“We’ve begun to raise daughters more like sons… but few have the courage to raise our sons more like our daughters.”-Gloria Steinem
The other day my Sociology professor asked the class? “How do you define a man?”
The responses varied, “strong” “tough” “independent” “good husband” “athletic” etc. What they didn’t say “sensitive” “tender” “imaginative” “good samaritan” “academic”.
I think the gender based inequalities harm both our little boys and girls. We begin to gender children very early. By assigning color codes to distinguish an otherwise completely androgynous being. We discourage them from playing with toys that don’t match their sex. We excuse rough play of males because “boys will be boys” but I say boys can play like girls and girls just like boys.
Where does gender start?
Well, the first question when approaching an infant or pregnant woman is “Oh what is it?”. This question is asked so that the person knows which stock comments to avoid and what gendered compliments are acceptable. Is it really that inappropriate to say “Oh look at those muscles on little Gladys, wouldn’t wanna mess with her” or “Ralphie has such beautiful long lashes, he could model” No. They’re babies at this point they have the ut most potential. Gladys might in fact grow up to become a champion Strongwoman, Ralphie may have the look the fashion world has waited for. My point here is why not just be genuine? Say what you think if you’re going to speak at all not what society has taught you to think. If you are the first to point out the natural and unique qualities of one persons child, you might actually encourage confidence and originality rather than just making some empty small talk.
We are tougher on a small young men and sweet to approaching very young women. These small acts of gendering deeply affect the individual psychology, which in turn perpetuate societal gender stereotypes. By inundating young people with ideas of what is and is not acceptable we force other wise sensitive young males to shut out, “man up” and tell little girls “to hush up” and “be lady like”.
I think the concept of gender-role transcendence or allowing for more androgynous roles is a healthier approach. As human beings we have complex emotions and modes of operation. We tell young men that they may not cry because they look weak, and we are shocked when they become insular and numb, capable of violence. We tell women they may not speak out of turn or be confrontation and we are horrified and confused when they don’t flea or stand up to repeated abuse.
Gender roles are responsible for these seeming illogical acts. Gender constructs breed doubt and fear of alienation.
Helpful Definitions. Sex and gender are not the same.
“Sex” is the biological and physiological characteristics that define men and women. [genitals, hormones so forth]
“Gender“ the socially constructed roles, behaviors, activities, and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for men and women.
I contend the there is a spectrum of gender. I am a female but I have many characteristics that my society deems less than lady like. My boy friend is male and he might not be seen as super manly. People are more than gender prescribed to them and the sex to they are born to. When we impose these standard we dull the qualities that make us who we truly are and leave little room for fulfillment and self discovery.