Subtle discrimination

As I was waiting for the lights to turn green at the traffic stop, the bikers around me began to turn their heads and giggle. Wondering what it was all about, I turned around to see and a skeptical smile crept up on my lips.

A middle aged woman, astride a chunky sports bike, was struggling to maneuver it around the traffic jam. The guy next to my bike, chuckled and said, “One has to live in Nepal to see everything.”

But it’s not only men who discriminate. Take for instance, my own mother. As a daughter of the hills, she was taught from an early age that her husband would be ‘superior’ to her in every way. That teaching still shows to this day because whenever any kind of big decision concerning the household has to take place, she doesn’t do anything until dad arrives at the scene.

Along with my mum, each and every one of my female relatives seems to share this value to some degree. And they pass it on to the next generation, this omniscient but subtle sort of discrimination.

The new generations are assigned gender-specific roles, behaviors and values from an early age. Boys are taught to be physically active, brash and speak-your-mind sort of persons while girls arekitchen taught to be mature decision-makers, soft-spoken and polite. This teaches the children to alienate themselves from the other gender from an early age. I remember that I, along with my friends, would tease any boy that talked to any of the girls. But it isn’t only children of the same age who discriminate against each other.

When I was in a lower secondary school, no boy would be caught dead holding his mother’s hand. Looking back, I realize that we had a ton of pressure on us to watch our actions closely. Everything we did had to appear cool and macho. We had to be rough-looking, harsh and short-tempered. Although those things are behind me now, the pressure to be manly is still there.

During last year’s Dashain, we had a huge bash at our home. All of my maternal uncles and aunts were there. The aunts gossiping and giggling in the kitchen filled with a million delicious smells and the men in the living room snapping up cards and gorging the delicacies that arrived from the kitchen. And after all of us had eaten our full, uncles went to sleep in various states of repose and aunties went back to the kitchen to deal with the mountain of dishes that had piled up.