Wednesday, March 16, 2016


I've been pondering all the ways we identify ourselves. The primary identity is by gender. From the moment we are born--maybe even before we are born--our gender is the over-riding identifier. Girls wear pink, boys wear blue. Why? Is there some inherent reasoning there? If a male wears pink does it change his gender? Why pink? Why not orange or turquoise?

From birth we are surrounded in the trappings of 'male' or 'female'. Everything around us is appropriately color coded from coats to blankets to shoes to wallpaper and paint. Toys are gender appropriate, even when we are too young to know our own identity. Parents never say to their daughter, "When you grow up you'll be a fireman or a soldier." They don't urge their sons to be nurses or nannies or secretaries.

Later, gender identity determines behavioral expectations. Females are supposed to be modest, quiet, submissive, retiring, cooks, servants, baby makers with no opinions. I speak this truth from my position as a female. Sixty-seven years experience allows me to say this is not the veriest tip of the iceberg. Even at my age, there are expectations that I will cook, clean, do laundry, service my husband's pleasure--though we are both retired and have no commitments. It is a testament to his love that he doesn't sit back and do nothing, but pitches in to do his share.

Males on the other hand are supposed to be rough and tough, play sports, hunt, fish, learn carpentry, car repair, get a job, demonstrate their maleness by making inappropriate advances to women and drink beer. My goodness, that last is so important. When a male fails to reach one of the benchmarks, he is ridiculed and may have to defend himself physically because God knows having a brain is dangerous.

I wonder what would happen if we had one set of expectations for every child, regardless of gender? What if every child learned the same basic skills, played with the same non-gender specific toys, took part in the same types of sports? What if aggression was not acceptable behavior just because the child was male? What if females were encouraged to use their brains and leadership skills? How many generations would it take to reach the point when our gender identity wasn't our primary identity? Ten? Do you suppose ten generations would be long enough?


  1. I don't know... I was raised to strive to be the best at everything. Gender was immaterial. I played with the boys, played sports, rode horses, rock-climbed, mountain climbed. I don't know. Raised my kids to be whatever they wanted to be. As one admiring boy said of my youngest (5th grade)- she can play basketball AND do math!

    1. For every girl raised to be the best she can be, there are 10 or 15 girls raised to be on the lookout for a man to take care of them. And to that end, they are taught all the womanly skills they will need to attract such a man. I see hope that more girls are standing on their own feet, but when you look around you, it's clear there are many still being brought up with their primary aim to get a man.

      Just as many boys--maybe more--are reared to embrace the double standard or 'boys will be boys' and therefore the expectations are lower. I hope I'm wrong about this, but I don't think so.