children playing 759

Like every day, the narrow lane was filled with the loud laughter and giggles of the children running around that evening. Just like every other big society or play area, there were two groups among the children, those who played the rugged games… mostly boys and a rare girl or two and the girls gang with a rare boy.

Yasha, was not the girlie one. She was the rough and tough tom boy, who liked to hang out with the boys.

That evening, they were playing a game of King Kong. The game involved a leader or seeker, who would hit a football at the other players. The one who got hit first would join him in chasing the others and so on.

Yasha was the first one to go down that evening. She joined Bunty, the seeker enthusiastically to chase and hunt the others down. “Bunty pass the ball, I can get him”, she called out excitedly, but he just wouldn’t pass. She called a few more times whenever she had a good shot at getting a player. But he didn’t pass the ball to her even once.

Frustrated, she confronted him, “why are you not passing the ball. We missed so many chances.” Initially he ignored her. Finally, he answered smugly, “you girlie, weak-link. You can’t cope with us boys. You’re not as strong as me. I doubt you’ll be able to shoot even one person down.” Yasha was hurt with his answer, but still persisted, “we’ll win if we play as a team!”

By now the other boys had gathered around them. “Stop it Bunty. She plays with us every day”, said one. “just play the game fairly Bunty”,yelled another. But he just wouldn’t budge and started teasing her even more, “girlie, girlie…. You’re not as strong as me” and he pushed her.

Yasha, had had enough. She snatched the ball from his hand and gave him a tight slap across his face. His already shaking milk tooth popped and blood spluttered out of his mouth. Stunned and ashamed before the other boys, he ran to his mother sobbing. Yasha started smiling at her achievement, but at the same time she felt a twinge of sadness for having hurt him and a little afraid of her parent’s reaction too.

As soon as Bunty’s mother saw him and heard what had happened, her nostrils flared and she turned to Yasha angrily and scolded “What is this Yasha? Is this how girls behave? Is this what your parents have taught you? Just wait till I complain to your mother.”

Furiously, she stomped towards Yasha’s house with all the kids in toe, curious to know what happens next. Yasha’s dad opened the door, surprised to see Bunty’s mother and the gang of kids at the door. Guessing by Yasha’s sheepish but little afraid look, he burst out laughing in fuming mother’s face.

She was bewildered at his reaction. She began complaining about his daughter’s actions that evening and the lack of appropriateness of her behaviour as a girl. Yasha’s father just raised his hand to stop her and said, “Mam, before questioning her values, I request you to question yours. Stop telling your son he is stronger because he is boy. Stop him from discriminating on the basis of gender.” Confused, she asked, “what if he had hit her back?” He replied calmly, “My daughter is capable of taking responsibility for her actions and the repercussions that entail those actions. Let it be an argument or fight of equals.”

The disgruntled mother and son left, dazed. Yasha looked up at her father smiling tentatively, unsure. “Stand for what is right, but also be careful to not hurt anyone”, he advised. She nodded in understanding.

There are two questions we need to answer as a society.

Firstly, do we sometimes knowingly, sometimes unintentionally still teach our boys, girls are weaker than them, not as good at sports, can be pushed around, should stick to the girlie things only? Do we unwittingly lay the foundation of male superiority in their minds since their childhood?

Secondly, how many of us as parents of girls, would react like Yasha’s father? How many of us would teach our girls to stand up for themselves and not accept nonsense? How many of us would teach them the importance of taking responsibility for their actions and being prepared for the repercussions of these actions?

Aditi Munot is a Pune based blogger.

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