Even before you are born society has decided how to shape you. People after hearing you are pregnant want to know-is it a boy or a girl? We have gender reveal parties and have decided to assign pink for girls and blue for boys. I recently tried to buy a card for a friend who was becoming a grandma- no cards for that out there so a bit of a market for future Hallmark writers, but I did noticed how many cards proudly proclaimed "It's a girl" all in lovely pastel pinks, or "Its a boy" in blues. I am pretty sure the new parents have already had a peek at their baby's genitalia and know what gender their baby is! Don't think they need a card to tell them.
Then we have the other spectrum of that "Boys will be Boys" because, you know, it's not their fault or responsibility when they say or do the wrong thing. They can't help it, not because of the fact they have a penis between their legs but because we didn't prepare them for the real world. We haven't taught them to be responsible for their actions, a large portion of society still think it's the girls job to dress yet and act right because boys can't help themselves.
Growing up as a child people frequently referred to me as a tomboy. I never knew what that meant. Typically the term tomboy conjures an image of a girl in shorts and a tee-shirt, sporting short hair and bare feet. She probably likes to spend a lot of her time outdoors exploring her world. Sounds very much like a child to me! The term “tomboy” first appeared, in the mid-16th century and it actually was a name given to boys who were considered rude and boisterous. But by the 1590's, the word underwent a shift towards a more feminine usage: usually a wild romping girl who acts like a spirited boy, That is my kind of kid!
I was also told I wasn't being lady-like. Apparently I didn't sit right, dress right and speak right. To this day I do not want to be called a lady as it conjures up a persona I do not relate to at all. Growing up I often felt wrong and that the way I dressed, spoke and behaved was to make sure I didn't make the males around me uncomfortable. This kind of forced genderism affects boys also. Clementine Ford in her book "Boys will be Boys" discusses how toxic masculinity is, well toxic, to the young men in our society. How many times have we heard "Grow a pair", "Man up" , "Don't be a sissy, a pussy, a wimp." Always in relation to a male showing sensitivity or emotion.
Kate Manne, author of "Down Girl" discusses how misogyny is prevalent in our whole systems and that they are organised around gendered forms of inequality and domination, a heteronormative economy in which men are asymmetrically entitled to certain goods and women are expected to provide them. This makes it very difficult for women to break through into the "man's world". As mothers we need to be very careful about how we raise our sons so that they are aware of their privilege and support the women in their lives.
So how can we raise a child and not impose a gender role on them? Studies I have read say that children don’t begin to categorise their gender until the age of 2 or 3. Society starts the moment they are conceived so typically by that age we have already bombarded them with messages about who they are and how they should behave.
And don't get me started on the vast difference between male and female products! Ever been to a hairdresser and noticed the huge difference between the cost of a cut. Fair enough if you have a wash and blow wave or colouring. But I literally sit my butt in that chair for 10 minutes for a trim and thin and get charged $20 or more than the guy in the chair next to me who has the same thing. Check out the supermarket and look at the difference between male and female deodorant products, razors, shaving cream. It goes on and on. School uniforms- you pay twice as much for a girls uniform than you do for a boys! Why do they have to be different even?
See list of attached strategies you can use to raise your child without imposing gender roles onto them.
I raised 4 sons and 2 daughters I hope that they have been gifted with the ability to show and share their emotions. I am so grateful to the next generation of young people who, for the most part, seem to be far more open-minded to diversity and willing to stand up for one another. We have a long way to go but I feel hopeful we are heading in the right direction.
And always books that promote gender equality