“A real woman always keeps her house clean and organised, the laundry basket is always empty. She’s always well dressed, hair done. She never swears, behaves gracefully in all situations and all circumstances. She has more than enough patience to take care of her family, always has a smile on her lips, and a kind word for everyone. Post this as your status if you, too, suspect that you might be a man.”
Thus read a friend’s Facebook status message. It was intriguing but not more than the comments that followed. While some women, who suspected that they were ‘men,’ liked the status message, a lone man raised the issue of the adjective “real” which was being used in that message. His comment went thus: “I am just bothered about the adjective “real”. The usage of the term actually makes it “unreal”. If no, why do you need to use it (women are real)?
So x suggests that there is an amount of “unreality” in women. It makes sense if interpreted sensibly. The “unreality” could be a culturally forced phenomenon, like asking you to wear a sari and a blouse probably, or may be asking you to wear girly dress, or may be reinstating a social identity in you. So what she narrates is nothing but what she thinks is unreal. So is “unreal” – undesirable, forced, unlikeness,imaginative or is it something else?
This status message and the comment by that gentleman were my food for thought. Long ago, I had always assumed that biology classified men and women; I was proved wrong when I read Judith Butler, who says that gender is nothing but a performance. Well, I had to take some time to digest Butler’s definition. When I read that status message, I thought, is the opposite of ‘real’ woman only man? Can we try to define the ‘realness’ of a woman by the way she dresses, cooks and engages within the sphere of the house? Ah, does that not sound incredulous? It definitely does.
Some men can cook, keep the house clean and do almost everything a woman does. Does that then classify those men as women? This brings us to the issue of stereotyping women and slotting them in cubes labeled cooking, cleaning and being patient. The status message also brings another argument: If the aforementioned qualities make a woman “real,” then there should also be something called an ‘unreal’ woman. Let’s say that a woman who rides bikes, swears, sits cross-legged, smokes and does things that supposedly only men do, then is she not a “real” woman?
Facebook enables some worthwhile thoughts brewing and this post is but one of them. I think about the women/girls who were gushing when they read the above status message and rushed to hit the LIKE button. I wonder whether they were proud to admit that they weren’t “real” woman. The word “real” makes all the difference, I reckon.
She is an English Instructor in the Central University of Tamil Nadu at Thiruvarur. Having just submitted her PhD thesis on trangenders, she is looking forward to study more on alternate sexualities and identities. Writing is a passion for her and she is learning the art with each piece she writes. And, she is a blogger, immensely enjoying the journey which began in 2008.