Written by Sami Reeves
Society generally loves to put us into categories. Dumb and smart, young and old, beautiful and ugly and so forth. The worst part of it is that we let ourselves conform to it. Gender is one of those categories, while we’re lead to believe that gender roles are completely biological, they truly aren’t. Gender roles are sets of socially constructed norms determining the way you act whether you’re male or female sex wise, because of this, we have to keep this mind set or we will be judged. People are taught this from the day they’re born, and it can be quite damaging.
The first exposure to gender roles are usually from parents, they give their children gender specific toys, and dress them in gender specific clothing. Young girls are expected to be “feminine,” love pink, princesses, and “Barbies”, and if they do not, they get pushed around for “not being like other girls.” The same goes for boys if they’re not manly enough. Sometimes people assume they’re gay/lesbian just because of their more feminine or masculine traits, even though the way you act and the things you like do not dictate your sexuality at all. It gives them this fixed idea that males have to be a certain way and females another, gender roles limit them of interests and makes them feel contrite for enjoying things outside of the norm. Of course, these beliefs have changed a lot, in modern day women are not expected to stay at home and clean, cook, etc. and we don’t have to be as modest as before, but there is still so much more room for improvement.
There are many influences outside of the household that force people to believe that gender roles are natural from a young age. Media, for example, plays a large role in creating social norms, because many forms of media, such as advertisements, television, and film, are present almost everywhere in current culture. Gender roles, exist only because our society as a whole chooses to accept them, but they are preserved by the media. Have you ever seen an advertisement where a little girl is playing with an action figure or a young boy using an easy-bake oven? Probably not, even in unisex toys this is present, girls are given a different message than boys.
Television is the most omnipresent form of media, with 115.6 million American families owning a TV – according to The Nielsen Company’s 2014 Advance National TV Household Universe Estimate (what a mouthful!). The Nielsen Company measures and monitors what consumers watch and buy on a global and local basis. This means that viewers must cautiously search for content and determine if they can morally support and promote said content. So, with that being said, it’s obvious media has a huge impact on our lives ethically, teaching us what’s right and wrong to our impressionable minds.
When boys wear makeup, play with dolls or do/wear anything that is typically for women, they’re 5 to 6 times more likely to get shamed and shot at with derogatory slurs against their “masculinity” by their peers. In a world where we get told over and over “Be yourself!” you get shunned for doing just that, it’s usually ideas that are unorthodox that scare people, so in turn they will act as if you’re unnatural bringing up my last point of how society literally brainwashes us into thinking these beliefs are indeed biological and hereditary when they are implanted in our heads by a society with very specific ideals.
A study by Carol Martin in 1990 showed that cross-sex behavior is discouraged in both sexes, more typically in males. The people that have this behavior are referred to as a “sissy” in boys who have feminine characteristics and a “tomboy” in girls who have male characteristics. It gives both sexes constraint on what they want to do and makes it seem out of the ordinary.
Gender is, and always will be (in many ways), a social construct. The idea we are born to be a certain way just because of our body parts is absurd and ignorant. Not all traits in females and males are the same though, and we do develop differently, but gendering toys, clothes, etc. just because we are somewhat dissimilar shouldn’t be justified whatsoever.
Instead of shaming let’s support men/non binary:
• who enjoy makeup
• who wear “girly” clothes
• who are “feminine”
• who enjoy drag
• who shave their legs, armpits, etc
• who have long hair
• who like wearing jewelry
• who like having their eyebrows plucked or waxed
And women/non binary:
• who don’t care for makeup
• who don’t wear “girly” clothes
• who are more “masculine”
• who don’t shave their legs, armpits, etc
• who have short hair
• who don’t like having their eyebrows plucked or waxed
It’s of great significance to realize that these boundaries are not letting people express themselves and behave the way they wish to. Gender roles push us all into suffocating categories and make us put on a stereotypically virtuous mask so we don’t have people look at us as if we’re unearthly, pink is not just for girls and blue is not just for boys. Let people step out of the gender norms!