In India, I think a lot more about my identities. I am much more aware of my race and gender.
When I walk on the streets I get stared at a lot. Sometimes, I feel a bit like a zoo animal. People will come up to me and ask to shake my hand or take a picture with me. At first I noticed it a lot. It bothered me, but now I just keep walking. It has become part of the routine.
As a woman, I never realized how much freedom I had at home. It’s not that women here legally don’t have the same rights as men it’s just the customs are different. At home, I walk home late at night by myself. Here, I can’t. In India, I have to wear long skirts or pants. I can’t just throw on a pair of jean shorts and a t-shirt. But the thing that shocks me the most is the way that people talk about gender roles. I have had so many conversations about men being “better innovators” and women being “better in the kitchen.” These same conversations happen at home, but usually the women don’t agree with the men when they say these things. On the flip side, I’ve definitely met some hardcore feminists here. It’s just the way the conversation plays out is much different than at home.
Not that I agree with it, but I feel I understand the conservative perspective (about gender roles) better now. I think there is a worry here that if men and women both go to work who will take care of the family. I think this is a valid worry. To me, I believe we can achieve a balanced household without constraining women to the home. It’s not about men versus women. It’s about creating a team that utilizes the strengths of all people regardless of their gender. It’s about freeing women and men to be who they are, not who society has prescribed them to be.