Just a quick re-post of my comment on the fabulous IHM's blog on her tag about how we're all non-stereotypical (link to her post here, to my comment here ). Basically, my point is that in order to truly break stereotypes, we need to subvert internalized belief systems, or else we may just end up reinforcing narratives and power structures. This is Game Theory 101 - by ensuring that OTHERS stay in line and WE break free, we do get a big short-term benefit bump, but for real long-term sustainable benefit, we ALL need to break the stereotypes.
First off, this is an awesome tag, loved the idea that if enough of us speak up about how we're not stereotypically female/male we'd all collectively have enough ammunition to break the gender molds for ourselves and for others.
However: I'm sorry to rain on everyone's parade, but after going through yet another cring-inducing blogpost on this subject, I need to say this.
As I go around reading all that everyone's written (and yeah, almost everyone on the desi blogosphere has taken up the tag), most women seem to take this on as a challenge to appear 'cooler' than other women because they don't do what 'so many other women do'. Instead of this being an exercise in celebrating our collective sisterhood & our delicious differences, it's become another attempt in one-up-man(!)-ship. I'm cringing as I see women so stridently separate themselves from 'OTHER' women who're so 'DISGUSTINGLY GIRLY'. The posts almost speak to some audience whose approval is being sought - and given the patriarchy that we all function under, very likely some imaginary male audience. This is first off disturbing because it casts all women as opponents of one another - that for one of us to win, another has to lose, because this is a zero sum game. Instead of leading to acceptance of our differences, we're all exacerbating them and using them as weapons. It just adds to the subconscious belief that women cannot be friends, because we're all threatened by each other, because we're all going after the same target: MAN. As it is, "our culture provides so precious few narratives about women in shared spaces, about female allies, about women who deeply love other women, about sisterhood. And its lovely, lovely benefits." to quote the fabulous Melissa McEwan of Shakespeare's Sister. This tag against gender stereotypes has become more of a tag against your own gender.
Secondly, this avalanche of blog posts that implicitly criticize other women for being girly (liking pink, liking dressing up, loving to cook and clean) and self-congratulatorily praise the writer's lack of such girliness (oh, I'm so cool 'coz I like BLUE!!! and I like CARS!! and HATE COOKING!! and NEVER WANNA CUDDLE BABIES!!) only feeds into the existing narrative that marginalizes all female or feminine qualities as being less desirable, and everything male as being the ideal, default state. Our collective conscious already internalizes messages like this - a young girl who likes climbing up trees is indulgently called a tomboy. A young boy who likes girly things - say dolls, or pink tutus, or cooking, or ice-cream - is seen as a freak, someone disgusting, someone to be made fun of. The parents of such a young girl will likely as not warn her that she will need to become feminine as she grows up to be successful (success as defined by being happily married, have babies, etc.). The parents of such a young boy will likely as not be extremely anguished as they wonder what they did wrong - his youthful interests will be seen as indicative of his weakness, or mental imbalances (like as not, this will lead directly to people assuming that his father does not have enough 'manhood' in him and therefore cannot pass on enough of it to his son, or that the boy's mother is too dominating). [See this for a great revelatory of how power = masculine and weakness = feminine in the English language: http://bit.ly/dyseG4 ] The last thing we as a culture need is more such stigmatization of womanly qualities, more reinforcement of toxic prejudices, more insecurities amongst our women.