Saturday, May 15, 2010

When Did I Notice Gender Rules?

There was a time when I was no more aware or concerned about streotypes and gender roles than I was aware or concerned with the chewy on the underside of my desk. This represents my time in primary school, where exporation of my surroundings was predominatly physical, with little attention given to understanding complex social constructs. Choosing, or perhaps encouraged, to simply float along the river of dreams, the sky as my limit adrift on my proverbial cloud. Wihout doubt these 'social rules' and expectations were having a profound affect on me. Yet as a young child I did not concern myself with these matters and I certainly did not partake in any deep anaytical thought. Things were simple, black and white; For example, if I intended to play sport, I was only aware of the criteria I had to fill to do so. Yet I was completely unaware of why that criteria existed. The resulting effect of this unknown social pressure on my child mind is both intriguing and upsetting. The manner in which I did discover these strict gender expectations leaves me, in many ways, bitter towards the society that promoted them.

The saying "Ignorance is bliss." holds particular relevence for my years in primary school. Blissfully I was unaware of the societal rules that governed my every move. As a child I enjoyed playing rough sport, playing with dinosaurs and fantasy role play. My mannerisms in general would have been seen as more masculine and, as i later discovered, were 'looked down upon'; my gender deviance frequently discouraged and punished by my teachers. The biggest difference between me and those who may have expirianced similar treatment, was my reaction. My child-like mind took this negative feedback and translated it. I honestly began to believe that if I wanted to do the things I enjoyed, these 'masculine' things, then i simply had to be a boy. So I transformed myself, I cut my hair short and wore male clothes, till was indistinguishable from any boy in my year. Yet I was uncomfortable with myself, I would often be asked if I was a boy and I would always reply 'No!' I would make sure they knew that physically I was female. That is to say that my desires to be a boy were purely based on my desires to do masculine things. That a child would intepret signals as a choice, not between activities, but in gender. This situation is a sad representation of society and it is how I came to realise how much affect gender stereotypes and roles have.

Today I am aware and often deep in thought about the origins of these rules, as well as potential 'solutions.' I personally believe that stereotypes are an unmovable aspect of the human psyche, ingrained and inbuilt for their supiriority in efficient communication. I am also certain that attempting to use the legal system to alter societal perspectives is ineffective. It is futile to write laws that dictate what someone's beliefs, it tends to be more effective when it works reactively with large shifts in community thought. However, I am confident that a gradul 'widening' of accepted boundaries for gender could occur, whereby the criteria for important life decisions would not seat gender as a major demoninator. So more weight would be given to a person's individual characteristics and less on the expected characteristics for their gender.

Humans by nature have a mix of characteristics, unfortunatly these have been artificially place into categories based gender. By nature people have a variety of these characteristics, yet they are expected to conform to this warped social standard. This can only be altered with time, a gradual alteration to what we view as important to identity, as society moves away from it's evolutionary origins and continues to develop humanities most advanced trait, Intelligence. The path to heightened sentience will lead to a reduction in reliance on these evolutionary 'throw-backs.' In-turn more weight will be placed on our intellect and this will result in a society where gender has less relevence. Finally, androgyny would be reconised as an individual's natural state, contributing to a greater understanding of oneself and their own unqiue combination of characteristics. This heightened awareness will allow peope to critically view the stereotypes they do make and thus they will be more wiling to accept exceptions to the stereotyped rules.

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