Goose, gander

“What is good for the goose is good for the gander.”

While this phrase actually refers to sauce, it can also refer to life. If you want to learn if something is sexist, put each gender’s face on it and see what it looks like. If it seems odd, then maybe something is up.

I’m specifically thinking of books right now, but you can do this with anything.

Teen girls are bombarded with books about how to get and keep a boyfriend. How to lose weight. How to do their makeup and hair. How to dress.

There are no similar books for teen boys.

If they read at all, the books they read are science fiction. Boys rarely read books for fun. This needs to be addressed, but it isn’t the topic of this post.

So if it is OK to teach girls that their focus in life should be on their image, and subsequently, how to catch and keep a mate, how come it isn’t something we teach boys?

Maybe we shouldn’t teach girls this at all. Maybe we should teach them good character skills rather than good cosmetic skills. Maybe instead of teaching them how to dress for success, we should teach them how to be a success. Maybe instead of teaching them how to find a mate we should teach them how to find themselves.

On romance novels – just say no.

I so dislike romance novels. I dislike them for the same reason I dislike women’s magazines. They teach women that their value as a human being is directly connected with others, especially men

Women are taught to be submissive in these books. The latest series to drive this message home are the “Grey” books, but even light fare such as Christian or Amish fiction teaches the same thing. You aren’t anything unless you have a man.

These books in various ways are all about finding and keeping a man. Whether he is a doctor or a drug addict makes no difference. He’s male, and you must have him. Even if he is abusive, staying with him is better than being single.

Of course, people will say that it is just fiction. It doesn’t teach anything. But it does. It teaches what is “normal.”

The funny part is that men aren’t getting the same script. If they read fiction at all, they read science fiction or action novels, where women are afterthoughts, if they exist as characters at all.

How is a woman going to become a strong, fully realized human beings if she has role models that tell her she only has value if she is a wife and/or mother?

Now, don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against those roles. They are perfectly valid and laudable. But they aren’t the only thing, and they sometimes aren’t the best thing.

Not every woman makes a good wife or mother, and it isn’t fair to make women feel guilty for not living up to that expectation when it doesn’t suit them.

There are also way too many books for women on how to find and keep a man, especially if she is over 35. I’ve not seen any similar books for men.

How come women have to do all the work? How come women are made to feel lesser than, or left out, if they don’t marry?

Part of it is economic. There aren’t that many jobs where a woman can support herself if she is single. The most common are teacher, nurse, and librarian. Sure, a woman could go into any field, but then she has another hurdle to overcome. There are a lot of social stereotypes that almost herd women into gender specific jobs. The jobs that fit the expected role or nature of women. Caregiver. Nurturer.

The interesting thing is that then there is an additional stigma attached to a woman who enters those fields and is single. It is assumed that she is a lesbian. While the stigma is lesser these days than in the past, it is still there and has to be contended with.

And once again, she is being defined by her relationship with a man, or in this case a lack of relationship. Since she does not have sex with a man, she is seen as other, and subsequently, as lesser.

Gender roles.

What is it about gender roles? Are they nature or nurture?

Is there something about being a girl that means you like ponies and princesses? Is there something about being a boy that means you like trains and trucks?

How much of this is programmed into them? How much of it is reinforced or suppressed?

I was at a craft store recently and noticed that a young boy was there with his grandmother. She was buying beads for a project. He asked her to buy some beads for him because he wanted a necklace. Rather than being pleased that her grandson was interested in a craft that she enjoyed, she told him “Boys don’t wear beads!”

I, of course, had to disagree. I mentioned that there are cultures all over the world where men wear beads. I mentioned that there is nothing about beads that says a boy can’t wear them. I could tell that grandmother had been programmed too because she immediately changed her tune and started to help him look for beads.

Why are boys taught that anything “girly” is bad? Boys are steered away from pink. They are told that dolls are for girls. Then the worst – boys don’t cry.

I think we do children, but especially boys, a huge disservice when we try to shape them into something they are not. I think we need to let them be who they are, and not try to force them into a pre-made form.

Meanwhile, girls are allowed to play with boy’s toys. Girls can be tomboys. But boys who play with girl’s toys are sissies.

This is terrible. This is dangerous. We are creating boys who are tough and hard and are not in touch with their emotions or feelings, and have no way of getting them out. This is the source of many problems. We have to undo this. We are teaching boys to be boys at the expense of their souls. When we give them “rules” about how things must be, we don’t let them use their own creativity or insight. We stop them from growing.

I remember one time while I was working in Washington DC. I was at a Balinese shadow puppet show. The men were elaborately dressed in long flowing robes. A young boy was sitting near me and he was a little freaked out by the idea of “men in dresses.” Hello, teachable moment. I pointed out that Scottish men wear kilts. I also pointed out that women didn’t wear pants in America as recently as the 50s. Things change. What is now a given will change.

And then there is the idea of Jesus. He never wore pants.

I have a student this year who got very upset when I mentioned that boys can wear pink. This is the same student who says the teacher sings the alphabet song wrong. My husband looks very good in pink. African American men look beautiful in jewel tones. I’m concerned that this student has been given very definite rules that he is constantly going to butt his head up against. He is doing very poorly with his schoolwork, and has no friends. Life is hard when you can’t adjust.

Let boys be themselves. Let girls be themselves. Teach them both how to change a tire. Teach them both how to cook. We need to stop gender stereotyping them. Everybody needs to learn useful skills if we are going to have fully realized people. Perhaps this will mean we will have more discoveries, as people open up their minds to the “what ifs”.

Perhaps it will mean that people will marry out of strength and not weakness. They won’t have to marry someone to complete themselves. They will be two strong people who can both mow the yard, raise the children, pay the bills, and get the chores done.

You run like a girl.

What is it with society shaming women about getting fit or challenging gender roles? Why is it lesser to be female than male?

Have you ever heard the phrase “You run like a girl”. Uh, yeah, because I am a girl. You try running with boobs. It isn’t easy.

Sports bras are designed for women who don’t need them. It is very difficult to find a sports bra for the larger breasted woman. They are the ones who need them the most. Women with tiny boobs don’t have to worry about support in the same way that big-chested women do.

Exercise clothes for women are flimsy and they fall apart. They aren’t really meant to be used. Shoes are the worst. Don’t go hiking in women’s boots. They cause blisters and you’ll twist your ankle.

It seems like the clothes and the shoes are for show. They are to make it look like you exercise, but don’t actually make it possible for you to exercise.

If you do actually manage to figure out how to exercise even with the unhelpful clothes and shoes, you’ll get muscles, but a woman with muscles is seen as butch or aggressive. You can’t win.

What about teaching girls to box and teaching boys to knit? Why do we segregate activities into “feminine” and “masculine”? Why can’t we allow anybody who wants to participate in football or ballet to do so?

How come if a woman cooks, she is just a cook, but a man cooks, he is a chef? If a woman sews, she is just sewing, but if a man sews he is a fashion designer? If a man takes on a role that is normally done by a woman, he is considered better at it, a professional. If a woman takes on a role that is normally done by a man, she is not considered valid.

Women engineers? Women architects? Mathematicians, scientists? Women in these fields are actively and passively discouraged and discounted.

I call attention to these issues because they need to change. The first step is admitting there is a problem.