When I was younger, I wore my big brother’s old clothes to school. They were mostly baggy, they had more zippers and pockets than the girl’s clothes, and had some pretty cool graphics on them. I would always tell everyone that those clothes were so comfy. And they were–I was always itchy, uptight, and aggravated in most of my girly clothes. That’s the way I wanted to dress sometimes–and my parents let me.
When I was younger, I had a best friend named Josh. He was nice and liked to play with the same toys I did in kindergarten. We built things with blocks and once they were high enough–all the way over our heads–we’d knock them down like Godzilla with crowded cities. My other two closest friends were twin brothers, Nickolas and Cameron. I always hung out with these young boys and all my neighbors who were overwhelmingly boys–and my parents let me.
When I was younger, I wanted to go to football and lacrosse day camps. I turned out to be the only girl to participate in either, but that’s something that I didn’t notice at the time. I ran as fast as I could, stayed as alert as possible to never miss a pass, and always did all the exercises. I was put into karate classes at the age of four. There were only a couple other girls who practiced at that dojo and they were older than me. Everyday I went to karate, I never questioned that I was going to be one of the best students. My older brother and I did many of the same activities growing up–and my parents let me.
When I was younger, I spent my years growing up outside in the woods before dinner. My neighbors made sticks into weapons with my brother and I to fight off imaginary intruders and evildoers. We’d get spots of dirt on our clothes and spots of poison ivy on our skin. If we got hurt, we’d help each other to get back inside and clean up. I came in the house smelling of soil and grass–and my parents let me.
When I was younger, I started middle school, where I learned how to make new friends. I started realizing that I had a lot in common with many of the girls in my grade. I had sleep overs with them and even had a best friend that was a girl from elementary school all the way up to sometime in high school. I started going shopping for clothes that fit me well and used purses instead of pockets. I used the makeup that I thought looked good on the other girls–and my parents let me.
When I was younger, I started to see that the little boys were growing up from punching-bag-play-mates to young men I’d daydream of holding hands with. I made more friends that were girls who tried to help me talk to boys nicely about things like feelings. I remain that same child that spars hard in karate and isn’t afraid to get dirty outdoors, but I have grown into a young woman that practices a more nurturing attitude and values softness and elegance–and my parents let me.
My parents taught me enough to let me make decisions as I grew up.
An issue that has resulted from large portions of the population’s actions in parenting, is that of their children starting to feel restricted by the norms of gender identity. If a child identifies as a girl, does that mean that they must only play with the toys sold in the pink packaging? Do they have to play house rather than learn how to throw a baseball? If a child identifies as a young boy, does that mean they automatically have to be athletic? Do they have to aspire to be a part of life-threatening careers at a young age? Of course they don’t. What seems to be the problem is that parents, caretakers, relatives, and friends alike automatically expect certain behaviors based off of one’s expressed identity.
It’s clear that we, as individuals, have the autonomy to decide how masculine and how feminine we behave every day. What isn’t clear is how society will treat a person for acting more feminine or more masculine than everyone else would expect. Sometimes the reactions of society are so extreme that no matter how autonomous we may or may not feel in our self-expression, the people around us can slowly push us to expressing and acting on feelings or urges we may not have within ourselves.
I am Kalie. I go to Central Michigan University to study communication, leadership, and psychology. I spend my free time practicing archery and martial arts, working out, hiking mountains, painting or writing, analyzing music, playing board games and video games, and dancing. I don’t always act the way people expect me to. I am lucky enough to have been raised to not allow many restrictions that come along with identifying as a woman affect me on a daily bases.
If you are interested in how some people or places plan to get rid of some of the negative effects of gender roles and expectations, or if you are curious about what might be right for raising a child in today’s society, you can visit these sources:
about Sweden’s Gender-neutral Preschool: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-14038419
men and boys challenging the dynamics of personal and professional gender roles for equality: https://www.un.org/press/en/2015/wom2031.doc.htm