Dawn News

Whenever girls and boys gather at a place, a very controversial and oft-heard argument arises, ‘Who is better — girls or boys?’

Many people believe that boys are superior. Nevertheless, according to me, we ought to cease arguing on this issue because there is no question of superiority in genders. Both genders are equal and should be treated as such.

A very common myth among us is that ‘girls can’t study science subjects’. This myth appears very irrational. How can girls study these subjects when their friends and families discourage them from opting for these subjects? Even when some ambitious and motivated girl does succeed in being permitted to study the so called ‘boyish subjects’, her friends and relatives leave no stone unturned to direct towards her a torrent of disheartening remarks like, “You would regret your decision when you fail this subject”, “You would barely pass this subject”, etc.

Psychological research has proved that girls are not inferior to boys in terms of Intelligent Quotient (IQ) level; girls’ and boys’ mental abilities are the same.

‘Girls are bad at math’ is a popular stereotype held by many people. These people would be surprised to know that I got a total of 95 per cent marks in the IGCSE mathematics paper I recently gave, and I am home-schooled. If girls are encouraged to study mathematics there is no reason why they will not do well.

Every time I come across an article or a story or a novel, I cannot help noticing a certain thing in it: the usage of words like ‘mankind,’ ‘chairman,’ ‘businessman,’ etc. This usage, in my opinion, reflects nothing other than a male-dominated society in which women are subordinate to the ‘chairmen’, ‘businessman’, etc. The unconscious effects these words leave on our minds contribute very much in maintaining our patriarchal attitude, thus reducing the chances of creating a world which equally values the abilities of both genders.

Therefore, I think we should endeavour to spread the use of gender-neutral words, e.g., ‘businessperson’ rather than ‘businessman,’ so that discrimination can be kept to a minimum, if not entirely eradicated.

In addition, television is an extremely influential source of strengthening stereotypes. At first, young minds are free of any kind of bias. However, cartoon movies, more often than not, portray the protagonist as a boy. As a consequence, young people begin imagining that girls can never be powerful and audacious enough to secure the lead character in any story — the one who is involved in the fierce struggle against the negative characters.

There are protagonists such as Spiderman, Superman, Batman, etc., but no such woman exists in the cartoon world. The few female characters presented in these cartoons are either those that are the friends of the hero or main character, or at most their assistants. In the cartoon series Ben 10, for instance, the central character is Ben whereas Gwen (Ben’s cousin) plays only the role of a helper to Ben.

But girls are shown in leading roles in some cases, such as in fairy tales and animation movies, such as Cinderella, Snow White, etc. However, here the girls are depicted as docile and vulnerable damsels in distress who need a prince/hero to rescue them. In short, all these differences in the representation of female and male characters eventually result in a prejudiced outlook of youngsters whose minds previously possessed no such discrimination.

No book enjoys as much popularity among teenagers as the Harry Potter series. In these books too, the protagonist is a boy i.e. Harry Potter, Hermione just played a side role in it, which is justified since the books are based on Harry Potter. Basically, the point I wish to make is this: what if instead of Harry Potter there had been a Harriet Potter; if instead of ‘the boy who lived’ there would have been ‘the girl who lived.’ I do not believe it would have made much difference in the stories if the central character had been a girl.

It’s time people (both girls and boys) change their conservative notions and start believing in gender equality. Boys usually find it difficult to perceive and accept girls as their equal.

To them I would cite the example of Bertrand Russell — a mathematician, philosopher and an active participator in politics — who determinedly campaigned for women’s right to vote.

His character is absolutely contrary to the psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, who possessed so severe a prejudice against women that he could not even hold it back from entering his research findings!

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