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This Valentine’s Day, let’s bid adieu to gender roles

Updated on:13 February 2021, 16:42pm IST
Valentine’s Day—an occasion where age-old gender roles are even more apparent. How about this year we say bye-bye to stereotypes?
Raisa Kaur
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Gender roles should have no place in love. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

8 pm. She’s wearing a beautiful beaded red dress—not too loud, and just the right amount of revealing and sexy. Legs shaved, eyebrows plucked, hair blow dried to get that nice volume. It took her a total of three hours to get ready.

8.30 pm. He arrives. Calls and asks her to meet her at the gate where he greets her with a gorgeous bouquet of flowers—lilies, her favourite. He gently kisses her on the cheek and holds the car door open for her. There is a surprise for her carefully placed at the back seat, a box of Kit-Kat (again, her favourite), an adorable little pink teddy and a neatly packed box. Wrapped by the shop-keeper definitely! Earrings maybe?

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The evening has been planned down to the T by him. Dinner reservation for 2 at 9 pm at that fancy new restaurant was made more than a week ago. A bottle of nice, expensive wine with a single rose will be delivered at the table. Followed by a long, romantic drive, say around 10.30 PM, just long enough to get to Baskin Robbins in time for some Chocolate Mint (her favourite of course) at midnight to conclude the most romantic day of the year. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Sounds familiar?

It is that time of the year again. The time when women fight for appointments at the parlour while the men argue over dinner reservations at the restaurant, when women’s hands get pampered with manicures while men pay the bills. Meals become expensive and appetites recessive, gas tanks get full while wallets get empty… you get the drift.

And it’s also that one time of the year when a man being ‘mushy’ is appreciated rather than mocked, and a man sharing his feelings in public celebrated rather than shunned. At the same time men are expected to be more ‘manly’, whereas women are to be treated as queens. Everything he says or does is put to a test. The survival of the relationship suddenly depends upon how special and expressive he is on Valentine’s Day. Perhaps that is the reason for the spike in break ups post 14th Feb!

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Gender roles and Valentine’s Day

Gender roles and stereotypes has been a topic of debate and conversation for years, even decades now. Gender equality, female empowerment, and awareness on women’s issues has all been on the rise and served as milestones in terms of shaping the society as we know and experience today.

Yet, for reasons that may prove to be too controversial to delve into here, there are certain narratives that still prevail. Dialogues like ‘ladke rote nahi hai’ and ‘ladkiyan pink color daalti hai’ to ‘kya ladka family ko support kar payega’ and ‘kya ladki ko khaana banana aata hai’ are still common occurrences. Since the day we are born we are dressed in clothes that define our gender. We are taught the ways of being that would encourage likeness towards our being, most prominently on the basis of ‘ladke/ladkiyan aise hi karte hai’. We are taught what is expected out of us.

14th February is that once in the year occasion that glorifies, amplifies and even romanticises these gender stereotypes. The town is painted red and pink. Everything is looked at through heart shaped, rose tinted glasses. The sky is more pink and the flowers more fragrant. But who is it for?

Can love without gender stereotypes exist? 

Love is a one of a kind emotion that is seen as a universal phenomenon and yet it is clouded by a storm of expectations as per gender norms. The man is expected to take the front wheel whereas the woman becomes the passenger, the one being driven around, pampered and often navigating the direction of the relationship.

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But when we have come so far with legends and women like Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Kamala Harris, Priyanka Chopra, breaking the glass ceiling, why are we still expecting the man to take all the responsibility? You might argue that there are relationships and couples who do not conform to these gender norms on Valentine’s, and kudos to them! But can we really argue that they make the majority?

This Valentine’s Day, have an open conversation with your partner about what you want

If you feel you are having a bit of a snag understanding and meeting each others’ roles and expectations, maybe consider having an open conversation about it and consider these simple tips to do so:

  • Be clear about the agenda of the conversation and what you are trying to achieve from it. Review it after the conversation is over to make sure you have talked about what you meant to.
  • Have answers to your own questions before asking them to your partner. Make sure you are able to answer if you are asked them too.
  • Define your own role and expectations from yourself and be clear on what you expect from your partner.
  • While conversing, use ‘I feel…’ statements to express your point of view, removing any form of attack, shame or blame towards the other.
  • Keep an open mind while going into the conversation. Remember that it is a conversation and not a one-sided expression.
  • Try paraphrasing! Repeat what your partner has said in your own words to check and ensure you understand what your partner is trying to communicate.
  • Be ready to meet your partner halfway. Resolving an issue requires effort from both parties.
  • Talking about issues can be difficult and often tends to take a negative tone. Try to recognise and include things about your partner that you appreciate and love while expressing your need.
Valentine’s Day
A trusting romantic relationship is a must. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

So while you read this sipping your cup of tea and wondering what your man has planned for you this Valentine or what you are going to do for him, think a little about the equality of roles that play out in your relationship—not just in terms of responsibilities but also in emotional expression.

How do you express your love and what is your idea of celebrating this love? Does it change when you know you’re not under the watchful, judgemental eyes of Sheila aunty from next door? Meanwhile my parlour-vaali aunty is here, time for me to get waxed and shaved, its almost V-day!

Raisa Kaur Raisa Kaur

Raisa Kaur is a counselling psychologist at BetterLyf, an online counselling platform. She is passionate about working with kids and has done a diploma in special education and alternate therapies like animal assisted therapy and autism movement therapy. Currently she works with adults and young adults, and specialises in relationships and general stress and anxiety issues.