Boys, pull up your socks!

An introspection on today’s gender based upbringing

[ Dani Sulu ]

Perhaps it has to do with parents and their preferences between their children’s gender-based upbringing. If the transformation in the composition of the present Arunachal society is of any indication, parents seem to have their preferences and biases in the manner of the upbringing of their children depending upon their gender.

The distant drum of gender reversal in societal composition and their roles in the contemporary Arunachal society was heard a decade and a half back, with the school board exam results of Class X and Class XII where the girls outperformed boys in yards and metres. The girls have not only maintained their academic edge over boys but have increased the gap and taken it to a higher level of learning in colleges and universities where the girls easily beat boys in getting into the top 10 outstanding performers of their respective batches.

A girl’s academic dominance in schools, colleges, and universities is being played out today in the fields of competitive exams, professional engagements and societal behaviours.

A case in point: In one of the novel and path-breaking programmes initiated by the present government, the young 2020 batch of Arunachal Pradesh Civil Service Officers was flagged off by Chief Minister Pema Khandu for a foundation course training at LBS National Academy of Administration, Mussoorie, AJ National Institute of Financial Management, Faridabad, Indian Institute of Management, Shillong and North Eastern Judicial Officers Training Institute, Guwahati on 24 August, 2021. During the programme, it was informed that     out of 57 young successful APCS officers, there were 34 female officers and only 23 male officers.

This was news to me and tickled my curiosity as to how the Arunachal boys and girls are performing in other areas of governance and life. So, I went back and perused the results of the latest exams conducted by the APPSC.

Well, the results were along the lines of my expectations.

In March 2021, 21 veterinary doctors were selected, out of which 17 were female and only four male doctors could manage to cut the mark. Earlier, in the selection of 21 agriculture development officers, only five men could cut the mark to 16 ladies who made it to the final list. The same overwhelming proportion of ladies was selected as general duty medical officers and junior specialists in the recently concluded interviews conducted by the APPSC.

The latest that I followed was the result of field investigator, which was announced by the APPSC on 5th August, 2021.

One of my young cousin sisters made it to the final list. When I asked her and her sister how many boys and girls made it to the final list of 33 candidates; nonchalantly, she replied that ‘obviously, there are more girls in the final list.’

This sums up everything about the present profile of boys and girls playing out in the modern competitive world. That, the ladies of the generation think it is obvious for the girls to outperform boys.

Even in the UPSC conducted Civil Service Exams, our women have far outperformed men, if the results of the last 10 years are taken into account.

Now moving away from the traditional field of scale with  which to measure the success rate of a person, let’s move to other fields of our life and see how our girls are performing.

The armed forces were seen as a male forte till now. However, even this domain has been broken into by the girls.

Lt Col Ponung Doming and Lieutenant  Ippu Mena made the headlines as they joined the ranks of army officers. Niki Lego became a social media sensation of Arunachal as she went to the shores where no Arunachal men had either dared or cared to ford hitherto. She joined the US Army and distinguished herself.

In the teaching profession also, more ladies are inducted than their male counterparts as lecturers and teachers.

 In the field of games and sports also the girls seem to be outperforming boys at national and international events. We get to know of as many-if not more- female medal winners in various games and sports events.

Johny Mangkhya was the first and sole Arunachal sportsperson to be selected for the 2018 Asian Games, although due to some technical issues-unrelated to her performance-she was deprived of the chance to participate in the 2018 Asian Games. Only yesterday, it was made to understand that four girls are in the advanced stage of training for selection in the Asian Games 2024 in China.

Even in business, women seem to have progressed much. When we walk through the markets of Itanagar, we come across more women than men as shop keepers, restaurant owners, cafes and bar owners, and vegetable and meat vendors.

In the world of journalism also, Tongam Rina in print media and Sange Droma in electronic media have made their indelible marks, while girls like Chum Darang, Roshni Dada, Yana Ngoba are making their presence felt in the world of beauty and fashion at the national level.

In the last decade and a half, there has been a sea change in the social, economic, and political spectrum of Arunachal society. The girls have caught up to men and without a pause took leading steps in almost all spheres of life.

As we speak of walking, till about a decade back girls would do their best to hide their legs and body while walking down the roads, as men walked almost bare butt. Today, women walk in short pants and short tops while men walk in long pants and knee pants. The bare thighs of girls walking in shorts don’t draw as much attention from guys as much as a young man walking in half pants with his exposed thighs, evincing stolen glances of girls and their murmuring giggles that follow the blushing young man. The same is experienced at home. My daughters prefer half-pants while my sons prefer long pants or knee pants. The gender role reversal seems to be on a great roll as of today.

But this was coming and the ominous signs were for all to see for some time now. I had sensed it coming and rung the warning bell for the boys to pull up their socks and keep up with the girls in a small write-up in my blog in 2007.

In Delhi of 2007, I observed the attitudinal change of Arunachal boys and girls pursuing their studies in various colleges. It was very unlike our times of the early 1990s.

I had written, at the time, that it is high time  boys should come out of their dingy rooms of Nehru Vihar and Indra Vihar where they kept bitching and gossiping about smart and outgoing girls over a bottle of beer and a pot of boiled pork. I had urged the young boys in Delhi to keep up with the girls; embrace the young college life; explore the challenges and experiences of metro life; be outgoing; be experimental, be curious and be exploratory.

The sulking boy of a decade back still seems to be sulking away and taking to cat calling from the corners of their rooms while the outgoing girls are taking their space under the sun.

If the present scenario of Arunachal society is truly then parents and senior members of society need to introspect deep and ponder upon how to reset the gender parity based on performance and calibre instead of gender-based preference.

It is my observation over the decades, that daughters have been more cared for, loved and groomed by their parents. As soon as a girl is born, most parents develop a softer and more caring corner in their hearts for their girl child.

What prompts parents to be more caring and loving of their daughter is the patriarchal social structure of Arunachal society where most of the property is inherited by the male child as a matter of right, and only some properties are bestowed on the girl child as a matter of choice.

Since these are social compulsions, the parents are determined to secure the future of their daughter by providing the best of education and make them self-reliant. As a father of three sons and two daughters, I also made the same resolve and am following up. All the love and care of parents are invested in the proper upbringing of their daughters. On the other hand, the sons are viewed as naturally strong and heirs of the family property and prestige. The parents focus on how to make their sons strong and daring. In the name of family pride and honour, the healthy and well-rounded upbringing of boys is compromised.

By the time children hit their teenage years, parental control becomes very difficult. This is the time when students should be focussing on their studies for high school and higher school board exams. We as parents fail to give much-needed care and attention to our boys as much as we give to daughters. Another reason for the poorer academic performance of boys is because of the exclusive policies of many private schools of not extending equal academic and hostel facilities to boys.

While looking out for a way to bring parity in the performance of a son and a daughter, we need to understand that our life is shaped by the social environment in which we grow. The society’s ethos, its culture and tradition, its philosophy, and the value system shapes our personality, our outlook, and our life.

It is time parents and social leaders re-think how to bring gender parity in Arunachal society by enabling both boys and girls to explore and express their potential to the fullest without inhibition or societal fears of artificial restriction by providing a plain playing field. If there is lopsided development and progress based on gender, peace and tranquillity of society will remain elusive. Parents need to teach both their sons and daughters that none of life’s privileges should be taken for granted as their birthright. Everything good in life is an outcome of our efforts; every success story is scripted by sweat, tears, and blood and not by the lineage of our birth.

Parents need to give equal love, attention, and care to both the sons and daughters and tend to them equally with their loving heart and hand before the divide becomes too deep in the development field between men and women of Arunachal.

But then, nothing grows from without, everything grows from within. They say, if an egg is broken from the outside, a life is lost. If an egg is broken from within life is born. So also is the case with our boys. If the fire of desire to succeed in life is not lit from within, no parental guidance or love can help them in succeeding. But if the fire to succeed is lit from within, nothing on earth can stop them from succeeding in life. It is time that the boys pull up their socks and mark their rightful place under the sun by performance. (The contributor is Secretary to GoAP. The views expressed are of the writer and doesn’t reflect the official position at the time of writing this article)