When we read this article by 14-year old Chloe Drougas about gender we liked it so much we asked The Big Smoke if we could republish it. They said yes!...
Every time we see someone riding a motorcycle we assume, without looking closely, that they are male. Why?
It is because we have this idea that women aren’t strong enough to handle such a “manly” and powerful vehicle embedded in our minds. And even though this notion is ridiculous it is still what we think. I shouldn’t be able to write an article on this, this is a problem we needed to fix ages ago, like stopping a baby with a bad habit.
Gender stereotypes and expectations are equally distributed among women and men, even if you don’t think so. They come in many different ways, they can be silent and not as obvious – such as the fact it’s more accepted for women to wear both boys and girls clothing than it is for men – or prominent, like the idea that women are below or weaker than men, which we address more often.
Image credit: Pinterest
Gender roles are based on norms, or standards, created by society, that everyone is under enormous pressure to conform to. One of the crazy things, however, is that these stereotypes aren’t even, at the least, based on any or natural gender differences. Men can be just as caring and nurturing as anyone.
But women have been given these caring character traits and jobs such as nursing, teaching and childcare. Society doesn’t let men show their caring and nurturing side openly, deeming it as not “manly” or a trait that is not acceptable in large doses for men. For example at my primary school there are only two male teachers in our co-educational school. In my high school it is still mainly female dominated and that seems to be the case at most schools. I also don’t know any male babysitters or childcare workers but as for females I can’t say the same thing; I know countless.
From birth, we are brainwashed to follow these ideals and believe it is normal instead of making our own choices and having our own individual preferences. While things are changing, it’s all taking far too long. We automatically put female babies in pink and males in blue, hospitals even colour code while a baby is in the womb.
But it is fascinating to know that these colour associations with gender have not always been the same. Until the start of the 20th century, pink was actually for boys and blue was for girls. This just goes to show how ridiculous and made up these stereotypes are.
Also, according to the natural form of human bodies, it is more comfortable and healthier for men to wear loose-fitting clothing such as robes and skirts as it gives their body parts more airflow and leaves them less constricted, as they naturally should be.
Imagine a blue-eyed child being told, “No Daniel, don’t play with that, it’s for brown-eyed children.” You would laugh or tell that parent they are being inconsiderate or unreasonable.
I guess the Scottish, ancient Greeks and Romans knew what they were doing. Even now some Scots wear kilts, and Arabic and Indian men wear very loose trousers or robes. We have all seen those movies like Hunger Games and Divergent where people are brainwashed to live a certain life and believe certain untrue things. When we see this, most of us are flabbergasted, recognise it and maybe even are surprised the characters can’t realise the truth. But we are undergoing such similar things and just letting it pass right under our noses.
We are living this same type of movie.
However one of the worst things is that in this movie of ours, if the characters don’t follow these stereotypes, they are bullied, abused and are classified as crazy. Although the newer generations are starting to be nicer and more aware of people who don’t conform or who decide to be themselves and not a part of these stereotypes, it isn’t anywhere near even satisfactory.
I used to have pretty short hair, almost like the standard “boy” cut. But one time when one of my relatives (not my immediate family), first saw my short hair told me that they wouldn’t love me with my hair short because of some stupid reason such as I wasn’t like a girl or wasn’t feminine enough. Me, being the feisty 11-year-old I was, fired back. I said that I didn’t want their love if it would be held back for such an ignorant and superficial reason.
If I wasn’t such a stubborn and emotionally strong kid, that would have crushed me. How horrible would it be to be told that you wouldn’t be loved because you didn’t conform to these boring stereotypes?
It would hurt.
Everything influences these ideas such as environment, family, school, media and there are even inconspicuous influences we don’t notice.
Studies show that children are aware of gender roles by age two or three; at four or five, the majority of children are built in their appropriate gender roles.
Parents often give children the acceptable toys, influenced by what they know, advertising and peers. They praise correct play and say things like “No Daniel, don’t play with that, it’s for girls.” But where in the rules of life did it say that having a certain body structure means you have to dress, be named, act or play in a certain way? Imagine a blue-eyed child being told, “No Daniel, don’t play with that, it’s for brown-eyed children.” You would laugh or tell that parent they are being inconsiderate or unreasonable.
On another point, still to this day I have very hairy legs which I don’t shave. I constantly get asked, something along the lines of “Don’t you want boys to like you?” To which I reply, “I want boys to like me (as I point to myself) for me (as I point to my legs). This is what I am, what I like. He isn’t worth it if he can’t get over it. To ask out of curiosity is fine but in a way that shuns it, not cool.
Looks aren’t important (and life is not all about getting the boy/girl), it is the personality that really counts and once you fall in love with someone platonically or in a relationship you see them as the beautiful person they are, just the way we look at our parents or children.
My legs are not a disgrace or disgusting, it’s how all humans were born. I’d understand if you didn’t like how I dress but all women are natural with hair on their legs as all men are natural with hair on their face. Everyone wonders and asks why I have hair on my legs but they don’t ask the man with a beard.
If we had just always accepted it, hairy legs on a female would just seem like the norm, which it is. And it’s okay to be a person who is true to themselves. Whatever or whoever you are.
Stereotypes are just made up, everyone deserves equal rights, and everyone should aim to be a good person, no matter who you are or what stereotypes tell you to do. Don’t conform, be happy.
My children, whether boys or girls, are going to be called Reid and Floyd. They will wear whatever they fancy, in any colour they crave, play any game they want (with what they want) and have whatever friends or partners they desire.
Because whether we are boy or girl, short, tall, blue-eyed, brown-eyed, cruel or kind…we are all humans, aren’t we? There are no rules apart from made up, silly ones stopping us from being who we are.
This article was published as part of a series from The Big Smoke's TBS Next Gen program. The article was republished on TheBigSmoke.com.au and is reprinted with permission.