Leah’s Life Lessons: The Danger of Gender Norms

Leah Power, Staff Writer

Throughout our childhood, our days revolved around the simple things in life- like playing tag and being happy. It never crossed our minds to judge someone for how they were dressed when they came to school. Everyone was welcome to play hide-and-seek, regardless of their gender. Aside from the occasional cootie scare, the question wasn’t whether you were a girl or a boy. We focused on more important things, like how fast you were and how well you could hide. As children, our innocence was protected, and we weren’t forced to fit into a specific mold. We were free to be ourselves, and life was just that simple.

But we lost it. Somehow in the process of becoming adults, we let the judgment and hatred that we were taught smother out the natural inclination of love and acceptance that we were born with. When did this happen? When did we start looking at dolls, football, and the colors pink and blue as boy and girl toys, colors and games? When did we stop being free to be ourselves?

I’m not sure if it was during the complicating middle school years or if it came along with the pressure to fit in at high school and college but at some point we all felt the need to fit into the gender stereotype that our culture demands. People slowly began to point out that only girls should use pink crayons and only boys should play football. While some were able to rise above the pressure not everyone did. Some girls put away their comic books and basketball jerseys and picked up make-up brushes and went shopping because society said so. We were afraid of what people would think if we didn’t like the things that we were supposed to want. Guys put away the pink shirts and dolls because they didn’t want their friends to call them gay. We wanted to fit in, and if that meant handing in our individuality for a chance to be invisible, then so be it.

We became so scared of not fitting into the mold of a normal girl or guy that we lost ourselves. Girls who spent their childhood playing war, girls who could have become strong soldiers, gave it up to fit in, to make friends and to get attention from guys. Guys who could have become amazing designers gave it up to join the football team.

But what if we hadn’t? What if we were encouraged to follow our hobbies, talents and passions from the beginning and throughout the rest of our lives? What if we had embraced the originality not only in ourselves, but in others as well? What if we hadn’t ever stepped into the mold put in front of us by society, but had followed our dreams from day one on? What if we threw away the idea that the gender that we identified with wasn’t just one or the other?

While there’s no way we can know what would have happened, I can’t help but think that perhaps we would be a happier, kinder and more open generation.

If we were to banish the idea of gender norms and let people live their own lives and celebrate their passions outside of the out dated gender norms. Maybe we would have more male ballerinas, teachers and nurses and more women scientists, engineers, and CEOs. We wouldn’t have to live our lives worrying about how people might perceive our interests and what those interests might reflect about our lifestyles. Instead, in the words of Marlo Thomas, we would simply leave being “free to be you and me.”