Soha And Kunal: Parenting Should Avoid Gender Indoctrination
NEW DELHI, (IANS) – “One should avoid using gender to define a job, play, or any other activity. We’re all products of the social conditioning we’ve received because of our upbringing”, say actors Soha Ali Khan and Kunal Khemu.
A one-day #WeSeeEqual Summit hosted by Procter & Gamble India brought together influencers from the government, corporate sector, media, and entertainment industries to discuss gender equality issues ranging from driving equality in education and economic opportunities to LGBTQ+ inclusion at work and shaping today’s generation for an equal tomorrow.
Q: To begin, what does gender equality mean to both of you?
Soha: Gender equality means that there are no rules that are specific to men or women. They are things that you share equally. A woman is as valid in the workplace as a man is in a domestic scenario. We’ve incorporated gender equality in our parenting style as well, by avoiding defining individual roles as per the criteria of gender norms. We share the parenting load equally and there are no tasks that are segregated by gender.
In fact, I try to do what I enjoy more like reading bedtime stories or taking Inaaya for Bootcamp classes and doing workouts together. And Kunal does what he enjoys more like cooking for her because they both are such foodies. We try to also ensure that when it comes to the way we behave around Inaaya to the way that we do our tasks, duties, and our chores, she sees Kunal and me as equals, as equal partners, as both of us go to work and enjoy our work and at the same time we both enjoy parenting and the different things that it involves.
Q: Do you think that including LGBTQ+ people in the workplace and other activities will help to end gender inequality? If not, what additional steps do you believe are required?
Kunal: To answer your question, including the LGBTQ+ people in the workplace, and similar such activities may not help in ending gender inequality because you must make sure that you know organizations and individuals are not doing it out of the guilt factor, but it is a step in that direction. What’s of utmost importance is for people to be open to accepting it.
Not just physically, but also mentally and emotionally. People at large need to be accepting of the community and the moment it starts becoming normal is the moment we will be able to accurately navigate the steps to move in that direction. But yes, it is one of the steps, which is important in the process, but it must come from the right place.
Q: Soha, you’ve often talked about your parenting style. What actions do you take to instill kindness in Inaaya?
Soha: In terms of our parenting style, Kunal and I share the load equally and there are no tasks that are segregated by gender. In fact, I try to do what I enjoy more, and Kunal does what he enjoys more. He has a keen sense of style and they both enjoy dressing up so they both choose her outfits for school together and try new hairstyles. One habit that we really wished to develop is for Inaaya to be around animals while behaving respectful to them and extending kindness to them and now she really loves them. It’s small habits like these.
The little things we do at home to instill the right habits in Inaaya. We also make sure that we take care about how we behave around Inaaya, things like watching our language and trying to use gender-neutral language. We must also encourage interactions by having play dates with girls and boys playing together. Inaaya’s friends come over, which includes both boys and girls and they play together in a healthy and kind manner.
Q: What is it that Innaya picked up on subconsciously from your parenting style that blew your mind?
Kunal: We are bringing Inaaya up in a way that we feel will contribute to her becoming the best version of herself. This involves a lot of listening to her and understanding what it is that she wants, instead of constantly saying no to her requests. We give her a lot of choices that are healthy for her development, and she can choose from these options. We follow a form of child-led parenting.
Some things that are non-negotiable for me are things like bedtime because I do feel it’s important for her to go to bed at the right time so that she’s well-rested and wakes fresh the next day. This has become a habitual pattern which Inaaya has adapted to and adheres to going off to sleep at an appropriate time, daily. This ultimately benefits all of us. We’ve also habituated Inaaya to healthy foods from a young age and she enjoys indulging in a range of nutritious food options. From time to time, we also provide her with desserts and treats that are not always healthy. She understands that and likes to try new foods while enjoying a wide range of tastes when it comes to her palate.