It’s time to stop thinking in terms of gender, and instead start thinking about individuals.
(Fair warning: I can’t take myself out of my writing, and if I did, it wouldn’t be real.)
Here’s a thing that’s been bugging me for a while now. No, let’s be honest, it’s been making me mad practically since I’ve been old enough to be stuffed into boxes.
My mum goes to a toy store and picks up a red fire truck.
“How old is your son?” The woman running the shop asks.
“My daughter is eight,” my mum says and buys the truck.
“Men always have problems showing their feelings, so it all comes out when they’re watching football.”
A friend of mine talks to some girl reading 50SOG and inquires why she finds it appealing.
“Sorry. That’s just who we are. Women want men who are rich and good looking and take control.”
This makes me angry for many reasons. Just because you have lady parts that doesn’t mean you get to consider yourself an authority on what goes on in every woman’s brain. Just as knowing someone with a penis who acted a certain way once does not mean that you get to say all men act that way.
You are an individual. I am an individual. We’re not the same simply because we have the same reproductive systems. So speak for yourself. Thank you.
I know it’s difficult to imagine the sheer variety of human personalities, especially if you haven’t experienced it, because you’ve spent most of your life in the same place, surrounded by the same types of people, with the same kind of political stance. But the world is a big place, and your folks aren’t necessarily a template for every human being out there. Neither is the news. Or that romance novel you read.
I get it. We tend to rely on the stories we tell and are told, to provide us with stereotypes for people we don’t know and, yeah, it’s a reasonable way to not get lost in the vastness of the world. So we categorise. Guy bringing flowers: probably good. Guy with a knife: probably bad. Yes, categorising can save lives.
But we keep doing it even if it’s not necessary, or we don’t check back on our first impressions. Open drawer. Put person in. Shut drawer.
Guy who talks in a soft voice, dresses well, folds his wrists: probably gay.
Then once you meet a gay guy for the first time, you’re “surprised” by how “normal” he is. Because not all gays fit with the stories you’ve been told about them.
Then, the other way round, these narratives also influence how we see ourselves. Think of that girl who completely takes over the image of women propagated by 50SOG: of women wanting rich, dominant men. If we keep telling the same stories, we will keep having the same, limited conceptions of our own identities.
I’m going to tell a different story now. It’s probably not cool to talk about my dad here, but I’ll do it anyway, so here’s the thing:
My dad is not a testosteronesque dad from the movies. He never said: “Are you going out like that?” and he never threatened any of my boyfriends.
My dad is a sensitive person. He cries sometimes and he faints if he sees too much blood.
He also fucking owns at video games and cutting zombies in half (virtually of course). He’s ace at talking down bullies and protecting people who are unable to speak up for themselves.
He’s one of the people who taught me that being sensitive doesn’t mean being weak and I’m still sure I can comfortably say he’s not questioning his manliness. And he’s never made me question my femininity because of toy cars or tree houses or mud caked pants.
It just wasn’t a topic.
Growing up with my dad, I never saw a difference between him and me, or between girls and boys. I didn’t know men were something to be afraid of, or some strange alien race that couldn’t be understood because they just had different brains.
Now I’m asking myself: What is manliness? What is femininity?
I’ve heard so many people argue that it’s just biology. It’s hormones. Different wiring.
To this day I’ve not seen a single convincing study that could determine the traits we’ve put under the umbrellas “male” and “female” are actually rooted in our genes instead of in plain cultural conditioning. You don’t need to buy into conditioning though. Hair works just fine without it, why shouldn’t our gender roles do so too?
In my circle of friends, I’ve come across people who have difficulty showing emotions, people who carry their heart on their sleeve, people who like to go shopping, who can and cannot park a car, who cry during movies, who like football, who knit yarn. They are people, they are individuals, and we should treat them as such because nobody in the world deserves being reduced to their gender.
If you take your time to get to know people, you’ll find they are all sorts of amazing.
Charlotte was listening to the quiet whirring of her laptop backing up while writing this.