What if we lived in a world that genuinely disregarded gender as a way to dictate what people should and shouldn’t do.
What if we lived in a world where it was socially acceptable to wear whatever you felt like wearing, skirt/trousers/long hair/short/hair/make up/heels/boots/trainers, literally whatever you wanted without being labelled or bullied for being different.
What if we lived in a world where we could love whoever we liked without the gender of our partner being the first thing we are judged on.
What if we lived in a world where we were free to be whatever gender we need to be to align our brains and our bodies.
I’d be happy with that. In fact I’d fight for that!
Sadly we don’t.
I would love to say that gender stereotyping is a thing of the past, but it really isn’t. There are unconscious biases that pervade every level of society and challenging them is getting harder and harder. People are apt to label you a snowflake or cry that its political correctness gone mad, if you point out that there is a gender stereotyping problem in media advertising campaigns which label big strong things as “for men” and delicate small things as “for women”. There are more and more targeted children’s toys with pink versions being brought out for girls with a leaning towards homemaker-y or decorate-y activities and blue versions for boys which advocate construction and heroics. Girls are more than ever encouraged to be princesses and boys superheros, and woe betide the child who wants to be different. Especially the little boy who wants to be a princess. Oftentimes a little girl who wants to be a hero is applauded but a boy who wants to be Cinderella is likely to be picked on by his friends and his parents will worry obsessively that their little boy might be “broken”.
It is so pervasive in society that it is still unusual for a woman to be an engineer, and ‘male nurse’ is still an acceptable job description. It is extremely subtle in some cases too. The overt labeling of pink things as being for girls is easy to fight, but the more subtle gender biases within language, is not. The language used to speak to children from an early age is often highly gender dependent. Girls are told they are pretty, boys that they are strong, encouraged to be quiet and calm where as, well, boys will be boys. The continuation of this is the language used to describe men and women. An assertive woman is “bossy” of “feisty” where as an aggressive man is displaying leadership and a go-getter! Even worse is the tendency for “don’t be such a girl” or “girly wuss” or other such things. All this does is teach boys from the earliest of ages that girls are bad. These inequalities are extremely hard to address because pointing them out will often get a negative reaction. It is this sort of thing that needs to change in order to live in a fair society.
I, personally, would love to live in a society where people where free to be people and could exhibit whatever “typical gender traits” they liked. I’d have one pronoun for every person and just let everyone develop they way they develop without being pressurised by societies expectations.
Imagine living free from expectations placed on you over something as arbitrary as your reproductive organs.
Imagine living in a society where, if your body is so screamingly at odds with your identity that you wish to change it completely, you were free to do so without fear of bullying and abuse or worse!
Sadly, however we are are very far from that sort of acceptance in today’s society. I have recently had a “conversation” on facebook which has brought home to me how far from that sort of acceptance we are.
So, lets get some things settled right now.
Gender is not binary.
Gender fluidity is a real thing.
Needing to change your body to fit your gender identity is a real thing.
If you don’t know how to address someone, ask them, then respect their answer!
The science and genetics behind gender are extremely complex and none of this can be completely explained yet. Neither can the origin of the universe, but that doesn’t make the universe stop existing!
I don’t pretend to understand everything to do with the genetics but I do know it is not as simple as XX= girl and XY=boy. For something written by someone with far more knowledge than me have a look here:
I don’t understand what it is like to feel that at odds with your own body. I can’t understand it, I haven’t experienced it, but I don’t have to understand what it is like to know it is real.
I don’t have to understand what it is like to support anyone I know who is going through it.
I don’t have to have experienced it myself to believe someone when they say it is real.
I want to live in a society where there is no stigma attached to this sort of thing. Until I do, however, I will always challenge prejudice, discrimination, insensitivity where ever I find it. Even if that means I get into arguments on social media which I know are just going to make me more angry!
I am concerned, as I write this, that I have mixed up tow issues, that of inequality and stereotyping and that of gender identity. I was toying with the idea of making this into two blog posts but I believe the two are intrinsically linked, so it is staying like this. Feel free to let me know what you think.