Dispelling Gender Norms & Expectations
The Way Someone Dresses Doesn’t Define Their Gender
When I was little, I liked baseball caps and baggy sweaters, I liked hanging out with dad and going to hockey games and so people would always call me “a tomboy”. Dictionary.com defines “tomboy” as an energetic, sometimes boisterous girl whose behaviour and pursuits, especially in games and sports, are considered more typical of boys than of girls.
Photo: Ellen DeGeneres’ GapKids Clothing Line for Girls That Challenges Stereotypes
A lot of people might ask “what is wrong with that?” I would answer, “exactly, what is wrong with a little girl being energetic and sometimes boisterous?” Before I discuss this topic further I think I should give two more definitions, for gender and sex. Gender is the state of being male or female with reference to social and cultural differences rather than biological ones. Sex is either of the two main categories (male and female) into which humans and many other living things are divided on the basis of their reproductive functions.
We have to recognize that the way someone dresses doesn’t define their gender; and, even more importantly, their gender doesn’t define their sex. Masculinity and femininity are only ideals created by society because human beings are more comfortable with labels than they are with how another human being feels about themselves. Gender is socially constructed and this is why issues like the wage gap are ridiculous. The worst part of all of this though is that we push these crazy ideals on young children and force them to conform. If they don’t we label them as not aligning with their sex, which is ridiculous because as I mentioned, your gender doesn’t define your sex. In fact, because gender is constructed by society there is no possible way that someone could ever not align with their sex by being who they are. If the reproductive organs that you were born with mean you are a woman then dress however you want to, whether it aligns with society’s view of femininity or not. It will never make you less of a woman.
This brings me to my next issue which is that when little boys dress the way society deems “feminine” then then society will label him “gay”. It is horrible not only to teach this little boy that not only is someones sexual orientation something to be ashamed of but also that who he is, what makes him feel good when he looks in the mirror every morning, is something he should feel ashamed of. As if waking up and feeling good enough isn’t okay.
I was discussing this with my friend and she referenced the hashtag “#MakeAllClothingGenderNeutral”. I told her that as great as that is, we as a culture are far from getting rid of “the boy vs. girl section” in clothing stores. What you can do as a parent, though, is make sure your child knows that no matter which outfit they chose that it’s okay and the only issue with what they pick is whether or not it’s within your price range (and not if it comes from the girls or boys section of the store).
And as the great Dr. Seuss says, “Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.” Being yourself in a society that tries to label you and change you is difficult, but it is my hope that one day we will entirely dispel gender norms.
Mikaela is a student majoring in Developmental Services and has a strong passion for advocating equality.
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