I remember when I was younger, my parents would be upset with me for playing with my brother’s toys and my brothers were never allowed to play with my toys either. I always wondered what the big deal was but after learning about what gender roles and learning gender, I realized where this all comes from.
We live in a gendered society where we live by rules and codes that are gender appropriate. Everything is in categories of boys, girls, men and women. When we walk in to a children’s clothing store, it is divided in two sections, boys and girls. The boys section is filled with clothes that are blue, black, and grey and often have characters such as Spider man, Superman, or cars as a symbol that they are for boys. The same applies to the girls section because it is filled with pink clothing with glitter and flowers. While reading “Capitalism Hates A Hand-Me-Down” by Molly Westerman I realized how humans learn gender even before they are born. When a woman is pregnant the first thing she is asked is, “Are you having a boy or a girl?”. Since our society is gendered people have the urge to know if the baby is going to be a boy or a girl. Also, when the baby is born all of its clothes, shoes and toys represent its gender and as the child grows up it is exposed to toys, activities, and clothing that is “appropriate” for its gender. Although dressing up a girl in cute pink princess dresses and buying it tea sets, make up sets, and Barbie dolls may look cute, it creates bigger problems. Without knowing it, we are contributing to this sexist society. Children are being taught that they should only engage in activities and learn things that are “appropriate” for their gender. I have noticed that many parents shame their daughters for playing with a toy car or they shame their son for playing with a tea set. I recently read the story of Baby X by Louis Gould. As I was read the story, I realized how parents contribute to teaching their children gender. Parents buy toys, clothes, and accessories that are “appropriate” for the child’s gender. As the child grows up, it is only exposed to games, school subjects and activities that are gender appropriate. However, Baby X was exposed to everything and as a result it was good at everything. I was fascinated by the way in which he rest of the children wanted to just like X because it looked like it was having twice the fun (Gould,3). I feel that by teaching children about gender they are being limited to the variety of activities they can engage in and the experience they can gain. The story demonstrates that girls do not naturally want to be feminine and boys naturally want to be masculine. It is all learned and X learned to do everything. Learning gender is one of the root causes to why we have such a sexist society. By teaching our children that girls like to be princesses and boys like to destroy things we are teaching them what girls are “suppose” to like and not to like. The issue extends further. When children grow up and go to college, boys are encouraged to major in engineering and computer science, while girls are encouraged to choose majors that do not involve a lot of math and science. This furthers the issue because this contributes to the low number of women in congress and the low number of women in math and science fields. However, society tends to blame women for that and say that women aren’t smart enough to succeed in these fields. It is time for you to reflect on how you are contributing to this sexist society. Whether it is shaming boys for playing with a Barbie doll or girls for playing with toy cars. It is time for you to reflect and change those behaviors so that you can begin teaching children that they can engage and like whatever they want. Teaching children less gender will allow them to feel free to explore many other options and will enable them to gain a larger variety of experiences just like Baby X.