While it's 2016 and one would like to think we're inching close and close to gender equality, it's relatively impossible to overlook the gender stereotypes and sexism still plaguing our culture. Even our children aren't immune to society's many messages concerning gender, and what is expected of human beings after they've been labeled "male" or "female." Whether it's the toys kids play with or the colors they wear or the moments daughters are expected to be nice, but sons aren't, our children are inundated with fictitious messages about gender, gender identity, gender "norms" and how they should act in relation to the gender they've been assigned at birth.
Obviously, it shouldn't be this way and so many people are working to end the prevailing idea that a boy should "act a certain way" and a girl should "act a certain way." It seems hypocritical at best, and impossible at worse, to claim we're fighting for equality while simultaneously maintaining old-fashioned views, usually based on gender stereotypes and sexist ideologies. I'd argue that the best way to change our culture and, in turn, the world, is by changing the way we raise our children. Instead of telling little boys they can't wear pink because it's a "girl's color" we need to realize that color doesn't have a gender and our children should be free to be themselves and express themselves however they see fit. Instead of telling our daughters that they have to be quiet or small or shrink themselves so that they're "seen and not heard," we need to encourage them to find their voice, and use it.
When a baby is born, they have no idea that the gender they're assigned is somehow going to be used to try and police their emotions, their actions, their likes and dislikes and, in some cases, who they can or cannot potentially date or fall in love with. It's the heartbreaking reality, though, of a culture that has yet to strip itself of gender stereotypes. Still, there's hope, because we are raising the next generation and that generation can live in a different society. Baby steps are nice and usually an early requirement for change, so here are a few times when daughters are expected to be "nice," but sons aren't. We can't change what we don't know so, well, now you know.
When Someone Says Something Mean...
I don't know about you, but I was taught that when someone said something mean, I should graciously smile and calmly either disagree or remove myself from the situation entirely. I wasn't supposed to appear too "emotional," because there's nothing worse than showing any human emotion, apparently.
Women (and girls) are usually taught that it's better to be above reproach than to be an actual human being with actual human emotions, so being "kind" and "nice" is better than being genuinely upset when someone has done you wrong. Ugh.
...And When Someone Does Something Mean
Most women (and girls) are told to "turn the other cheek" or refuse to "fight fire with fire" or some other non-helpful trope that is regurgitated anytime someone does something mean to a girl or a woman. It's better to "kill them with kindness" because it's "unladylike" to be upset or take action against someone who is doing something mean, or hurting you, or oppressing you in some way. Double ugh.
When Someone Messes Up Something They've Made
I, for one, wouldn't be happy if anyone just came running through a play room and knocked over the block tower I just spent an hour building. I'd argue that any kid is going to get upset and cry or yell, yet we tell our little girls that they are being "emotional" because it's "just a toy."
Of course, the flip side is that we tell our sons that they shouldn't cry at all, because "boys don't cry." This is why the patriarchy and gender stereotypes and sexism, honestly, hurts everyone. This is also why everyone can benefit from feminism and gender equality.
When They're Playing With Others
While "boys will be boys" and they're allowed (and, at times, encouraged) to "rough house" or wrestle or hit or something similar, little girls are expected to play quietly and calmly and "nicely."
When They Don't Get What They Want
This is childhood 101. You can't always get what you want. Still, our culture teaches young boys that "no" really means "try harder" and that if you just work harder or ignore what people say or find an alternative method, you can get what you want in the end. A little boy, then, can complain about not getting what he wants, when little girls are constantly being told to "be happy with what they have."
This is rape culture, boys and girls. This is why there seems to be a disconnect between safe and consensual sex, and sexual assault.
When Someone Take Their Toy And/Or When They're Asked To Share
There's a relatively recent movement that many parents are engaging in, where they don't teach their child to share. Whether you do or don't preach sharing toys or anything else, little girls are usually told to "play nice" and "take turns," while little boys are told that it's OK to keep playing with whatever it is they're playing with because, hey, after all, it is theirs.
During A Break-Up Or When They're In A Romantic Relationship
Little girls are often told that if a boy "likes them," they'll hit them or be mean to them. "They just don't know how to tell you that they like you, so they're going to be mean to you, but they're really just showing you attention for a reason." This. Is. So. Dangerous.
Little girls are often told that they need to be nice or kind, during a relationship and especially during a break-up. They need to "let 'em down easy" and they shouldn't put a boy in the "friend zone," and, in the end, they basically have to be submissive and care more about a man's feeling (if they're in a heteronormative relationship) instead of their own feelings. Again, this is so dangerous.
When They're Voicing Their Opinion
Little boys are told to speak up and ouse their voices and "assert their dominance," whatever in the hell that means. Little girls (and women), on the other hand, are told that they need to be kind of think of other people's feelings and not be too loud or assertive, because it isn't attractive.
When a little girl or a woman voices their opinion in a way that isn't "nice," they're told they're "angry" or "shrill" or emotional A little boy and men are just "passionate" or "driven."
When They're Competing In Sports (Or Any Other Competitive Setting)
Little boys and men are expected to be "angry" or "intense" or "competitive," because those emotions are celebrated as "masculine" and, as a result, are considered acceptable for men to express.
Little girls and women, on the other hand, are suppose to compete with grace, wear makeup, look pretty (even when they're playing a sport that douses them in sweat) and conduct themselves in other way our society has arbitrarily decided is "feminine."
When They Win...
Again, it just goes back to competing "with grace." A woman (and little girls) are expected to "win with grace," while men and little boys are given the capacity and the room to boast or be prideful or celebrate.
...And When They Lose
And, of course, if you lose you are supposed to "lose with grace." Any emotions you feel that some may consider "ugly," like anger or pain or sadness or frustration or disappointment, should be stuffed deep, deep inside you. Little boys, of course, are told that it's OK to get angry or made when you lose, because little boys "are competitive by nature" and don't like losing.
In other words, you just can't win if you're a little girl (or a little boy, in so many respects). While cisgender boys and men are definitely given more room to be complex human beings, these gender stereotypes hurt everyone. So, like, can we not?