Boys and Girls aren’t different, they’re just individuals

This is a topic close to my heart, and I’ve been thinking about it and planning a post for some time. So when I saw this post today, I was prompted to finally put together my thoughts.

Calah argues that men and women are different, and that men are largely persecuted for being men. I agreed with her point on how men are mocked in the media today, but I pretty much disagreed with everything in her post. Aside from the fact that women are mocked in the media as well, (Haven’t you seen those stay-at-home moms in the commercials who magically have it all together because they bought air freshener? Or the woman in the weight loss commercial bemoaning the fact that she “used to be pretty” and now she can’t even leave her house now because she is a size 12? Gender discrimination against both sexes is alive and well) I would argue that these shows are largely mocking the stereotyped roles that men are “supposed” to fill, not the men themselves. Is it frustrating that the stereotypes are mocked? Yes, because some people may truly fit into those stereotypes and it is not right for them to be made fun of.

But it is more frustrating that those stereotypes exist in the first place.

Somehow society has become convinced that there is a right way and a wrong way to be the sex you are. Boys are told to toughen up and quit crying, girls are showered with messages about how their value is tied to their beauty (as defined by the surrounding culture). These are just a few examples of the stereotypes that have been around for some time in the western world. While men are still largely stuck in the role created for them, recently there has been some effort to fight back on behalf of women. But instead of seeing this as a good thing, and doing the rest of the work to debunk these stereotypes, many people see this as a major step back.

I was raised in a home that strongly believed in gender roles, and enforced it with their children. I was told constantly that I was not smart enough as a female to be interested in “that”, and I should pick something better suited to my gender’s abilities. I was reminded that I was too emotional as a girl to make that decision, better to leave it to the male leader in my life who had the inborn talent for making good choices. We were told constantly, Girls are different than Boys! My parents were out to raise men and women the way they were “supposed” to be. If only everyone thought as we did, and trained their boys to be strong leaders and good providers, and shaped their women to be quiet, submissive homeschooling stay at home moms, then everything that was “wrong” with the world would be righted. There would be no more marital strife, no more gays or lesbians, no more unemployment, no more abortion. Everyone would know their role and be happy working in it. (Looking back it sounds a lot like communism to me.)

People risk life and limb to immigrate (sometimes even illegally) to make it into a country where they can have a job, an education, freedom of religion. I grew up in one of those countries, but I was denied all of those freedoms. Sometimes it is still hard for me to believe that I actually have them.

My interests were shaped to be stereotypical, and I was able to adjust fairly well. I funnelled my creativity into cooking, and sewing. I gave up on higher education because as my parents told me over and over, it wasn’t necessary for my role in life and could in fact even be detrimental since having interests other than the home would only make me discontent in my “god-given role”. Other siblings were not so well off. A sister close in age to me hated cooking and crafts. She was interested in being active, and loved sports. She begged to be allowed to participate in soccer or basketball teams, but my parents were determined to make her conform into the stereotypical girl. So she was not allowed to cut her hair, she had to wear dresses like the rest of us girls, she was not allowed to join a sport, and had to keep plugging away at cooking and cleaning. She did not fit the mold. She was not the stereotypical girl she was “supposed” to be. My parents were so convinced that boys and girls were very very different, that they refused to see that their own daughter had other gifts and interests. Several years after I left home, another one of my sisters joined a martial arts class as an older teen. My parents were upset. They threatened to cancel her member ship over and over. They complained about how this would only teach her to be confident and aggressive like a man, and argued that she was wasting money learning a skill that could never be used during her upcoming life as a pregnant mom of many children. And this type of thing didn’t just effect the women in this mindset, the boys are trapped too. My brother loves to cook, but he has been “gently” steered towards other things that would be more lucrative in order to support the large family and stay at home wife that my parents are sure he will have one day. My husband remembers being made fun of and shamed when he expressed interests that were not gender-conforming. He remembers being sad as a ten year old when it dawned on him that he would never be able to be at home with his kids, and would probably be working very long hours away from them every day.

And this isn’t even getting into the messages about sexuality. Of course we girls knew that all men were just interested in us for our bodies, so we had to cover them up as much as possible, as well as avoid spending time with men. The boys got this too. My husband remembers his parents framing every conversation he ever had with a girl (after he turned 14 or so) as a possible romantic interest. He learned to doubt himself and question his own motives in having friends or even chit chat after church.

After we got married, we both lived in our determined roles for several years. Being who we were told we had to be. And it was a huge burden on both of us. I was exhausted from having exclusive care of the children and the house. I was bored with the housekeeping routine. The depression I thought would disappear after leaving my parents home lingered. My capacity for thought and research was stifled by the role I had been tailored for. My husband was working long hours. And when he was home, he was often playing computer games. He had no idea how to relate to our kids, his understanding of fatherhood was highly influenced by the surroundings and education of the patriarchal homeschooling world,  his example was the hardworking provider his own dad had been. His capacity for nurture and connection was stifled by the role our culture tailored for him.

It took several years for us to ditch the gender role “utopia” and start the learning process to just be who we are, instead of who we were “supposed to be”.

I’ve come to believe that most of the “gender differences” we are conditioned to see, are merely personality, and have nothing to do with the sex of that person. Yes, maybe the argument can be made that possibly the “active, hands on, critical thinker” personality surfaces more often in males than in females, and the “nurturing, gentle, compassionate” personality is perhaps more common in women. But even there I wonder if a large proportion of that is conditioning and not proof of gender differences. Programming is hard to shake, and if you are told your entire life, by family, teachers, books, media and religious leaders that you are a certain way, it is hard to be brave enough to say anything to the contrary.

Once I started to shake the old messages of what women are “created to be”, I started to discover that I was not as dumb or helpless as I was conditioned to be. Women are not genetically more nurturing or gentle or loving. We all have the capacity to be a loving compassionate person, and the more compassion we have been shown, the more likely we are to pass it on. Both men and women have the capacity to be incredible parents, no one sex has the monopoly on parenting abilities. Girls are not always dainty and pretty, my girls have farting contests and make endless poop jokes and break toys sometimes. Depending on their personality they can take injury in stride, or they may need hugs and kisses to make it better. Men are not all hopelessly unable to share emotions, I’ve watched my husband change from gruff and bossy, to gentle and encouraging. Almost everything that my dad told me about men, was wrong.

I’ve found my ability to see and understand the personalities of my children has gone way up once I stopped reading books on the “differences” between boys and girls. And my connection with my husband has improved substantially once I threw out all those Christian books on marriage and the “battle of the sexes” and just noticed and accepted him for who he was.

Women are just as capable if deep thought, long term goals and decision making as men. Men are just as capable of affection, housekeeping and appreciation of beauty as women. Every person should be free to pursue their interests and be whoever they are, whether that is a Dr, stay-at-home parent, or truck driver. After all, if these gender differences were that stark and obvious, why are there so many books on how to treat boys and girls differently? Why do we need so much coaching on the differences between the genders if we are supposedly born that way? If girls and boys are genetically designed to be very different from one another why do we spend so much time and effort trying to create the right environment for them to become “real” men and “real” women. Once upon a time, we punished left-handed children until they wrote the “correct” way, with their right hand. How often is the gender divide an attempt to do the same thing?

We each have our own set of gifts, interests and abilities. Every personality is unique and different, and much of that will have nothing to do with the sex of that person. Why can’t we accept and love each person for who they are, instead of comparing them to a false exaggeration of what they are.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10562805251128821984 Libby Anne

    Hooray! I LOVE this! Three cheers!

    I've actually been planning to write a post similar to this. You see, my daughter likes trucks better than dolls. And I happen to think that's just fine. I am convinced that most (perhaps all) of the differences between the sexes are the result of social conditioning. Girls are told that they are supposed to be nurturing. Boys are told that they are supposed to be tough. You know? I guess I don't have to write my post now, though! You wrote my thoughts for me – and even better!

  • Jane

    This, this a thousand times. Gender stereotypes are a pox on society. I have a son who is 25 months and I'm expecting a daughter in 4 to 6 weeks. I'm fed up already with being told I must be glad to be having a girl to dress up. I'm bored with being told my son does a certain thing because he's a boy. No he does it because he's him. Sometimes fits the male stereotype sometimes he fits the female stereotype. I'm sure my daughter will be just the same.
    I hope my husband and I can show our children that it's ok to be themselves, but it's going to be a hard path. The deadly hand of pink for girls and blur for boys is everywhere in our culture.

  • http://mollymakesdo.wordpress.com/ mollymakesdo

    Bravo! It is more important to nuture the person our children were created to be and not what culture deems them suitable for!

  • Anonymous

    Interesting — my dad was one of those lefties whom the nuns forced to write with his right hand. And my mom was a total tomboy who pitched a no-hitter when I was a kid. We spent many summber evenings watching her softball games.

    I do think there are some generalizations that are true for many boys (such as prefering thing/object-focused play), just as there are for girls (preferring relationship-oriented play . . . even with trucks, many girls will have a mommy truck, a daddy truck and a baby truck). But you're right, each child is an idividual and shouldn't be forced into a role.

    I know, because I am happily married to a piano-playing, singing, articulate, emotion-sharing husband, whose parents encouraged his musical abilities. Our job as parents is to nurture the person *God* created, not the one we want to create.
    Nancy

  • http://faithandfood.morizot.net/ Scott Morizot

    Hmmm. My Dad taught me how to cook. In some ways, my Mom taught me how to overcome adversity. My parents were educators, scientists, and artsy hippies. I would never call my childhood a bed of roses. There were many problems and a healthy dose of craziness. But I never had anyone trying to cram me into any particular mold. For that I'm grateful.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00184616275088281652 Chantal

    Nancy I really like your quote "Our job as parents is to nurture the person *God* created, not the one we want to create." I've always been free to do what I wanted. I really gets frustrated with gender roles, and I expect my husband to help around the house. I don't like domestic work but I am learning to accept it and see beauty in it. When I worked outside the home and had to take care of the children, if the house was a mess, it was ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS seen as my fault. I at one point I was working day and nights and my ex-partner was studying. When my brother was seen changing his girls diapers, ect the comments were "OH! What a good Dad he is!" I was very, very annoyed.

    I've been told by a friend that I am one of the only persons she knows who doesn't live by the "boys will be boys" saying. This particular friend is not a christian. My children are black and white with my daughter being very rambunctious and impulsive and dirty and my son being thoughtful and considerate. My daughter's nicknames are "jungle girl and little crazy girl). My son used to have an imaginary mermaid friend when he was 2 and 3.

    Even so, I see a femininity in my daughter and a masculinity in my son in what they expect from me and how they relate to me.

    There is something to the differences between boys and girls. I have a day home and I do see these differences in the way they play. The girls generally do seems to enjoy the dolls more. They will play with cars and trucks but when I had mostly boys the vehicles were used a lot more often. I've seen the little boys also change the diapers on the dolls but there is a general difference. However it is wrong to restrict someone's choice of interest simply based on their gender like I read so often in all this quivering stories. My job is to present what is there and foster the interest of each of my children.
    Their masculinity and femininity is still there in who they are. I don't need to guide them in the right gender activities.
    However, sometimes I also insist on certain skills. (I registered my son in a "cooking class")

    Chantal

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05598890631695015818 Pippi

    My mother had definite gender roles too, but they were more general and thank God, holding me back in education was never part of it. She and June both seemed to think we would all go into politics someday lol. It was more along the lines of having to wear stockings and slip-on shoes from 12 years old on, not being allowed to run or exercise because it was unladylike, and what bothered me most, not being allowed to go on the rare outings Dad took the boys on for fishing or shooting. Not that I even cared about those things anyway, I just wanted out of the house.
    Sports was never an issue because it was a waste of time. Anything fun was a waste of time to June, every action had to produce something to be worthwhile. And the same with college. My brothers have pursued education for their chosen trades, and I probably could have if I'd wanted to. But college was only a brainwashing tool that we must shun. Boys and girls.
    That has never bothered me for the simple reason that Mom and Dad could never have afforded college tuition for.any of us, so I feel it's a moot point.
    The only appreciable difference between my education and my brothers, was that no one taught me finances. I thought they just assumed that my husband would handle that, but when I mentioned it to Mom once, she seemed to think she had taught me plenty just through math. It never occurred to her, I guess, that I might need more than a knowledge of percentages and basic math in order to run a household. So I was completely blindsided by the cost of living, had no idea how to budget or how credit cards worked, and living with an addicted spouse only complicated matters further. But that's the only area in which I can fault my book education, so I am thankful.

  • Katie

    Very interesting post. I have to say, though, that I'm not sure I believe your upbringing is typical of the average girl of our generation in the United States (I'm 29 – guessing I'm maybe a few years older than you?). I will add the disclaimer that I was raised by a father who changed diapers and painted his wive's toenails (and didn't care when she painted my brother's) and a mother who worked full-time when I was young. I wasn't filled with gender stereotypes. I played sports. I was a high school valedictorian who holds a master's degree. My dad was mad at me when I chose not to pursue a career in medicine. I'm married to a man who is sooo not the sterotypical guy. But you know what? I disagree with you. I think that in certain ways, men and women are fundamentally different. My parents told my brothers they couldn't have "weapon-like" toys and my mom insisted it's all about "how you raise them" when we were young and my brothers turned things into guns and built forts anyway. I have little girls. My younger one chose a dump truck cake for her birthday this year and my older one likes to pretend she's the "daddy" of her stuffed animals and says she wants to be a big boy someday, but when I look at the way they play in comparison with the little boys they play with, it's so fundamentally feminine. I don't plan on filling their heads with bogus stereotypes, like the ones that you mentioned, but I believe that respecting their individuality includes respecting their gender, and we can't pretend that the difference doesn't exist. I read Calah's post, and I don't think what she was trying to say was that women aren't capable of deep thought, or that we need to coach our children into their gender roles. I think she was trying to say that we need to stop pretending that gender doesn't matter.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02614822971755761394 Rebecca

    I think balance is important here…we can see male and female as distinctive without stereotyping and pigeonholing. I think being male and female is a blessing and while each person lives out their masculinity and femininity a little differently, there are still common traits in each gender…and each gender has specific gifts to give.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09595148905728912326 My Feminine Mind

    Yeah. I never understood separate rules and roles for boys and girls. I have two girls and it's my belief that whatever is an innate part of their femininity, they will automatically do. I don't have to encourage or discourage anything if it's a natural part of themselves. One of my daughters loves cars, trains, robots, video games, and art. The other loves dolls and is very nurturing with them. One fits the stereotype. One doesn't. But they are both feminine. How could they not be? They are female!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09971244496160164955 Musings on Motherhood and Ministry

    Like like like! Although I do agree with others posters that children may gravitate to certain gendered behaviours (dolls vs trucks, for example), we need an environment where everything is possible irrespective of whether we are male or female. I tell my girls when some barrier comes up that there is nothing they cannot do right now that a boy can except pee differently. They both love princess and fairy stuff but 6yo will go to a party as a pirate rather than a princess and 5yo insist on wearing her Spiderman trainers for school sports even though she is teased for it. We don't have any boys as yet, but I if we do I would hope that, like the youngest boy of one our priests, we too are comfortable with him dressing up as a princess. And if he wants Daddy to paint his toenails too, he will :-)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08641509566095727946 Amy

    Hear hear! I do think there are differences between men and women, but *much* less so than our society would have us believe. And I think it is so sad that some people are discouraged from showing some of humanity's best traits–compassion, being nurturing and loving, etc–just because they are male!

  • http://foreverinhell.com Personal Failure

    This is so amazing, so true, and so eloquently put, I can only say "Huzzah!"

  • Caravelle

    Note that gender roles are utterly pervasive, you can't just choose to get rid of them "just like that".

    There are studies that show people describing the same infant as having stereotypical masculine or feminine traits depending on whether it has a male or female name, and treating it differently. I haven't found anything recent, and a lot of those studies involve very small sample sizes; one twenty-year old review of them I read concluded that more research was needed.
    (http://www.lhup.edu/tmitchel/wmst/stern.pdf if you can access it). And of course there's how much the children react to even small differences in adults' expectations.

    Message being, we don't really know how different boys and girls' personalities are innately, and how much is caused by social expectations, subconscious or otherwise (which don't even wait for the kid to be born before coming into play). And we won't find out soon because it's the water we swim in.

    Of course, even if as a parent one can't guarantee they'll treat their children equally, depending on their personality not their gender, that doesn't mean one can't try.

    That said, there are subconscious expectations and then there's what you and your siblings were subjected to. It depresses me that posts like yours still need to be written today.

  • Petticoat Philosopher

    Wow! I've been reading your blog for a while without commenting but this is just such a wonderful post I had to speak up. This argument has been made many times before (including by me) but your expression of it is so eloquent and your own experiences with the suffering and alienation that rigid gender scripting often causes make it all the more powerful. Also this: "Why do we need so much coaching on the differences between the genders if we are supposedly born that way?" reminds me a lot of one of my favorite points made by one of personal heroes, John Stuart Mill. He was a 19th century British philosopher and member of parliament who advocated equal rights for women and wrote extensively against (then legally enforced) female submission in marriage in his essay "The Subjection of Women." At one point he says (paraphrasing), "If it really is in women's nature to be docile and submissive to men, then why are laws necessary to enforce this behavior?" Seems very similar to what you are saying about gender policing and it's a point I don't often hear people make when they talk about gender roles. You might enjoy "Subjection" if you're up for wading through some dense Victorian prose. (It's well worth it, imo, and it's also public domain so you can find it for free on the internet) You're quite the philosopher. :-)

    One thing–a lot of the dissenting opinions here are citing children's play as proof that innate gender differences exist. This is a common argument but I really don't think it holds up to scrutiny. I think you guys are underestimating how early on children start to absorb social messages about how boys and girls should act and how this affect their development. There have been sociological studies where people are told that exactly the same baby or toddler is a boy or a girl and they interact with it very differently depending on what they believe the child's sex to be, which means that many of us are, even unconsciously, "gendering" kids very early–and since little kid's brains are still developing, the nurture actually to some extent BECOMES the nature. There have been other studies in which little boys are observed with a wide range of toys, including stereotypical "girl" and "boy" toys. And that if they don't realize they are being observed by adults (like through one-way glass) they will often start playing with the girl toys, showing that children are sensitive to expectations of them much younger than we'd care to think. Small children are not "clean slates", they begin to be written on the moment they are born. In my view, even if there are slight innate gender differences, we may never know them because there is no way to study human beings without the confounding factors of society and culture. Sorry if that was a little over-academic but I'm kind of a nerd. :-P

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10562805251128821984 Libby Anne

    Petticoat Philosopher – Couldn't agree with you more on the stuff about children's toys! Social conditioning starts so early!

  • http://www.liberatedfamily.com Rebekah

    This is an amazing post. Thank you.

  • Anonymous

    What a thoughtful and well written post. You have said many things that I have also thought in an articulate and intelligent way.

  • Cici

    Awesome post as usual. I love hearing your perspective. Have you read Martha Beck? I think you might enjoy any of her books, but the one that is particularly relevant to this post is called Breaking Point. She does a brilliant job of disseminating how both men and women have become pigeon-holed by societal expectations. (It is not textbooky, even tho I just made it sound that way) It is an easy read. Incidentally she was raised conservative Mormon, so has some similar experiences to yours. Hopefully available at your local library.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16968334158961627857 Margaret

    Reading this reminded me of an article I read a few weeks ago!
    "How to Talk to Little Girls"
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lisa-bloom/how-to-talk-to-little-gir_b_882510.html?ref=fb&src;=sp

  • I’m done

    "If only everyone thought as we did, and trained their boys to be strong leaders and good providers, and shaped their women to be quiet, submissive homeschooling stay at home moms, then everything that was “wrong” with the world would be righted. There would be no more marital strife, no more gays or lesbians, no more unemployment, no more abortion. Everyone would know their role and be happy working in it.(Looking back it sounds a lot like communism to me.)"

    "It took several years for us to ditch the gender role “utopia” and start the learning process to just be who we are, instead of who we were “supposed to be”."

    Beautiful and deep insights. I hope you can begin to see how so many Christians fell and continue to fall for the pull of utopia. (Not just Christians, of course, this sickening search for utopia is in Stalinism, Hitler, Chairman Mao, Pol Pot and N. Korea, all murdering societies that we as Christians claim to stand against, all the while falling into the same tragic philosophy in a smaller way.)

    Dealing with the tensions and pain of this world will not go away by forcing any individuals or groups of human beings into living under certain man-made rules. (Like gender roles and many, many other utopian dreams.) If you look closely, Paul in the Bible is trying to help us understand how to live with the tension of not everything being perfect. Instead we have taken his words and made them into utopian rules. How sad and tragic.

    Ok enough philosphy for today. I encourage the direction of your thinking and the eloquent way you have of expressing it.

  • http://theinternetbinge.blogspot.com/ Esther

    There is a major difference between women and men. It's real. It isn't caused by what toys we play with or what colors we wear. That difference is that women give birth.

    I think the whole pink vs blue thing is a distraction. What's crazy is how well it works. We know that men and women are different. We know that's real. But the way we often think about it (trucks vs dolls, energetic vs cuddly) is a strange twist on the real part.

    I'm a feminist. Proud of it. Have been for a long time. But I also noticed recently that I have been gendering my own children. My daughter just got to be old enough to play with dolls and I said, "Wow, it is true. Look. She really does like that doll. Look at how she's helping it lie down for a nap." Then I remembered that my son at that age (and sometimes still) liked to take his shirt off and hold his teddy bears up to his chest to nurse them. I had ignored my son's behavior, because it was "weird" and validated my daughter's behavior, because it was "normal." But really both of them were imitating their adult role model, imitating the way I care for them.

    Honestly, if we put the gender difference where it really is: in reproductive capacity, and not in personality, then the status of women would change. If we all thought that women are equally capable of critical thinking, and of making good moral decisions even on behalf of others, and of spiritual leadership AND could bring forth life… Well, that would be different.

  • Emily

    Oh my goodness…I hadn't planned on commenting because I pretty much agree with you and didn't think I had much to offer, but I just went to blog you linked and it pissed me off so much. I'm so disheartened to see all the supportive, unthinking responses :(

    Soo…a brief rant (maybe…it could get long). The way these super gender specific roles are uncritically accepted is demeaning and destructive to the integrity of the human person, both male and female. Now, I'm not one to say there are no differences or only genital differences between sexes. I'm a woman through and through, head to toe. I can't mentally consent to the idea that my femininity is something that is conditioned (it just IS) or to the idea that my soul is genderless. Everything about me is feminine. I'm feminine when I'm wearing a dress and I smell nice and I'm flipping Susie Homemaker. AND I'm just as feminine if I have hair on my face, my voice is low, I like math, I avoid emotions, I wear clothes that men of this era typically wear and I'm shoveling horse shit (and use colorful language). There is nothing that makes me less of a woman. This question of what it "means" to be a man or woman (or a "good Christian" man or woman..ugh)is absurd. You want to be a good woman? Then be a good human being. I guarantee that if you are a woman, then being a good human being will automatically make you a good woman.

    When people speak of "gender differences," they're speaking of trends and generalities and tendencies (at best) or coercive training (at worse). I don't necessarily have a problem with the former, but every generality I've heard is anecdotal and not trustworthy. In my own experience I can find numerous counter examples of every single generality. They're way too sloppy. There are legitimate psychological studies of gender differences and those are interesting, but they're not prescriptive. But even more important than that, is the fact (which you point out) that each male and each female is an individual. My femininity is particular to ME. To ignore this is to do a huge disservice to the human person. There is no ethereal gender that we have to conform to and if we don't we're somehow failing or screwing up.

    I was actually just talking to my husband a few weeks ago about gender scripting and how harmful it is. One "Christian" (it's certainly un-Christian, in my opinion) gender scripting lie that drives me up the wall is that men are "more visual" than women. Really? Soo…women have poorer eye sight? Or perhaps we just don't have a preference for what we see? Concerning what? Interior design? Facetiousness aside, I know they're talking about sex. Men are supposedly more sexually aroused by what they see than women. (If there are studies on this then they probably show something like men's hypothalamus stayed active longer than women's when shown some visual stimuli. What that actually means outside a lab is a completely different story). To tell someone "you are more sexually aroused by visual stimuli" doesn't only make them more aware, but it makes them more sexually aroused by visual stimuli. For example, they've done studies where they told people before taking a math test "you are good math" and they do better than people who are told the opposite. I'm convinced that all the focus on how "visual" men are and how women need to dress to protect them (ew, no thanks! and how demeaning to men!) creates more perverts than anything else.

    I've babbled enough. I'm still so pissed.

    If you're interested in some more sane thoughts on gender, my friend wrote a couple pieces on her blog a few months back. They're refreshing.

    http://manureandcognac.wordpress.com/2011/04/30/a-fish-with-a-cigar/

    http://manureandcognac.wordpress.com/2011/04/15/31/

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12058056949857197980 monika

    I had my first baby three months ago, and it's really interesting to watch people interact with him. When he was six weeks old, we were at the nurses' office for a check-up, and he was crying in the waiting room (probably a tummy ache). Got a lot of comments like "Oh, such a strong will for such a little one!" "Oh, he's angry, he doesn't want to be here!" etc. No one interpreted his crying as sadness or fear, the way they do with girl babies.

  • Anonymous

    Since you weren't raised in a traditional family and neither were your kids, you noticed that your kids aren't as gender conforming as most other kids are. Yet there are still some similarities in what people describe girls and boys to be like and your own kids right. Well did you ever think that it might be because kids also learn from what they see on TV, school, other kids etc. Most kids, teachers, TV shows etc. still try to enforce the traditional gender roles on to kids at an early age so your kids and brothers might have learned that behavior when they were little by all the other institutions influencing them.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00153117604262687451 RilianSharp

    … how is that like communism?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13674332089949439989 Melissa

    The utopian idea/myth that if everyone lives within the designated (In communism by the government, in gender roles by religion and society) roles for their station in life, everyone would be happy and healthy and fulfilled.

  • Whitney

    So this is an old post but I see that you have commented recently so I wanted to let you know about an interesting theory I heard somewhere (would look it up but am in a massive hurry) that differentiated between 1) biological sex (as expressed in genitals etc) 2) chromosonal sex (there are more than two!) 3) gender (of the soul, as it were, _who_ you feel you are) and 4) "gender"/societal expression (being "masculine" or "feminine" which are just ways of behaving and interacting with the world that are commonly associated with one sex or the other)
    Fascinating stuff, and it makes a lot of sense to me to separate these categories. And of course then there's sexual orientation, which is different from all of these as well. It's great not to have to choose _how_ you want to be just because of _who_ you are and vice versa.
    I hope this is coming off as somewhat coherent! Anyway, love your writing and hope things are continuing well for you and Dee and the kids.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07727291511829658991 penn

    I came to your blog via someone's link to your courtship series. I just want to thank you for writing. I am really enjoying your archived posts and thoughtful consideration of who we are. My family is somewhat religious (my dad is a liberal Christian minister), and even I struggled with gender-typical versus trying hard not to be gender-typical as I grew up.

  • Regina Terrae

    Hi, Melissa. I just found you through one of those marathon surfing sessions, so I’m not sure I could say how I got here….

    But I have so many questions about “gender”. I’m a woman and have no “gender dysphoria” with that, but am not particularly conforming. In those “men are from Mars, women are from Venus” or “defending the caveman” conversations I tend to identify at least as much, or more, with the men than with the women. So this post makes lots of sense to me.

    But then what doesn’t make sense is transgenderism. Because what does it mean to feel like the other gender, if it’s not just being non-conforming to the gender associated with your sex? Does that make sense? You and Haley now call Haley a woman, not a man who just happens to be interested in or talented at stereotypically female things. What’s the difference? If boys and girls aren’t different, just individuals, what does it mean to Haley to be transgendered?

    Do you think you and/or Haley would want to post on this question? Or do you have any good links that explain it well?

    Blessings to you both and to your family.

    • Melissa

      Great question! I think I will try to put together a post in this soon.

      • Regina Terrae

        Thanks, I’ll look for it!

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