Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Gender Roles & A Brother's Love

I have characterized myself as a girly girl.  I like smelling nice, wearing a little bit of makeup before I go out, wearing skirts and dresses, and hosiery and heels.  But I'm also a geek who loves designing and coding websites, reading science fiction books, comic books, artificial intelligence, true crime novels, and Battlestar Gallactica. I don't have an obsession with shoes, purses, or shopping, but I do love maps.

My husband loves fixing mechanical things (helicopters, cars, etc.), playing first-person shooter RPGs, motorcycles, guns, and P90X.  But he also loves art, drawing, yoga, 3D animation, fussing with his hair, cooking (his food eclipses the variety and tastiness of my own), and is very nurturing.

I love being a woman, and I know he loves being a man. But we both like things that don't necessarily fit the gender roles prescribed by society.

Perhaps my desire to appear attractive is a biological instinct to attract a mate. Perhaps my definition of girly girl is formed wholly by the American media.  For example, I consider what I am wearing today as conservative: black slacks, gunmetal grey tank top, fuchsia cardigan, but "pretty."  In another society, what I am wearing would be considered too revealing because of the fit of my pants and my decolletage.   Regardless of how or why these definitions came to be, they form a part of my gender identity.  I am an adult and I embrace the choices I have made.

All that being said, I don't believe that gender roles or gender identity should be forced on a child. They have to be given the room to form what they like and don't like.

I read a blog post on Huffington Post written by Kristen Wolfe, a GameStop shift manager.  It was originally posted on her Tumblr, but that seems to have been taken down.  Her blog was an open letter to a pair of brothers who visited her store.  In her letter, Kristen wants to praise the brother who stood up for his brother against a father that did not want his son buying a game and game controller that he viewed as girl-centric.  It was heart-warming but also thought provoking.

The father was threatening to spank the younger son if he did not put back a purple controller and a video game where the main character was a woman and picking a more "manly" game.  The older brother put his foot down and declared since it was his money, his brother could get what he wanted.  I'm proud of the older brother. He realized that his father's insistence was hurting the younger brother. In this tense moment, the younger brother can be sure of his brother's love -- love that every child deserves to feel!

Sadly, I've seen people like the father amongst friends and family members. They aren't necessarily threatenin­g to spank or beat their children.  But a child can definitely feel their parents' censure and disappointment. When a child wants or likes something against gender stereotype, they are immediatel­y steered in a different direction.  Those small acts can mean a lot and make a child feel inadequate.

Our largely patriarchal and puritanical society has established gender identity and gender roles and for many, straying from those established roles raises red flags about a child's sexuality and gender identity.   At those young ages, children aren't even thinking of whether or not their choices indicate their sexuality. I wish children were just allowed to be children.

My youngest son's favorite color is pink. At first, I tried to dissuade him from liking it when I realized how ridiculous it was. I don't get to tell him whether to like pink or not. As a parent, all I can do is protect him from real threats. Now that he is almost 11, the only advice I've given regarding his love of pink is to be aware that other children might say mean things about it, but that he should not be embarrasse­d. Do I think my son will become gay? Nope. Would it matter? Nope.

I've seen other children being forced to play sports even when they say they hate it. Being forced to play sports, play a certain game, or wear specific colors are not going to make a boy become straight and the opposite won't make him gay.

We need to stop this obsession of what "boys" should play with or what "girls" should play with.  If your daughter wants to play football, let her.  If your son wants to take ballet, let him!  They all grow up much too soon, and we need to make sure they grow up loving themselves and having healthy relationships with their friends and family.

No comments:

Post a Comment