The harmful effects of gender norms

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Starting from our childhood we’ve been taught that some objects and interests belong to one specific gender only. Barbie dolls, the colour pink and ballet are for girls, for instance, while boys enjoy themselves with Pokémon, dinosaurs and football. We tightly hold on to these gender normative rules in adulthood as well. As a result men who wear make-up are quickly judged and short-haired women are often accused of looking like men.

Humanity has always held on to its traditions and habits so firmly that it won’t see how harmful those traditions can be for people who don’t want to conform to them. Because of gender normativity people who, according to society, tend to lean more towards the opposite gender feel abnormal. That generally doesn’t bother them as much when they’re adults, but it often causes insecurities throughout their childhood. During that phase of their life they usually think something is wrong with them, because society has told them there is in fact something not right about them. For example, boys who dance are laughed at, while girls who play football and solely hang out with guys are easy targets of gossip. Because of that, children feel like they need to change their behaviour in order to belong. They censor themselves and consequently prevent their personality from fully developing.

That is why more and more toyshops are getting rid of the distinction between “boys’ and girls’ toys”. Some Scandinavian countries for instance sell Spiderman costumes with a girl on the box and doll prams with a photo of a boy playing with it. At the American supermarket Target you won’t find any blue or pink corridors anymore. Instead, dolls have been placed next to Lego products and you will find race cars near princess dresses. Even though these progressive examples are beneficial to the development of the child’s personality and identity, a lot of parents are not pleased with the initiative. ‘Do you expect me to buy my son a pink bra and my daughter a can of shaving cream?’, is the common response on social media. Such statements prove that people leaving comments like that are poorly informed on the matter. It is not those stores’ intention to convince costumers to only buy items that are traditionally intended for the opposite sex of their child – although they definitely wouldn’t stop them from doing so if they really wanted to – but to make it clear that toys have no gender. The message is that children should be able to choose what they would like to enjoy themselves with regardless of what society says. It’s okay for a boy to dress up as a pirate if he wants to, but he shouldn’t feel obligated to dress like a pirate if he would rather walk around as a princess.

Gender norms remain relevant in adulthood too. When a woman has ‘too many’ sexual desires, for example, she’s a slut. And when a man dares to cry in public, he’s considered a pussy. These inequalities exist because society has decided that women should behave ‘decently’ – because having sexual desires is just so vulgar – and that ‘real’ men should always hide their emotions with other people around.

Since feminism has been increasing in popularity over the years, the prudish image women are expected to take as an example has sharply decreased. The social progress women have made has given them a lot of freedom and opportunities they didn’t have a couple of centuries ago; this is not the case with men, however. A woman wearing pants is nothing new anymore, but a man in a skirt other than the Scottish kilt is still generally looked down upon. It appears masculinity is always encouraged in our patriarchal society, while femininity is only acceptable with women. A ‘masculine’ woman is brave and tough, but a ‘feminine’ man is regarded as ‘not a real man’. Someone like that is just weak, effeminate and an attention seeker.

These sexist views are the result of society’s ancient habits and traditions. It is in mankind’s genes to hold on to those habits and traditions and to step away from them as little as possible. When someone does not behave accordingly, that person is easily considered to be a freak and discarded by society. We don’t want to devote any attention to people who are ‘different’. Instead of listening to them and educating ourselves a little more, we prefer to take the easy route by just ignoring them. Because why would we waste our time on some weirdo, am I right?

This way of thinking is one of the many examples of how detestable humanity is. We are cruel, egocentric creatures who refuse to be open to new ideas. Instead of discarding everything that is not traditional, we should be more willing to broaden our horizons and listen to people who look at the world differently. You don’t have to agree with people who don’t conform to gender norms, but you can only obtain a nuanced and substantiated opinion after you’ve been properly informed. It shouldn’t actually even concern you what other people do, as long as they don’t harm anyone else. It would be better to let others live their life and to only worry about your own.

But that’s just my opinion …


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