When I grow up I want to be……
Did you know that even though gender and sex are often used interchangeably, they actually have different meanings?
According to the people who know what they are talking about, gender is what you think you are and sex is what your body parts say you are. Not that those body parts actually speak, but you know what I mean.
So now that I have shed some light on the difference between the two, let me tell you a story about what is going on in your child’s head with regards to their gender and how generations of gender-biased opinions could have an effect on them.
Long, long ago, in a land far away ….
Well, it was actually about 2 years ago and it happened, quite unexpectedly, when *M and *F had a ‘birds and the bees’ moment while F was cooking supper.
*Male and *Female (Thought this might be easier than giving them actual names. Especially if those names happen to be your name and the name of someone you don’t like and my story lands up having a really unwanted undertone)
I will leave the details of this moment to your imagination. What happened after the birds tweeted and the bees buzzed went something like this – 22 chromosomes in M’s sperm and 22 chromosomes in F’s egg decided that they liked each other and hooked up. The odd couple out, chromosomes 23, decided that they would give the concept of ‘opposites attract’ a try, and gave each other a hug. And just like that the odd couple out decided on the sex of the little baby that we will refer to as B.
Little B had no choice in the matter. The fate of his/her sex had been decided by what was written into his/her chromosomes.
Let’s fast forward in time until B, who was born biologically female, is the delightful age of three. B doesn’t think that her gender has any permanence at all. In her little mind, she thinks that the clothes you wear may change the gender that you are. She was even heard asking mommy if mommy was a boy or a girl when she was little. It will not be until a little later on, around the age of 4-5 years old, that B will realize that boys have a penis and girls have a vagina (when this happens a whole new can of worms is opened with regards to sexuality. That’s definitely a story for another blog). She will then start to understand that a change of clothing or a haircut cannot change what sex you are.
Seeing as B had been born biologically female, would this mean that later on in life she would adopt all the gender characteristics that society believes females should have? Throughout her short life, B has been subtly influenced by society and her family with regards to gender and gender roles. B was born into a family where mom and dad had very specific household chores. Dad never cooked supper, besides the occasional braai. He spent a fair amount of time maintaining the garden and serviced his own vehicles. Mom worked from home, so the responsibility of the house cleaning and cooking fell under her allocated chores. B had a beautifully decorated room. Pink and purple filled the wardrobe and dolls lined the shelves. Sound familiar?
Back to the story – One-day B’s mom was reading a blog written by a lady who knows what she is talking about. This blog encouraged her to expose B to a variety of toys, not just the ‘girly’ ones. What?! Why on earth would B want to play with trucks? Airplanes? Never. Her grandparents would have a fit!
You need to understand, Little B is a blank slate, a piece of soft, cute, squishy dough ready to be moulded into something exceptional. What if that mould wasn’t what society viewed as a ‘feminine gender orientated’ role? Due to the way her family viewed certain things, it was highly unlikely that B would ever grow up to be a firefighter or a fighter pilot in the air force. Which is quite sad if you think about it because who knows what talents are hidden underneath those beautiful curls and chubby cheeks.
Feeling slightly ruffled and annoyed, B’s mom cooked supper that evening with this idea forming roots in her mind. Had her rigid ideas about gender roles in society almost prevented her from letting her child explore her talents to the fullest? Maybe this little person sitting on the floor in front of her, banging pot lids together, deserves to be defined as more than just ‘female’. Maybe this little man growing inside her womb was the next Benjamin Millepied (don’t worry, no need to google him. He is a famous male ballerina and choreographer).
B can count herself lucky that her mom read that blog. From it transpired a new way of viewing the limitations set on us by our gender. Who knows, give it 20 years or so and you might be driving a car designed by B, just because her mom decided that Hot Wheels were not just toys for boys.
The sky is the limit for our children. Don’t let their gender ever be a deterrent.