’m ready for a fight after taking a bullet in the head.

    Regards
    S

    • daddysan says :

      Absolutely! I wrote about this once before when admonishing my son for crying too much. It’s not a sign of weakness at all. It’s good to let it all out and face the issue head on.

  13. punchagan says :

    Thank you, Daddy San, for all your wonderful posts! Keep thinking, keep writing and keep inspiring!

  14. Rabi says :

    *goosebumps*

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