gender roles

“That’s not ladylike!”
“You can’t do/like that, you’re a girl.””Let <male pronoun> do that, you’ll hurt yourself.”
“You <verb> like a girl!”
“Since when do girls <verb>??”
“You’re pretty cool… for a girl.”
“Whoa, you’re like the only girl who does that/knows about that!”
“You’re much more/less <adjective> than that girl.”

Sound familiar?

I’m sure it does, but it shouldn’t.

If you are a female you’re already painfully aware of how we’re viewed. If you’re a male I’m sure you unconsciously have said at least one of these things in your lifetime. You may be plenty aware of this issue as well, however not on a personal level to the extent that women are. I promise I’m not trying to say anything negative towards men; just stating that it’s not as likely that these things bother men on a personal level (since they have their own “tough guy” standards to live up to; also unfair).

From infancy females are raised to believe they need to act differently than males and vice versa. Pink vs blue, dinosaurs vs princesses, Barbies vs Legos, makeovers vs cars, secretary vs CEO, etc. Thankfully, the American society is finally beginning to stray from those ideas but we have a very long way to go from where we are now. I’m going to throw out a few personal anecdotes that I believe I should not have had to put up with in my life.

As a five year old I was playing dress up with the other girls (the boys were playing outside in the dirt; where I much rather wanted to be) when we were suddenly corralled and told we had to leave soon. The zipper on my elaborate, over-sized dress was stuck and the girls had all already changed. (Although I was participating with them, I wasn’t “girly enough” to really be favored by any of them.) I asked a boy to unzip me since my babysitter also could not be found. He politely did so to and neither of us thought twice about it. I simply needed help and he provided it with no hidden motives or teasing. My babysitter found out and went off on how improper it is for me to let a male touch me, god forbid UNDRESS me, without anyone to oversee it. He and I were both incredibly confused as to why we got put in time out for that. My point for this story is that adults may see things sexually but they should not force sexual ideas on to kids like this when we had no idea what crushes or romance entailed yet. Some adults exploit this innocence in some unfortunate cases to gain sexual favors at the kids’ ignorance. Adults need to understand that kids that age should not be forced in to sex specific roles or restrictions. From that point on I learned that boys’ attention was something to fawn over and crave rather than to appreciate like they are a human being as I am.

Another young incident was being told during recess that I can’t like Goosebumps because I’m a girl and that I should be reading Babysitter’s Club instead. The little boy had no idea what he was planting in my mind for the rest of my life. I was pen pals with R. L. Stine (yes, he wrote me back every time). Who is this little ninny to tell me I can’t enjoy the horror genre as a girl when he is not even interested in it as a boy? I can only wonder how his parent(s)/guardian(s) spoke around him at that young of an age. Again, adults should not be enforcing their gender ideals on to children. It spreads farther than just their family and can be damaging to some unaware classmate enjoying their book during recess. If we as a society want equality it is essential to teach the next generation that they can like whatever the hell they want to like.

Moving on to more recent times; I must say I was absolutely baffled that a lot of the men in my life (friends, romantic partner, family) had no idea at all that the US is one of two countries in the world that does not pay for maternity leave. Women are expected to be back at work within two weeks. Two weeks. Not only is this insanity unfair, but men should care for a lot of reasons. The mother of their children can’t care for their children in early developmental stages without taking severe financial cutbacks. The father figure will then be expected to cover all missed income. Not to mention the lack of maternity leave leaves zero chance of paternity leave. Fathers should be just as privileged to spend time with their newborn babies as the mothers are.

Another shocker recently; my boyfriend had no idea that every single woman carries a weapon or a makeshift weapon on her person at all times in case of sexual violence. He didn’t even believe me until I showed him statistics and an art project where women were asked what they carry for defense and photographed. [What Women Carry To Protect Themselves] It doesn’t matter what you look like or what you wear; it is highly likely you will get assaulted. No one wants to believe it, but it is the unfortunate and sad truth that I face every single time I am outside of my home at night. Thankfully I have not been a victim, but that isn’t for others’ lack of trying. I have been very lucky to escape certain situations (yes, multiple) in my life that could have permanently changed me for the worse.

I don’t have a main point here, this was mainly rambling, but if you want a sense of closure take this point:
Raising awareness of the issues we all face is the first step in creating enough empathy and outrage to fix it. Don’t tell your kids “oh he just likes you” or “she deserved it” and definitely do NOT use gender as a reason to praise or insult another human being. Use their accomplishments or their actions. Don’t raise another generation of sexism.

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