Kids Corner


The Ideal Sikh Man:
The Roundtable Open Forum # 101





Earlier, I’ve written a lot about how American and Punjabi cultures can make it difficult for a woman to be a strong Sikh and follow the Khalsa path, but I haven’t yet addressed the challenges these cultures present to Singhs.

I’m not referring to the beard or the turban. Everyone knows that the journey of sporting the Singh bana has many trials, tribulations, and triumphs. Rather, I am talking about Singhs being discouraged from incorporating “feminine qualities,” into their persona.

In my opinion, a true Sikh should not simply embrace “feminine” or “masculine” characteristics. A true Sikh should not try to be a “perfect woman,” or a “perfect man.” Why? Because these traits and terms are transient, fluctuate with time, place, and culture, and may run contrary to Sikh ideals.

A true Sikh should strive to embrace divine characteristics. Timeless qualities. Traits that could be termed as masculine or feminine.

For example, kindness, compassion, patience, and love are generally identified as being “feminine” traits. But a Singh without these qualities cannot find peace within himself, will have a more difficult time connecting with Waheguru, and will not be the best asset to his panth.

When Sikhs highlight and reduce a woman’s qualities to “nurturing, gentle, and sensitive,” we not only limit the woman’s role and perceived value, but we inadvertently excuse men’s responsibility from developing these characteristics, and we simultaneous fail to celebrate those Singhs who have embraced these traits. It’s not fair to Singhs to approach gender in such a narrow manner.

Think about a hero or a role model who is a male.

In your mind, list the qualities he has. Keep that list in your mind.

Here’s my list of how I remember my dada ji (paternal grandfather): strong, sensitive, caring, loving, patient, nurturing, gentle, and a beautiful soul.

Now, review your words. Were they “Masculine”? “Feminine”? Both? Genderless?  Interestingly, most of the words I chose, and perhaps you chose too, are “feminine.” I feel that doesn’t make my dada ji less of a man, but more of a good human.

I believe that the Gurus strove to create Kaurs and Singhs who embody the same qualities as each other. A Sikh should be caring, loving, strong, brave, courageous, driven, determined, nurturing etc.; a blend of good “masculine,” and good “feminine” qualities.

The best of both worlds.

Both men and women suffer from being handed a historical cultural script. A script is a cultural phenomenon that outlines behaviors, characteristics, and expectations of each gender that they should follow in order for society to accept and value them.

Unfortunately, this creates a gender prison. The Sikh Panth needs to break out of the prison and help Singhs and Kaurs achieve sovereignty from this script so they may follow the un-gendered role our Gurus prescribed.

According to the American (and perhaps Punjabi) masculine script, men are supposed to be aggressive, competitive, objective, controlled, rational, unemotional, strong, powerful, invulnerable, skeptical and tough.

Some of these qualities are anti-Sikh.

An unemotional Singh cannot fall in love with creation. An aggressive Singh may have too much krodh (anger) resulting in poor decisions. The masculine script is internalized for so long that it is often hidden from one’s conscious awareness and yet it diminishes and devalues men. It emphasizes men’s differences from women leaving them less able to connect with and learn from the experiences of women. Singhs and Kaurs need to be able to connect with each other to create a flourishing, inclusive Panth.

Dar Williams has a wonderful song called, “When I was a Boy,” where she draws on her childhood experiences as a tomboy to muse on gender roles and how they limit boys and girls, who then become limited men and women. In the last stanza, she sings from the point of view of a man who looks back at his childhood and calls himself “a girl.” He calls himself a girl because as a young boy he could embody “girlish,” qualities and it was socially acceptable. But as an adult man, he cannot.

The stanza ends with the man saying girls and boys are more similar than men and women because the gender script isn’t solidified until later in life.

When I was a girl, my mom and I we always talked
And I picked flowers everywhere that I walked.
And I could always cry, now even when I’m alone I seldom do
And I have lost some kindness
But I was a girl too.
And you were just like me, and I was just like you

As noted above, a man may feel sad, he is not supposed to cry. The script has robbed men of a sensitive, human side.

Lastly, the American masculine script can hurt our Singhs by placing unreasonable expectations upon them. For example, Singhs are expected get an honorable job and make lots of money. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to make lots of money, but on one hand, a Singh is supposed to be independent, to pursue his own vision, and forge his own path… and on the other hand, if he chooses a path that isn’t paved with gold, if he chooses job satisfaction instead, or opts for a happy home life, or nomadic travel, or to be a stay at home dad over financial gain, he is considered to be a let down.

Limiting life choices and happiness through social pressure can have drastically negative psychological effects on our Singhs.

In conclusion, when we think about equality in Sikh society, we should not forget our Singhs and their suppressed “feminine” side.

Next time, I will write about Kaurs and “masculine” traits!


What are your thoughts on the aforesaid? Please post your comments below.


[Courtesy: Kaur Thoughts. Edited for]

August 30, 2013

Conversation about this article

1: R Singh (Canada), August 30, 2013, 7:37 AM.

Did God not create genders? Why does anyone have to be gender-free to be a prefect being? This is going off on a tangent, fogetting that it is a journey that one seeks to commune with the Truth, whichever way one sees fit. Guru Granth provides us the pointers, we still need to chalk out our plans. Why should we not operate within our physical parameters as bestowed on us by nature and still be perfect?

2: Harinder (Punjab), August 30, 2013, 10:25 AM.

People should be allowed to be what they want to be, or what they are. It really does not matter because as such we are such transient creatures in this huge universe we inhabit. It would be sheer hypocrisy to try to be what you are not designed to be by Waheguru. Let Waheguru alone be the friend, philosopher and guide of a Sikh. Let us not try to be middle-men between Waheguru and his creation.

3: Baldev Singh (Bradford, United Kingdom), August 30, 2013, 5:37 PM.

Extremely important and thought provoking article because many a Sikh man has lost track of the plot!

4: Kulwant Singh Kang (Oakville, Ontario, Canada), August 30, 2013, 5:46 PM.

I believe both R. Singh ji and Harinder ji are missing the point. I don't think the author is asking men to be like women or women to be men. It's about having the qualities promoted by the Sikh Gurus, which unfortunately have been "genderized" by society. How can you be Sikh (not "a Sikh") if you are not compassionate, emotional, nurturing, caring? Who says that these qualities are mutually exclusive from being strong, aggressive, competetive, objective, skeptical, etc? There is a time and place for each of these traits to be used. The key is to know when. I think Guru Nanak exhibited the best of these qualities at one time or the other!

5: Mohan Singh (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), September 01, 2013, 7:49 AM.

Our soul is the image of God. According to gurbani, the One God is our Mother and Father. He has endowed us with both the motherly and fatherly qualities. Both men and women need to awaken these complementary powers within themselves. Generally, intellectually centered men and emotionally centered women need to fill up the gap with the unifying factor of true spirituality. The spirituality practiced by the majority of us is reactionary. Dry intellect and knowledge is seriousness, and seriousness is devoid of real joy. Therefore, to awaken joy in life, it's essential to strike a balance.

6: Fateh Singh (Canada), September 05, 2013, 10:44 AM.

Sant Jarnail Singh was asked by a swami what will you do if someone is about to burn a baby before your eyes. The swami told Sant ji that he believed that Sant ji would cry and be emotional. But Sant ji responded by saying: "I will do everything in my strength to save that child. If my hands are tied behind my back and I can't get out of the hold, then I will accept it as Waheguru's hukam." Sant ji finished by saying it is not in our nature to cry ... this crying business is only in your (referring to the swami) nature. We (the Khalsa) act ... and accept His Hukam. Guru Arjan told us: "Once I leave this world, do not cry, but celebrate with the singing of gurbani as I am going to my beloved Master." Compassion does not come by being emotional, but by realizing who resides in every single being in the world.

7: Jasmeen (Sydney, Australia), September 10, 2013, 3:36 AM.

Amazing article! Extremely thought provoking. I would be eagerly waiting for the next one. Happiness is a state of mind and our traits depicts our state of mind. Good human qualities will always lead us to a happy path of life.

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The Roundtable Open Forum # 101"

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