This is actually one of my favourite topics. And one that we can’t leave out of a conversation on mental health.
My take on gender, other than the obvious fact that it’s a social construct, is that it does a lot of harm to both men and women, especially in the formative years. As adults, we can be aware of roles and make choices about how we identify, but in our youth it’s much harder to decide to be different.
Still, everyday, young people challenge stereotypes and roles and try to assert their differentness. They choose to be awesome. I can imagine it isn’t always easy, especially when most adults aren’t willing to challenge social norms.
I need to reiterate that gender is a social construct, meaning, it’s a role (what you do, what you like, etc) and has nothing at all to do with being male or female. In fact, you can be born a male, love trucks and weightlifting, and still choose to identify as female, but why would you? Whatever. That’s identity.
Masculine and feminine are energies. Again, not male or female, that’s what’s between your legs. Masculine energy is very active, the energy of action. And feminine is very passive energy, the kind that’s needed when you’re reflecting on life. See, all people have both energies, and both are needed to be in balance.
The term “toxic masculinity” has been used to talk about male violence, and hopefully, draw attention to its connection with gender roles. It’s so important to understand that this is an energy imbalance (and this too), likely caused by believing that man = masculine. Research has shown there’s really very little difference in male and female brains.
When your energy is out of balance, you need to look at what’s causing that imbalance. When your brain is out of balance, you need medication. And when your hormones are out of balance, that’s part of growing up. It’s all confusing AF.
The two most dangerous myths of gender:
Girls are more Nurturing and Boys are more interested in STEM.
Boys are taught that they are not naturally nurturing, and that just isn’t true. There is no gene in women that makes us better at nurturing. Girl bodies can make and feed babies, boys can take care of them just as well. My husband takes amazing care of our kids, and of me too. He cooks for all of us. He does more housework.
Consciously or unconsciously, we teach boys that grit, activity, and even violence, are masculine and therefore natural to them. Violence is a behaviour, and not natural to anyone. Nurturing, taking care of our loved ones, especially our children, is an instinct, and literally comes naturally to everyone.
My interest in STEM dropped significantly when I hit puberty. I became a statistic. I had taught myself to code at 13, and ran away to a star party (astronomy), when other girls were running to bush parties. My parents did the best they could, but the prevalence of our misguided assumptions about gender, were intertwined in everything I did, for years and years and years. Meanwhile, at 15 years old, my husband had already landed his first job as a web designer.
Tools, including tech toys, are still mostly marketed to boys. There are more girl lego sets now (lego is a tech toy, if you didn’t know, it’s an excellent introduction to object oriented programming.) Dolls, sadly, are not only marketed more to girls, but many parents discourage their boys from playing with dolls. It goes so much deeper than marketing and what our kids play with. The myths of gender are so deep rooted that we don’t even notice all the ways we treat boys and girls differently.
Actions Speak Louder Than Words
A great place to leave this discussion is with an interesting study that showed daughters of dads who do housework are more likely to pursue post secondary education.
I love to reference this, because it shows just how important our role models are. If children don’t have moms who code and dads who cook, we can at least hope to find them in our community.
It takes a community to raise children, who know and like themselves, and aren’t afraid to challenge the status quo. Let’s be that community. Leave your thoughts below!