Spring is in the air, and I stepped out for a walk in the beautiful setting sun with the elementary school going son. He was telling me about a program that seems to be the craze among his friends: Lego, Ninjago. The program features the Ninja warriors, against evil Lord Garmadon. (I know!)
“Ninjaaaa—goooo!”, said the little fellow and spun around on the spot kicking his legs up in the air. The place he had chosen to do this was not the best, for he stopped mid-way through an intersection to demonstrate Spinjitzu. “That is how they do Spinjitzu Amma. I wonder why they need to say Ninjaaaa-gooo before doing spinjitzu, but they always do that.”
“Well”, I said holding his hands tightly and rushing across the intersection before he spin-jit-zu-ed again, “Maybe it is like a spell, they need to say the word, or they cannot spin like that. Why do they spin so much anyway? Is it like ballet?”I asked.
The horror of my ignorance made him open his eyes wide in disbelief. “Amma! It is not like ballet. It is spin-jit-zu.”
I often prance into these gaffes. It was clear that the Ninjago masters did not appreciate being called ballet dancers, even though their spinjitzu-s looked like ballerinas who stubbed their toes mid-spin.
Knowledge is the antidote to ignorance:
He set about enlightening me after taking a deep breath.“They do spinjitzu to use their powers. Every one has a power. Jai has ?” he looked at me expectantly. I knew the answer was somewhere. I had nodded along on several occasions when he explained the several powers these Ninja masters had.
I so often feel dumb stricken when I am talking to these children. I took a sip of humility and came clean. “Oh! I can never remember these powers. Why don’t you tell me all over again, and I will do my best to remember them, okay?”
Professors can very rarely resist such a humble seeker of knowledge, and so my Elementary-school-Professor launched on his ‘Amazing Superpowers of the Ninjago Masters’ class. I tried my best to listen. I plucked my eyes away from those early blooming cherry blossoms, and the cowslips that usually come up in March, but because of the lack of rain have started showing up now. I pulled my mind back from the scampering squirrels and listened to how Kai could not reach his full potential because he had relationship issues with his father. I looked quizzically at the fellow. “What relationship issues?” I asked amazed.
“Oh they don’t say. Just relationship issues.”
A few more minutes of Walk-Walk-Talk-Talk later, “Then, Lord Garmadon was bitten by the Evil sorcerer, and Evil coursed through his veins.”
“Oh no….his parents must’ve been so sad!”, I said. “What did his mother do?”
The fellow stopped with a quizzical expression on his face. “Umm…he has no mother. I don’t know why, but he doesn’t.”
Where are the Women?
It was as we continued toeing the Ninjago-Spinjitzu line that I asked him why there were no Women in the Ninjago world. His face crinkled with thought. “Hmm – There is Nya! Remember Cole became a Ninja master so he could save his sister Nya?”
I looked at his sincere face, and took a deep breath. I saw it was time for me to become a female Ninja.
I asked him what he thought of his sister. A look of awe crept into his eyes. His older, taller, and wiser teenaged sister? Why? She looks after him, plays with him, imagines the unicorns and horses to play with, and tells him the most amazing Greek myths. “Do you love her?” , I hounded.
“Of course I do!” he said stung that I should ask him that.
“How about Amma? Do you like me?”
I kicked it up a notch.
Tell me your friends. There were a few girls in the list. I made a mental note.
I asked him about his teachers. Amazing women.
Grandmothers and Aunts? Duh! Wonderful women of course!
He laughed and said that he liked them all.
“Now”, I said, “I want you to imagine how you will feel without any of these girls in your life! “
“What? Why?”, he said
“Because that is what those poor Ninjago master-fellows seem to be going through. Don’t you see? “
His face dawned, and then he gave a sheepish smile.
Research shows that our attitudes regarding Genders is formed between the ages of 5 & 6. In some experiments, before the age of 5, children equally selected females and males for various professions, but by the time they were 7, for most careers, they chose men. I am not sure that is not aided and abetted by the programs they watch.
Maybe this is the time to look at all our entertainment choices with a critical eye. If we expect Superman to do everything by himself, why do we think our sons will come to discuss their problems with us? If we consume show after show where Men save the world by going to War, how can we hope for future peace and diplomacy to come easily? Every evening, homes are flooded with soap opera entertainment that glorify women who suffer at the hands of those who should be their intellectual partners and friends.
We all suffer from this bias.
In a few weeks time, we will celebrate International Women’s Day. We shall go agog for a day or two celebrating all the great achievements of Women in Science, Women in Literature, Women in Leadership and so on. Instead of just stopping and acknowledging the Women in our lives. The ones who make life what it is with their friendship, camaraderie and companionship.
For Women’s Day, I suppose we could learn to embrace the androgyny in all of us. We all have estrogen and testosterone in our bodies after all, just in different proportions.
I looked at the fellow again, and he said, “Wait! Nya also became a Ninja later in the series. She is a girl-Ninja now.”
“Good!” I said, and peace was restored in our world.