When we talk about gender, what do we really mean?
In the most simplistic sense, “gender” refers to a person being either male or female. This in and of itself doesn’t create any sort of problem – it’s anatomy.
But what happens when one gender takes a whole bunch of power and privilege away from the other?
And what happens when a person is born a boy, but identifies more with the feminine? Or vice versa?
These two questions are the basis of gender issues – and they are certainly very distinct issues to talk about. What most of you probably think of when you hear the term “gender issues” is the feminist movement – the search for equality between men and women. And while we’ve made eons of progress since the days where women were unable to vote, attend school, or have any power of their own, we are still no where near the ultimate goal of equality. Women still make less money than men in the same position with the same education, we’re still objectified for our bodies, and we still cannot go out anywhere alone without the threat of assault hanging over our heads. We’re still catcalled when we walk down the street, still told to stay home with the kids. These are things that are more difficult to change than a law – for these changes to happen, the mentality of an entire society needs to change. That’s not something that can be accomplished quickly, or easily, or without a lot of pain and effort.
But when we talk about gender issues, we aren’t only talking about the struggle for male/female equality. There’s an entirely separate problem that has emerged in recent years, and that is that not everyone fits so neatly into the category of “male” or “female”. Some people fall into a gray area.
What happens if a boy wants to wear makeup? Or if a girl wants to cut her hair short and wear loose clothing? Or even on a much smaller scale, what if the little boy wants to play with barbie dolls or asks for an easy-bake oven for his birthday?
We’ve created these strict stereotypes for each gender: men are masculine, they are dominant, strong, they like sports, they fix things. Women are very feminine, they wear makeup, they dress nicely, they like to shop, they’re soft-spoken, submissive.
But not everyone fits into these stereotypes, and this creates issues for those individuals. They have to fight for acceptance, or change aspects of themselves to fit preconceived notions of how a male or female SHOULD behave. This forms the second half of gender issues – creating a space for those who don’t identify exactly with either gender, who often feel lost or out of place.
I hope to discuss both topics over the course of this blog. Hopefully I can dispel some stereotypes and illuminate more of the struggle for gender equality and acceptance.