Sunday, July 05, 2009

Net for Gender Politics

I get this type of forwards very often:

Just a joke, please…….no hard feelings…
Smart man + smart woman = romance
Smart man + dumb woman = affair
Dumb man + smart woman = marriage
Dumb man + dumb woman = pregnancy
Smart boss + smart employee = profit
Smart boss + dumb employee = production
Dumb boss + smart employee = promotion
Dumb boss + dumb employee = overtime
A man will pay $2 for a $1 item he needs.
A woman will pay $1 for a $2 item that she doesn’t need.
A woman worries about the future until she gets a husband.
A man never worries about the future until he gets a wife.
A successful man is one who makes more money than his wife can spend.
A successful woman is one who can find such a man.
To be happy with a man, you must understand him a lot and love him a little.
To be happy with a woman, you must love her a lot and not try to understand her at all.
Married men live longer than single men do, but married men are a lot more willing to die..
A woman marries a man expecting he will change, but he doesn’t.
A man marries a woman expecting that she won’t change, and she does.
A woman has the last word in any argument.
Anything a man says after that is the beginning of a new argument.


To be honest, this forward made me smile. Then I caught myself. What the heck! Haven’t you been cured of these stereoptying tendencies, I admonished myself.

The truth of the matter is it requires a huge amount of conscious, deliberate cerebral activity to erase notions which have come down as a legacy from time immemorial.

This forward reminded me of a song that I was taught in the music class (those days we had a period a week for music) in my high school in the late sixties. This song was taught along with classics like Auld Lang Syne, Black Sprirtuals. patriotic songs like Ye Pyari Bharath Ma. The song which went like this: “A woman , a Woman, Oh, What can she be?” was a favourite with all the girls. Some (that includes me too) even said “How true, how very true!” and we laughed like idiots at this song objectifying the female sex. Here is the song (downloaded the lyrics – was suprised to find it!)

Peter Frampton A Woman (Uh-Huh) Lyrics:
(Dick Gleason)

Johnny Desmond - 1954
José Ferrer & Rosemary Clooney - 1954

Oh woman, oh woman, oh what can she be
Whatever she is, she's necessary

A woman is something both evil and good
But too complicated to be understood
An angel when lovin', a devil when mad
A woman can make you both happy and sad

Oh woman, oh woman, oh what can she be
Whatever she is, she's necessary

Afraid of a cricket, she'll scream at a mouse
But she'll tackle a husband as big as a house
She'll take him for better, she'll take him for worse
She'll bust his head open and then be his nurse

Oh woman, oh woman, oh what can she be
Whatever she is, she's necessary

She's bashful, deceitful, keen sighted and blind
Simple and crafty, and cruel and kind
In the morning she does, in the evening she don't
You're always a thinkin' she will, but she won't

Oh woman, oh woman, oh what can she be
Whatever she is, she's necessary

[CLOONEY (Spoken):]
Girls, turn this record over
and listen to the Wife's side!

You will have noted that at the end of the song there is a note about the wife’s version. I did not bother to hunt for it ‘cos I think that it’s time this gender war came to an end.

The song I was taught as a high school going kid (2nd song) and the forward I got today perform the same function – create certain stereotypical images of the sexes. It does not matter in whose favour it is tipped.

The burden of my theory is the world doesn’t seem to have changed much from the sixties!

Now, for some of these stupid notions contained in the two songs:
The woman is manipulative.
She is unpredictable.
She is silly - screaming at mouse!
She is indispensable.
Poor man, he is usually dumb.
He is happier without a wife
He is a helpless victim of her fancies
He suffers her
And so on.

Almost four decades ago, I was the victim of certain built-in discourses in the system for keeping alive the myths about gender by conditioning the mind in its formative stage about gender roles. I am still struggling to purge the dregs of that particular outdated discourse – or is it outdated?.

And that discourse has never really been dismantled despite all the noise made from all quarters. It has spilt over into the 21st century.

Now, in this cyber world frequented more by the youngsters, the forwards serve as an additional tool to very effectively perpetuate gender politics.


  1. Does it really matter whether we say outrageous stuff about the other sex as long as the underlying respect is there? I'd compare it to how we poke fun at our friends but love them anyway.

    As for a song from the 60s from the other side, a verse from Mary Poppins comes to mind :
    We're clearly soldiers in petticoats
    And dauntless crusaders for women's votes
    Though we adore men individually
    We agree that as a group they're rather stupid.

  2. I just loved the song!! a gender and a racial joke that i recently heard and laughed myself silly..
    Q : whats an intelligent blonde?
    A : A golden retriever!!!

  3. I ignore these forwards because they originate in the US. Women there are pretty liberated and that leads to these women jokes. Reminds me of a forward that goes "If you are cribbing about paying taxes then thank god that you have a job etc!" So Western women should thank their stars for these as it shows that they achieved a better position for themselves at home and in the society.

  4. @silverine
    'Women there are pretty liberated ' - i'd question that. it's a glass ceiling.

    @ sujatha
    you are not supposed to love that song:-)

    @ parvathi
    it's not about respect, parvathy. i was pointing out the subtle ways in which discourse about gender roles condition us.

  5. I find these forwards funny! :)
    Not sure if it's because it complements my male ego well or because it's actually funny!


  6. Well we know all that we read is not true but there is no harm in enjoying these forwards anyway :D
    Its fun.

  7. So true... I was smiling at the fwd and then thinking ... why does this still make me smile? And I agree the these fowards only perpetuate the gender politics.

    Fortunatelly or unfotunately post- marriage, I have been part of many such disscussion with some friends. Most of them are scared and a little freaked out at the prospect of being married to some crazy sterotypical woman. And when they realise that I'm around, their first reaction 'Oh! You dont fit the description, but then, the rest of the women folk.. (you know how they can be)'.

    Arguements often don't work. Women in their families also seem sane... why then, this notion?
    Ofcourse we invariably manage to reach some consensus but then, it only restarts with each new person on the marriage roll. And I think to myself, 'Oh! These men and the ways'...;)'. I guess sterotypes works both ways.

  8. i was wondering which equation of the romance mathematics will i fit in..

    i am always a fit out, but sometimes like to fit in - tired to be a social outcast by now.

  9. I think it's got more to do with our upbringing. The Malayali culture that I've come into contact with, by and large, has an underlying respect for women regardless of its discourses about gender roles.
    And this is a huge generalization, but I just don't see that culture from women in more Northern states.

    P.S. : Not to be a nit picker, but it's Parvati. :)


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