Monday, October 25, 2010

Gender & Identity Lab

Ooops, I have not written for so long and my apologies.  Many stories are waiting to be told and muh sharing is waiting at the doorstep.  I have been busy with very little breaks in between to give the right amount of focus and attention to the blog.  My apologies :-(
But I do want to share with you an interesting program that I and some of my colleagues will be facilitating in Bangalore next month.  It is called Gender and Identity.  The idea is to explore how we are influenced by our ideas of who we are and a very significant portion of "who am I" is coded in  our ideas of the kind of Man or Woman that we believe we are or we wish to be.
I am giving below an excerpt from the brochure to give you some details of what will be explored in this program.  Do write to me if you are interested to attend or simply with your comments about what do you think about the idea.

The Program

What does being a man or woman mean to us?

The meanings that we give to being a man or a woman are extremely significant in how we look at ourselves, and how we perceive and relate with others in the world.
Traditionally, the meanings given to gender were predominantly defined by the social roles associated with them. However, advancements in technology have influenced the social fabric in such a way that it has considerably reduced the need for gender to be a significant determinant of these roles. The polarities here are traditional values and socio-technical parameters.
In other words, our social identity is becoming increasingly gender neutral. This brings in a welcome relief from the traditional stereotypes of gender roles. It is therefore not surprising that many people today feel more comfortable being a ‘person’ rather than being a ‘man’ or a ‘woman’. However, since this transition is not seamless, people also find themselves struggling with values that have been inherited and new ones that are being created in the changing world around them.

This creates considerable confusion in our personal, work and community spaces about a very basic question:

What does being a “man” or a “woman” really mean to us and it’s impact on our role taking processes?

This question is especially relevant when we hold gender stereotypes within and yet function from a platform of gender neutrality, which seems to have become the new norm.

The answers perhaps lie in looking at how we derive the meanings we give to our gender.

The Concept feminine and masculine

In our understanding this meaning making is derived from three significant sources: -
a) our personal history, particularly in respect to our encounters with significant others, i.e. family members, close relationships both in personal as well as work/secondary spaces;
b) our socio-cultural symbols associated with masculinity and femininity through direct experience and through the world of myths, folktales and folklore, language, history, media, politics and literature; and

c) our bio existential associations with our gender.

In our opinion, femininity and masculinity are abstract concepts, not the qualities, traits or energies of biological men and women. The principles of femininity and masculinity are configured in our psyche through various symbols and are held uniquely by each of us. These symbols, through their unique configuration in each individual offer their share of myths, perceptions, dilemmas and confusions. These, then, shape our day-to-day role taking processes in our personal and work spaces.

In this context, this program will provide the participants an opportunity to explore:
The individualized, unique meanings of our gender roles and images of our selves and our bodies.
The ways in which we relate to significant others in our relationships; the meanings and rules we develop around these relationships – in personal and in workspaces.
Our internal values frames about morality, sexuality, intimacy, etc
Residues of aggression, guilt, joy, shame, etc and their impact on codes of expression,
evocation and inhibition.
And, the opportunity of creating a new perspective and a new anchorage in our gendered identity. This then may lead to new frames about the human context in personal as well as work/group/community spaces.

For Whom
This program is meant for people interested in exploring these issues; and may be particularly relevant for men and women who are working as Change Agents, Institution Builders and Leaders in the field of Management, Art and Social Services, especially in the area of Gender Diversity.

If you wish to know more, please visit or contact me at 

Do let me know what you think of the idea.

Friday, October 01, 2010

continuity - on the move

We have been touring North India currently  and I have been fascinated by the land, the people and the culture.  More fascinated by the smaller unknown places, people and their little stories.  Presenting one such here:
On the national highway between Chandigarh and Amritsar lies this dhaba which is quite famous in its own way ... the owner proudly told us that cricketer Harbhajan Singh came in the just the other night as he had heard about the place.
We stopped to have so have some tea and breakfast on our way to Amritsar ... the dhaba is teaming with people - all men except two elderly ladies who are sitting there with their family.  As one enters the dhaba, the men unashamedly stare ... not lewdly, just plain simple staring .. no big city like codes of conduct here.  They check you out especially you happen to be a female, not attired in the traditional dress codes of the land and also don't look like them.  No other mal intention here, one just has to get used to being stared at.

The dhaba owner is in his thirties, busy receiving payments and ordering his stuff.  His 8 year old son plays around nearby. We just asked for the boy's name, and out came the story of his family, history of the dhaba, his desire for sending his sons to Australia for higher study because "wohan pe padne wala course bhi acchhe hai ji aur banda ka life bhi settle ho jata hain".  Solid and simple logic.  I wondered whether he has been reading the newspaper about all the "beat up the Indian guy" syndrome there but he seemed so happy at the prospect of sending his sons there, that I decided against it.

On one corner were these two big cauldrons which were on slow fire and were revolving making khoy or rabri (thick milk) while another chap was busy mixing up besan or ground lentils with water and other herbs.

The road in front is busy but had a soothing feel about it, tall trees with shades lined up the road like an avenue, the dhaba had a scene of happy and un hurried chattering, being together kind of feel about it. In front was the green green fields of punjab, spreading into the yonder.

The dhaba has been there for 25 years - started by the owner's father.  He seems quite content with his life and yet have dreams in his eyes for his sons.  I wondered, if I ever came back after ten years or so, who would I see at the counter? would it be one of his sons or would it change hands?

I wished his all the best and walked out .. to another city, to meet some other new people.