Sunday, December 3, 2023

Gender roles should not be so inflexible

Ashleigh Rogers

A famous quote from author Nancy R. Smith has made its way around the world, allowing people to explore the gender roles that society has embedded into our everyday lifestyles and thoughts:

“For every girl who is tired of acting weak when she is strong, there is a boy tired of appearing strong when he feels vulnerable. For every boy burdened with the constant expectation of knowing everything, there is a girl tired of people not trusting her intelligence. For every girl who is tired of being called over-sensitive, there is a boy who fears to be gentle, to weep. For every boy for whom competition is the only way to prove his masculinity, there is a girl who is called unfeminine when she competes. … For every girl who takes a step toward her liberation, there is a boy who finds the way to freedom a little easier.”

I recently was sitting in on a Multi-Racial Unity Living Experience discussion one evening while we discussed the topic of gender roles and how they have affected how we view men and women today.

Typically, boys are taught to be tough, strong and insensitive. They must grow into men and head their families and households. Girls are taught to be sensitive, caring and submissive. They must grow into women and take care of the household. These stereotypes have been passed down from generation to generation for centuries. But what happens when these lines of black and white are blurred to gray for today’s men and women? Do we say that the men and women of today are wrong in how they’ve allowed these accepted gender roles to be blurred? Or do we grow to understand that the standards of today’s society are not just black and white anymore?

Living on a college campus in this day and age gives a student an opportunity to see that those lines of black and white have become so blurred that it almost is impossible to distinguish what is strictly for males or females. Generations before would never have predicted that men have grown to appreciate women taking more initiative on the dating scene. Generations before would never have predicted how common it is to see same-sex couples raising children today. Generations before would have never predicted that the words “sex” and “gender” on a birth certificate are now questionable rather than interchangeable.

As children, there always were the “battle of the sexes” games played in the schoolyard during recess. Some of the common insults we would hear were, “You hit like a girl” or “Big girls don’t cry.” But as we look around and see that those same kids now are in college and have grown to accept that those gender stereotypes exchange roles at one point or another, we realize that maybe having traits from both sides isn’t such a bad idea.

There are men who hold onto the trait of being the head of the household, but love a woman who shares that same role. With today’s economy, there are women who have taken the role of “Rosie the Riveter” and are now bringing home a sufficient salary to support their household. There are guys out there that no longer are finding it a weakness to wear their hearts on their sleeves and cry sometimes. There are women out there who are finding it liberating to not have to be afraid to be strong-willed. There are men who are born men, but would rather identify more with their feminine side. We have biological women who would rather operate in a world of masculinity.

Society has tried to keep the gender roles separate and defined, but today’s generations have grown to accept that although each of us has the genetics to state our sex, only we as individuals can determine what gender we want to identify as. Who says that guys can’t wear pink on the football field? Who says that it’s wrong for women to engineer cars and still cook a full-course meal? As times change, the answers to these questions become more difficult to answer. Just looking around our campus has allowed us to see that typical gender roles are not the same anymore, and that is actually a great thing. Because “for every girl who takes a step forward toward her liberation, there is a boy who finds the way to freedom a little easier.”

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