top of page

Issue 17 Out Now

A Thin Line Between He and She

Photography by Magda Ehlers

Who you are is initially determined at birth by your parents, the toys they have you play with, the clothes you wear, and even the assignment of your first name. As we all know in this awakened generation, that standard is not permanent because who we want to be and how we view ourselves is determined by us as time passes and our exposure to sexuality, beliefs, and culture continues to shape and mold our outlook on life.

All living things begin to learn about everything around them shortly after birth and pick up certain aspects of their environment that associate with what it should mean to them; for humans, it starts with colors. We do not know words or people yet, but we grasp color and shapes fairly quickly; in which case depending on our gender assigned to us at birth correlates to what colors we will see exclusively such as blue for boys and pink for girls.

Next is how others interact with us; boys will receive more playful and rough banter, as girls receive soft and gentle approaches. The toys become very apparent to which child is “supposed” to receive, but in infancy, it is not detrimental as they do not know any better, gender is not relevant yet. But as they start talking, walking, and have hawkeyes for toys, it becomes imperative in a parent’s mind to make sure that the toys are akin to their child’s gender.

Back last year when my nephew was a newborn, he was wearing a unisex gown that covers the whole tiny body and snugs right at the ankle. My stepfather walks in and states, “Now look, y’all already got the wrong clothes on him! Why is he wearing a dress?!” My mother goes on to explain that clothing for newborns is vastly unisex. Plus he is a newborn so his male features are not in yet, nor is he aware of his gender so it is not like it matters.

Needless to say as a first-generation college student from a small conservative town, I was very annoyed with my stepdad’s country boy mentality and ignorance. Unfortunately, he does not know any better as he lives in a different time and garnered a different education. To him, it might not be as imperative to brush up on the social behaviors of the 21st century to not be so easily thrown off by how gender roles and childhood have changed. Boy, have they changed!

A New Generation of Fluidity

Remember Ciara’s song “Like a Boy” was about how poorly men treat women and that it was time for women to “switch roles” to give them a taste of their own medicine, such as being disrespectful and careless?

How about Beyonce’s “If I Were a Boy” where she theorized that if men knew what it was like to be a woman they would have more respect for them; or if she were in a man’s body, she’d be the best man in the world because he would be hurt easily, thus more careful?

Or Christina Aguilera’s “Can’t Hold Us Down” video where a street battle of the sexes after a “tough guy” assaulted her? “Cater 2 U” by Destiny’s Child offers that being docile and submissive to a “good man” will keep them around.

All are 2000s bops that still slap no doubt, but what I’ve noticed is that they shame men and don’t encourage them to change. I doubt that men like seeing depictions of themselves as being inconsiderate Neanderthals, while constantly being suffocated by other exposures telling them that “real” manhood involves being superior over women.

I doubt a woman expressing her frustrations of not being treated right needs to go into an extended ballad, hoping they would hear them, instead of just dropping them flat. Maybe that’s just me! My problem though is that these new social mediums are making all of us aware. So now what? What actions need to be taken? Berating and shaming each other through music and visual media only makes us more divisive, especially when we are adults who have already established our sense of each other. A start to “change” can start through education, but to end the repeat I mentioned earlier we must break the chain in the children of the future.

So anyone born in the 90s and prior were taught to be aware of which toys belonged to them. No, not ownership, I mean dolls and trucks, pink and blue wrapping paper, ponytails, and short-cuts. The purpose of this sequence I just made is to make a correlation to today’s culture as both genders can choose one and the other; “or” encourages a boxed-in mentality, which as we know is not something that should be continued to be taught to the new generation.

Men are growing their hair out and tying it up when needed/wanted. Women cut their hair short as it is easier to maintain, a fashion statement, or want a new start, to grow healthier hair. My one-year-old nephew plays with his four-year-old sister’s babydoll, she plays with his miniature tool table. None of this is taboo or putting anyone in jeopardy of being “confused”, it is encouraged and rightfully so as it contributes to their appropriate development.

According to Early Childhood Educator, Kevin Zoromiski, raising children to have an open-minded approach to decision making, preferences, how they articulate their feelings, and other factors of how they conduct their lives can start with what is in their reach and has their undivided attention, like toys.

“Our job is to give them the most opportunities possible for them to use their imaginations. Allowing a child to play with any type of toy, as long as it’s safe and age-appropriate, will help them grow and increase their creativity and sense of self”.

Boys play with cars, thus giving them an advantage (expectancy) to know how to fix a tire or check the engine instead of girls. However, if a girl knows how to do that she is perceived as “special” because knowing a male-dominated element is rare as if she is more desirable for having a basic skill in civilization. Girls have kitchenettes to play house like feeding their babies which influences the expectancy that cooking is a woman’s job and they are the sole caregivers to be sure they take care of “hubby” when he gets home.

Waiving a woman’s choice to have a career outside their homes and sets them up to not expand their limits. Just like lifting the responsibility of men to know how to cook, or even offering to take over domestic elements sets them off to become insensitive Neanderthals. Knowing basic life skills is not special but for some reason not encouraged early on for both genders.

Hope for HUMAN-kind

What makes it important is that children can be able to not possess a certain resistance towards their goals due to social standards based upon their gender. Boys can grow up and be more conscious of their sensitivity, thus be able to articulate their emotions without fear of being perceived as weak (we can also get rid of that disgusting “…like a girl” insult). Having a taught sense of empathy could lessen toxic masculinity and entitlement that puts women in a fearing mindset when it comes to interacting with men, such as nicely declining a date so they do not lash out over a rejection. Being a nice guy does not entitle someone else’s time, (that’s just how low the bar is).

Speaking of “…like a girl”, we can be rid of the notion that women are inferior to men beyond the physical disadvantage. Women can strive for a career in any field they choose without needing to build up tough skin because the gender ratio in the workplace is not diverse; no more being called “sweetie” while filing papers or being harassed for dates. We can all become better humans with the simplest move towards our little ones. So what do you prefer…a truck or doll? Maybe both?

5 views0 comments


bottom of page