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Saturday, July 30, 2011

Double trouble

In a world that swears by political correctness, double standards are all the rage

So Posh Spice finally has what she ‘really really wanted’ for a long time: a baby girl, a much-awaited and longed-for daughter after three strapping boys. With each pregnancy, or so the gossip rags maintain, Victoria hoped for a daughter, a teeny-tiny Baby Spice to dress up in pink and to whom she could pass on her wisdom about Girl Power. But it wasn’t to be. The Beckhams instead became parents to three beautiful boys – Brooklyn, Cruz and Romeo – but they never gave up on their dream of a daughter.

So even at considerable risk to herself – all her children were born by C-section (cue the usual jokes about being too Posh to push) and three is generally considered to be the safe limit for this procedure – Victoria became pregnant again in the hope of bringing forth a baby girl this time. And this once, the Gods smiled upon the Beckhams, who welcomed their first daughter, Harper Seven (really, what is it with celebrities and outlandish names for their offspring?) into the world last month.

But even as the media gushed about the fact that Victoria and David’s family was now complete and how absolutely fabulous it was that they had finally got the daughter of their dreams, even if it had taken them four tries to get there, an uneasy thought popped up in my mind.

Would we have reacted in the same way if the Beckhams had been trying for a son rather than a daughter? Would we have been quite so indulgent about their desire for a child of a particular gender if the genders had been reversed?

Somehow, I think not. There seems to be some sort of peculiar double standard at work in the world today when it is perfectly okay to express your desire to have a daughter. But if a woman ever dares mention that she is hoping for a son, or would even like to have one, well then, she is no better than a traitor to her own gender.

So while it is fine to keep ‘trying’ in the hope of producing a baby girl, doing so in the hope of getting a baby boy marks you down as being obscurantist, old-fashioned, gender-insensitive and, of course, politically incorrect.

Strange, isn’t it?

Of course boys have been universally preferred down the ages, being seen as the heirs to the family fortune, who will carry their proud name forward, while girls marry and leave for their own homes. And in a country like India where female foeticide is endemic, it is always a refreshing change to have someone say that they would prefer a girl over a boy.

Surely, however, it is human nature to want one of each kind, to want to experience the joy of having a son as well as a daughter. But such is the strength of the double standard – and so despicable are some of the means we employ to have boys rather than girls – that it takes a brave woman to say that, yes, she does hope to have a son this time round.

But in a world where political correctness has run wild, such double standards are well-established now.

Let’s take a look at how we refer to foreign visitors to our shores. Anybody who is White is unthinkingly referred to as a ‘Firangi’ or ‘Gora’, without the slightest fear that this may give offence or be perceived as racist. But nobody with the slightest sensitivity would ever refer to a Chinese person as ‘Chinki’ or call a Japanese a ‘Nip’. And anybody who did would be promptly accused of being vilely racist – as indeed they should.

And yet, when you think about it, what’s the difference? Why do we get to use ‘Gora’ in polite conversation when we wouldn’t dream of saying ‘Chinki’? Surely, the offence is much the same?

Similarly, nobody bats an eyelid when you imitate English and American accents to send people up. But God forbid that you should ever do the same with a German, French or Italian accent. For some reason that is seen as racist while the first two are just dismissed as so much good fun. And imitating Japanese, Thai or even Chinese accents is simply beyond the pale.

Then, there’s the politically correct take on fairness creams. Surely by now all of you must know that they are A Very Bad Thing. The manufacturers prey on the insecurities of dark-skinned people and make them pay obscene sums of money to lighten their complexions with creams that are no more effective than a good sunblock. Shame on them! Don’t they know any better?

That said, nobody objects to the booming fake tan business, in which people try and to darken their light complexions to prove that they are rich enough to holiday in spots where they can get a nice sun-tan. And yet, you can’t deny that both are two sides of the same coin; a manifestation of the desire of people to improve their appearance in a manner that pleases them. So why be judgemental about one and not the other?

And then, there’s the usual gender-bender stuff that comes with political correctness. There is no harm is sending up your husband by complaining how he does no housework, doesn’t help with the children, is too messy (remember Michelle Obama’s famous reference to her husband’s ‘smelly socks’?) and just so useless all around. But what if the same put-upon husband were to retaliate by pointing out how rubbish his wife is at driving and how she still can’t parallel park? Well, I’ll just leave it to you to guess how that story would unfold.


Aashish Gupta said...

I don't really think these are double standards. You miss the whole issue of "disadvantaged groups" ... it's sort of ok to say "Gora" because whites are not a disadvantaged group and "Gora" isn't a derogatory racial slur, just a racist tag maybe.

It's not ok to say you prefer having a boy because girl children are a disadvantaged group (in our country at least).... same thing with fairness cream/tanning lotions.

Kiran Raivaderra said...

Such a simple subject but you put it brilliantly. Yes, we show double standards everywhere. Even while discussing minority issues in India, we are so hypocrite. While it is alright to poke at the majority or even make fun or its gods, but it would be a sacrilege if it is done against minority. In this display of crass double standards, even our media and politicians too aid and abet.
I am sure this parallel does not look incongruous.

Anonymous said...

There is no harm in having a desire to have male child but at the cost of killing a gal in the mother womb is wrong.