Published on March 15, 2021

Ahmedabad: The very popular Gujarati rhyme ‘Ek Biladi Jadi…’ (One Fat Cat), when seen from the gender lens, can feel wrong at so many levels – from fat-shaming to showing the perils of going/ stepping out of the ‘safe’ confines of home. But it’s not just one instance, claim a study by Batul Kakkai, a doctoral student at the School of Liberal Studies (SLS) at Pandit Deendayal Energy University (PDEU), along with Prof Nigam Dave, director of SLS.

The researchers, who studied over 150 rhymes from English, Hindi and Gujarati, said that several of these renditions are age-old and are passed from one generation to another. While it might not have the same connotations as today, given the role of rhymes in the initial education and socio-emotional development of a child, some awareness from teachers and parents can go a long way in ensuring a healthier society.

“Rhymes are the introduction to language and society for the toddlers. Thus, done right, it can go a long way to make the society free of assigning specific roles to specific genders,” said Prof Dave.

For example, ‘What little girls are made of?’ goes, ‘Sugar and spice, and everything nice.’ The rhyme ‘Smiling girls, identifies ‘brave young boys.’ Likewise, the researchers give example of ‘There was an old woman who lived in a shoe, she had so many children, she didn’t know what to do.’

“Even some animals are strictly put in the gender box – one might not think of a sparrow or fish as a male or elephant or crocodile as female. The gender roles such as cooking, cleaning, etc. are also explained through the characters,” added Prof Dave.

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