I remember the distinct chants from elementary school, "Blue is a boy color! Pink is a girl color!" Not able to understand why colors needed an assigned gender, I chose yellow as my favorite because it could be for both boys and girls. As a tom boy, the idea of "girl things" and "boy things" made no sense to me. If I wanted to play soccer I would, but only after I finished playing hop-scotch. This simplicity seems to have slowly seeped out of my life. I've spent the past few years trying to unearth this young feminist spirit from beneath my stacks of Seventeen. Just rifling through a few pages of this magazine can remind any girl that her place isn't out building a house, but rather, learning how to flirt and put on mascara. These messages of what girls and boys should be doing are everywhere. When our culture is so wired to think that gender dictates behavior, it's hard to remember that gender truly has no bearing on who we are.
These gender roles first developed out of a perceived necessity. During the Neolithic revolution, men were naturally stronger than women (or so they thought) so they were needed to farm and plow fields. As men became more and more economically important as farmers and then warriors, they quickly grabbed power and women dropped to the ranks of second-class citizens. As time went on, women were even more relegated to the role of housewife by increasingly arbitrary theories on gender. Even 70 years ago, people thought women shouldn't go to school because education could cause women to have "brain fever" or become sterile. Luckily we have gotten past this ridiculous gender stereotype, but there are many, equally as laughable, presumptions about gender that we have yet to surmount. In the last election, according to a CBS poll, 38 percent of Americans still did not think America was ready for a woman president. Abroad things look even worse. In Saudi Arabia, women have just earned the right to vote and run for certain (basically powerless) offices but they still can't drive.
Luckily, I have been raised with a certain distance from these gender role stereotypes. My parents have always been an example of gender equality. My mom cooks dinner while my dad does the dishes. If the house needs repainting, my mom is the first one out there, and my dad will help out as soon as he's done with the laundry. I was raised with my mom's stories of being the only girl on the boy's baseball team (and this was before Title IX) and my dad's tales of being the star of the musical. Writing this all out seems silly because, in my eyes, it is so incredibly unremarkable. It's not revolutionary for my dad to be grocery shopping, it's just responsible. Only when people can stop commenting on the rising number of working moms and stay-at-home dads and just see it as some people going to work and some people staying home can there be equality.
A few weeks ago, I stumbled upon a New York Times article that claimed that men lost testosterone when they had kids and began to do "womanly" chores. I could not believe that a person's body knew what a "manly" activity was and what a "womanly" activity was because we as a society have decided what's "girly" and what's not. There is nothing in my genes that says I should be sewing and not using a hammer, and something tells me that wearing pink will not suddenly make a man grow boobs.
This concept of gender needs to be abolished because it is just that: a concept. Boys and girls are both made of sugar, spice, everything nice and an equal blend of frogs, snails and puppy dog tails. Our culture needs to be critiqued with fresh eyes so that our constricting gender roles can be swept away.
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