Wednesday, December 4, 2013
I grew up socialized to be female. I was incredibly uncomfortable with this. Sure, I enjoyed playing dress up and wearing skirts and make up, but every once in a while I also wanted a nice suit, and I was never interested in playing with dolls or playing house. I'd rather be out in the mud playing with trucks. Let me tell you, there was hell to pay when I first shaved my head, as "Girls are supposed to have long hair." And then when my high school sweetheart dumped me, I got the "well, what do you expect? Boys want girls who act like girls." Fast forward a few years, when I've moved out and am going to college. Dating different girls, and one dumps me for not being "femme" enough. What the heck? Even in the lesbian community, there are rules and standards for how "girly" I'm supposed to be?
Why are there so many rules about what makes a "real" woman, or a "real" man?
And how do we establish these rules? WHY do we establish them?
Everyone likes to blame "society" and "culture" while thinking that this takes the blame off of them personally. Everyone is the victim, no one is the perpetrator. But then- who makes up society? Who determines culture? Doesn't everyone contribute, as well as suffer from it?
Quite recently, I've had two friends have children. These friends don't know each other, and their children were born within weeks of each other. One had a boy. One had a girl. It's AMAZING the differences I see in my Facebook news feed for how they describe their children. It starts right on the first day when they announced their "beautiful baby girl" or "strong baby boy." You can't even find baby socks that don't have SOME indication of gender inferred on them, such as princesses and butterflies, and dinosaurs and monster trucks. Really? Even our socks need to reinforce gender stereotypes.
A few years ago while taking a Gender Studies course, I watched the documentary Tough Guise. I have to say, for me at the time, it was extremely eye opening. Because of my socialization as a female, I knew all of the ways which femininity was crammed down my throat regardless of how well it fit. I had never considered it was just as bad for boys. I saw this before I even could even begin to formulate the possibility of being transgender. Once I realized that "the other side" (if you buy into the binary gender-system hooey) has just as many pressures to be who they aren't, I began to wish for a space outside. Where neither label exists. Where I don't need to live up to what it takes to be a "real man" or a "real woman."
Next time you greet a baby, consider how your words, and even your tone of voice, are reinforcing to this child what is and isn't acceptable. Consider the many ways you reinforce that girls are "beautiful" "soft" and "a princess" and that boys are "strong" "brave" and the "knight." You might be surprised at just how much you contribute to the many unrealistic expectations put on both men and women.