Social Construct is a Blanket!

Social Construct is a Blanket!Thought of writing this post after a long time and was primarily inspired by a recent conversation on a Friday evening in Colombo, while having a few drinks with friends.

“Son, people think that you do ‘buying and selling’ when you keep changing your car like this…”

“I don’t care if the women you chose doesn’t have any money or doesn’t know to read and has no job, even if she is from our religion, but, If you marry a Sinhalese women, you have no place in our community…”

“It doesn’t matter what we want, we need to live up to what people think of us…”

“She may look like a boy; act like one, but she doesn’t have the right to be one – she is a sinner!”

“It’s okay if the boys on the road say things to you, just ignore them or walk pass them as if you were dumb…”

“<While whistling> She’s got a fucking rack!”

“It is her job to stay back at home, raise kids, feed them, educate them, do the laundry, clean the house, do the dishes. The husband will always go out, make money, hang out with his friends and have a great time – that’s how it needs to be!”

Sounds familiar? I am sure you might have heard of similar lines so many times over the years in your entire life. Some of them in your own homes, some of them on the streets, some of them when you commute in public transport, so on and so forth. Every time I hear them, it reminds me how privileged I am, to be able to understand the gravity of such lines and the stories behind them, but makes me ashamed not doing anything about it.

I was just 15, when started learning about gender roles, gender stereotypes, and most of all, social construct, whilst I was in School. Since then, I had so many friends who were straight, transgenders, lesbians, men who have sex with men, cross dressers, bisexuals, so on and so forth. Today, some of them lead reputed firms, some of them live exemplary lives, some of them hide behind walls, while, some of them fight for their rights passionately. One of them, Nigel, was someone living with HIV for 17+ years, whom I met a decade ago. He became one of my teachers, a fun loving character and an inspiration in my life and made me channel my focus in making people aware of HIV. Nigel taught me how it was like (feels like) to live without a family, a home and a job. Even though he is not physically around me today to bitch about the fight against HIV and how people with HIV are being discriminated (each in their own way), I will remember him for being a beacon of light and hope in time to come. I am glad I made my choices to associate these human beings.

I was not even 19 when I decided to take my own opinion and stand on my own about religion and the view I held about religion. I remember to this very date, the first time I opened up to a bunch of strangers and become vocal about what I felt about religion in a city far away from when I live. I wasn’t open to criticism on my thoughts then, but after almost a decade, today, I let anyone criticize me and defend my opinion of religion. Religion to me is only a mode of governance and a mechanism to keep people disciplined, while each of these religions came in to practice in different times in the human history in different contexts. I will leave it where, I say, I respect each and every religion equally (even if I do not believe in them or follow them) while respecting each and everyone’s believes which are different to each other (faith). So, please, leave me out of it and respect my belief. Ultimately, this is my choice!

I’ve dated few women in my life so far and it never occurred to me that I never chose any of them by the clothes they wore, the labels they carried with them (given by the society – religion, caste, family background, etc.) or their physical appearance. It never occurred to me that all of them practiced a different religion, lived fairly liberal lives, had great family bonds (very close to their parents), educated than me, matured than any other women, I would have met and most importantly were feminist (mind you, hard core feminist). I happened to date one of these women for a fairly longer period in my life, who influenced me to pay more attention to some of my passions I had. She happened to shape my thoughts about some of the things I’ve mentioned in this very article (mostly positive). I consider her a hero in my life and thankful for meeting her. I am glad I made this choice without fearing the rest of the society!

So, during the conversation I had with my friends the other day, I realized that, there is so much to what we experience in society. We always tend to blame society (others) for having had to live up to what other people want us to, we blame them when we can’t do what we want to do or we blame the society when we believe in something that the others do not. People forget that, each and every one including yourself, is part of this very own society that we blame. You and I (who think that we are liberal or that we are right), are not ready yet, to accept that we make up the society. So, social construct (which we blame) starts with us, don’t you think so?

A friend of mine pointed out to me the other day, that if you take a look at the marriage proposals column in any weekend newspaper, you will realize that it’s no one but us, people who look for people/ partners from our very own religion, social status, class, caste, country, background, etc. Muslims look for Muslims, Buddhists looks for Buddhists, Hindus look for Hindus, Kandyians look for Kandyians, etc. Will we ever have a day that a Sri Lankan will look for a Sri Lankan, keeping a side the differences we have?

We teach our daughters and friends that it is okay/ normal or that they should just ignore or that they should act dumb when boys/ men on streets catcall, abuse them verbally on the streets or stare at them for what they wear. We are in a society, where we blame the victim for what she was wearing, when a school girl in uniform gets gang raped in bright day light! We are a society who say it’s okay when, people say things to a girl in a short dress traveling in a three-wheeler. What we instill in our children will be what they will instill in their children one day.

We live in a society where we say, he contracted HIV because he was a man who has sex with men and it is against the natural order. We say that lesbians should get raped because they don’t enjoy sex with men and that it is a mental condition. People should learn that each and every human being of the 7 billion humans who live in this very own plant have 7 billion preferences! What I want, might not be what you want!

Have you ever put your legs in to these people’s shoes and felt what all of them have felt in their respective situations? What if it was your daughter, wife or sister who was verbally abused on the street? What if it was your daughter or sister who is a lesbian – will you still say that they need to be raped? What if it was you, who have sex with men or have feelings for another man – will you say it was because that very reason you contracted HIV and that your house should be burnt to ground or you should be thrown out from work?

Don’t you think that you have the right to do what you want to do with your own body? For God’s sake your body is yours! You have a say about it! You can decide what you are going to do with it! It is a Human Right! I have the right to do what I want to do with my own body! However, people need to remember that just because it is your right to do what you want with your own body it doesn’t mean that it allows you to infringe anyone else’s right to their body! If I want, I can be a homosexual, a transgender, a cross dresser. I can decide to dress how I want to dress! No one has a say about my dress! It is my life to decide who my partner is going to be – irrespective of what her/ his background is! I can decide whether to buy my own car or rent different cars when I feel like – no one else has a say about it and it shouldn’t be anyone else’s problem!

How long on earth are we going to live under the blanket of this so called social construct? Are we going to continue to blame the society for what they have constructed for us knowing that we are part of this very own society? Or are we going to tell everyone to go fly a kite and do what we want? Come out of your closet! Do what is right for you! Make the choices you want in life! Are you ready to challenge the rest of the world for the choices you got to make? The choice is up to you! Let’s come out of the Blanket of Social Construct!

Don’t think twice to leave a comment about what I have written here J Have a good day!

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