Gender Roles

(To the people who read my blog from other parts of the world, I must apologize. I only know that what I am about to say is true of North America. I do not know if it’s true elsewhere).

I often sit and wonder how many of us are aware of the indoctrination that occurs in North American society regarding gender. Playing a role in our day-to-day lives, in part dictating how we act, is the preconceived notion of what it means to be a man vs a woman. It is a fact that we as human beings identify ourselves in relation to “the other.” It is how we distinguish and separate ourselves and it can be both harmful and helpful. In the case of gender roles, we have assigned qualities and characteristics that do not appear to be inherently present.

When a baby is born, families will buy things that are blue for a boy, and pink for a girl (and some go with neutral colours like yellow). Throughout their lives boys are expected to be strong, good at problem solving, and sure of themselves. In the toy store, they are expected to gravitate toward guns, monster trucks, G.I. Joe, and everything camouflage. Boys wear pants, typically have short hair, and love to play outdoors where they can get dirty. Girls, on the other hand, are expected to be weaker (somewhat submissive), better at language arts than problem solving, and insecure without constant reassurance. In the toy store, girls are expected to gravitate toward plastic kitchen sets, princess costumes, Barbie dolls, and everything pink. Girls can wear pants but are told they look best in dresses, can have short hair but are told it looks best long, and do not enjoy getting dirty. These expectations follow us through childhood, the teenage years, and adulthood … until they are ultimately passed on to the next generation.

I know what some of you are thinking. “But my daughter really does love pink! What’s wrong with that?” Nothing is wrong with that, in fact loving pink is great! I love pink … wait … I’m a boy … what’s that about?

All my life, my favourite colour has been pink. When I was about 11 years old, my mother told me I was no longer allowed to wear my favourite pink t-shirt, and that I was going to have to pick a favourite colour more suited to a boy. I was devastated. I had always been taught that blue was for boys and pink was for girls, but I couldn’t help the fact that I was drawn to pink. My mother had been concerned that if people knew that I liked a “girl colour” they would think I was gay. She was probably right, and therein lies the problem. When a person is picked on or viewed as “lesser than” because they like something outside of the gender norm, there exists an ideological flaw that must be addressed. My preference for pink in no way affects my sexual orientation or any other part of my personhood.

Think for a second and ask yourself, “are the majority of men really dominant and the majority of women submissive? Is there an inherent quality that can be accurately described as ‘woman’s intuition?’ Are most women more caring and therefore better suited to parenthood? Are most men more self-assured and confident? Are men generally better drivers? Are most men more aggressive than women?” If you take the time to consider these questions in all sincerity, truly think about human behaviour and interaction, and answer honestly, you will come to the conclusion that there exists between the genders a balance. The qualities that we have historically assigned to men and women are not inherent in either gender … they are inherent in individuals of both genders. Ideas of what it means to be a “real man,” and a “real woman” are demonstrably wrong. The reason it seems that men and women are so different is because we are told we are different from the time of conception. When something is accepted and taught on such a grand scale, people accept it as truth whether they feel it or not. Most of us don’t want to be odd, and that desire to fit in is what encourages and upholds the gender paradigms of any given society.

It is the year 2013. To the boys who love pink and the girls who love blue, we should be saying “good for you.” To the girls who like to play in the dirt and the boys who want a Malibu Barbie for Christmas, we should be encouraging. We must never attempt to inhibit personal expression just because traditional gender roles say that it’s wrong or unnatural. If you are still in disagreement, ask yourself this: if you had a son who liked dressing up as a princess, would you rather he (A) pretended to conform to gender expectations and lived a miserable life unable to be himself, or (B) expressed himself in ways most comfortable to him and lived happy and secure with his personal identity? Sadly, the choice of most parents is (A). Consequently, the choice of many children who live outside the gender norm is self-destruction and suicide.

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