Written by Samaira Aima, a grade 11 student.
What exactly is gender?
This is a central question in feminist theory and practise, as well as current social justice activist debates about class, identity, and privilege.
The term “gender” is commonly used to refer to what is more appropriately referred to as “sex” in everyday conversations. Here’s an ambitious suggestion. Companies and institutions might get along better if they stopped ranting about how different men and women are. I understand that everyone has an opinion and that this is a sensitive topic, but please. Is there a section of the supermarket dedicated solely to cooking supplies for women? Is there a toothpaste just for men? I had no idea that men and women have different teeth!
There are some things that are simply absurd.
Gendered products aren’t just a gag. They are a pervasive and aggressive ideological factor in shaping how we think, act, and spend our money. You can’t help but laugh when people make male and female versions of things like candies, shampoo, pickles etc. But, of course, it isn’t just for laughs.
Why do pointlessly gendered products constitute a problem?
1. Pointlessly gendered products affirm the gender binary
In general, today’s men and women lead remarkably similar lives. They go to the same schools, have the same jobs, and grow up together. Gender isn’t that important in their real, everyday lives outside of dating (for some of them) and having children. These products are a backlash to such an idea, constantly reminding us that gender matters, that it matters if you’re male or female, when in fact, this is rarely the case.
Everyone who does not fit into the gender binary becomes invisible or problematic as a result of affirming the gender binary. Every day, almost all of us take significant steps to try to fit into this binary: what we eat, how we exercise, what we wear, what we put on our faces, and how we move and speak. All of these things are gendered, and we compel ourselves to conform to the binary when we do them in gendered ways.
2. Pointlessly gendered products explicitly tell us that women should be subordinate to or dependent on men
Gender Stereotypes all too often are not just about difference, they are also about inequality. For example toys for children show “Girls as Nurses and Boys as Doctors”, kids’ clothing have tags that depict girls as “Born to be a Princess” and boys as “Born to be a King.” The products don’t just confirm a gender binary and fill it with nonsense; they also make it clear that women and men in our society are expected to play unequal roles.
3. Pointlessly gendered products reinforce stereotypes
Gendering products indiscriminately is not just about dividing us into two groups; it’s also about telling us what it means to fit into one of those boxes. Each of these products serves as a reminder to us.
4. Pointlessly gendered products cost women money
Masculine and feminine versions of a product are not always priced the same. Usually, the one for women is the more expensive one. For example, the cheapest disposable razors marketed towards men from a well-known brand cost around Rs 20, the lowest disposable razors for women from the same brand cost roughly Rs 55 and they both produce the same results. Women’s ability to support themselves and their quality of life is harmed when they are charged more.
There are better ways to deliver what people really need other than pointlessly gendered products. One of the most common justifications for such products is that men and women are different, but most of the time, gender is being used as a proxy for something else.
We are the ones who came up with the gendering concept. Not just in terms of what we do, but also in terms of how we dress and present ourselves. Makeup, clothes, periods, and colors do not require gendering.
Let’s stop gendering things that do not need a gender.