Let’s talk about boys and girls.
Strolling through the local mall one day, I couldn’t help but laugh at the lengths that most companies go to establish gender among everyday household things that we nearly take for granted.
You know what I mean: the pink and blue razors that essentially do the same thing, the floral versus the musk in nearly everything, the slogan t-shirts in the girl’s department advertising them as “Gorgeous!” or “Prettiest!” in bedazzled letters, while in the boy’s department it’s a mishmash of all the things they could be: police officer, astronaut, engineer.
I mean, what?
I had grown up in a household where it was fair play on whatever toy was laid in front of us: trucks, dolls, bikes, kitchen sets (that I remember one of my younger brothers became absolutely infatuated over; he’s now studying to become a chef), and more ‘neutral’ ones, like art sets and clay dough; and we were never told that it was a ‘boy’ or a ‘girl’ toy. It was simply just a toy, and we could do with it what our imaginations limited us to.
I guess it helped too though that we didn’t have much access to television growing up. Sue me, it was a rural place, okay?
Anyway, it hit me hard how in mainstream society, we are so obsessed with creating these limits and designations for children who might not even grow up to identify exclusively as a straight-laced boy or girl, you know?
We drill into young boys and girls that they are exclusive from each other, come up with lame adages like ‘Boys will be boys,’ or convincing girls they are not as strong or capable as boys are.
We force ideals upon them that are so contrary to the other, and then when they hit the appropriate age, we then expect them to try to co-habit? We applaud a man when he ‘helps around the house,’ and not realize that he lives there and is expected to do so?
Raise boys and girls the same way.
If we build this confidence in young girls that it’s perfectly alright to not want to be the princess, or the wife, or the mommy all the time; and in boys, that they can be allowed to cry and express their emotions and not have them admonished that they are ‘acting like girls’ when they do so, we build a generation that can look at someone of the opposite sex and not say “This is what you are supposed to be doing because you are a _____.”
So I run my hand across the sale aisle of books that scream how women and men are from different planets, how girls have to look slutty but not too slutty, how men are taught to decipher what a woman’s ‘No’ “means,” because of course it can’t possibly mean she’s rejecting his advances, and how women must fight off ageing while another cover screams that silver-haired men are the new desired ‘type.’
I sigh. We have a long way to go.