Our true nature is free of any and all notions of gender, of any notions of difference whatsoever.

19 Oct

It’s early, it’s dark it’s raining and I’m just too tired to crack open a book, opting instead to look at the window and strain to listen to any conversation on the bus. Not that there’s much-it’s 7am and people can barely muster the will to move towards a seat, let alone cobble together a coherent sentence. I should know. I fell over twice just getting out of bed.

There’s always this one woman who rides the bus-put together in the 1987 way of thinking-shoulder pads, oddly heeled boots, and a full crust of pancake makeup that I can see the cracks in 10 seats away. Her lipstick just can’t keep up, and she’s rather sponge like as the foundation heaves and falls as she speaks, like a busy road during the winter freeze and thaw cycles. I find myself frequently starring at her in awe, especially her over coiffed hair which totters like a scared child on her head. There’s womanhood, and then there’s Bundyhood. She strains the bonds of each.

But what catches me today, as I’m sniffing from the cold and wiping away the early morning leaky eye, is her conversation. Namely, one sentence.

“Oh, boys are just DIFFERENT. Girls like all the same things are easy to figure out. Boys? Well…”

I was struck then, with how bloody offensive that sentence is to, well, just about everyone.

Sure I don’t have boys. I have two girls. But are any two children ever the same? Are girls the same? One daughter of mine loves dinosaurs, insects, Bakugan, Ben 10…things mostly considered “boy”toys if you have the misfortune of buying a happy meal. Rosalyn, the youngest-very pink, loves Barbie, Care Bears, My Little Pony, princesses, playing with dollhouses. Traditional “girl” toys.

They ARE different. As your daughter or son is from you, from me. My children have complete opposite in temperment, and again, Vivian is more masculine, Rosalyn feminine, at least in how the world defines it. I make a point of not doing so. Toys at McDonalds are not “girl”or boy”-it’s the car toy or the kitty toy. We don’t refer to what Vivian likes as boy toys-it makes no sense, since she’s not a boy and she loves them. Vivian is very much mad then over it, as I’ve heard others attribute to their boys in the past, Rosalyn, well, she’ll be the kid in grade school that remembers exactly when you tripped her in the hall in Grade 6 when she’s 25. Rosalyn gets so vividly angry or happy…

The point is-there is no singular, defining moment for gender. We can’t point and say “yup. That’s a girl”. I have two who are so vastly different some days that I wonder where they came from and how they can be so much themselves. But that’s just it-they are themselves. I was told constantly to be more “ladylike” to stop acting like a boy, and in one inspired moment, to keep my shirt on, girls don’t run around without one. Girls wear skirts. Girls don’t wear black.

I’m who I am-not because I wore skirts, and not because my mother had a rigid view of gender. I am, inherently, who I am. Sometimes I’m difficult. Sometimes, I’m not. Just like my daughters.

This constant way we, as a society have of minimizing, making everything common and grouped, like a herd of antelope startled-it bothers me.  A child is never him or herself. He’s such a BOY. She’s so girly. She’s just like her mother. He’s acting just like his father did at that age.

Regardless of any of it being true. We must fold our children into small shapes, until they fit. We must never allow them the freedom of themselves.

***************

It was early, but I felt sad. I felt sad for this little boy, judged before action, framed in the perception of a stranger’s eye, now marked, ever so slightly, in the eye of his mother.

If we aren’t accepted, even there, what then?

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9 Responses to “Our true nature is free of any and all notions of gender, of any notions of difference whatsoever.”

  1. magpie October 19, 2009 at 1:39 pm #

    Yes! This infuriates me too.

  2. Hannah October 19, 2009 at 2:02 pm #

    I think there are too separate thoughts here… in terms of gender stereotyping and stratification yes, it irritates me that there are “boy” and “girl” toys. One of my favourite toys purchased last year for Isaac’s xmas was a child-sized vacuum cleaner that featured girls and boys on the box… it was so refreshing I nabbed it straightaway. And both my boys play with dolls and dinky cars, practice cooking with me and baking with their father, help me shovel the driveway and help daddy fold laundry. Clearly, gender stereotyping is aggravating, limiting, and outdated – and in the context of the remark you heard on the bus, indefensible and insulting.

    However, I do think boys and girls are different. I mean, men & women are different, right? And I’m a firm believer that those differences should be celebrated, not denied. It is scientific fact that girls and boys develop (physically and emotionally) at different speeds and ages, and this does impact on how we parent them. It’s got nothing to do with what toys we buy them and everything to do with what level of discourse is appropriate to the child’s emotional maturity. Of course this is not universally true and every. single. child. is unique, but it does bear repeating that a 13 year old girl is generally speaking more emotionally mature than a 13 year old boy.

    Sorry to hijack your comment, I think you and I may have talked about this before… it’s one of those things that winds me up. 😉

    • thordora October 19, 2009 at 2:21 pm #

      Absolutely. As creatures, we’re different-like watching the girls play with Issac, and his reactions to them compared to their reactions to other girls-completely different.

      BUT-how much of this do we do to them ourselves? (The US being everyone, not just you, evil mother). If we present it as an either or, instead of a both, are we making them select their own box, and making inherent differences amplify and become something they shouldn’t> (i,e male aggressor, female submissive, etc)

      I always take away from it that all our kids are different, and not always just in a limited gender way, and we get blinded by seeing only gender as a divider.

      I just wonder to what extent we create our own problems, kwim?

      (and toy vacuum, awesome. Convincing Vivian that scrubbing the toilet is a good time-PERFECTION.) 🙂

      • Hannah October 19, 2009 at 2:54 pm #

        Isaac scrubs toilets, too. But only as a treat, if he’s extra extra good.

        I guess I AM evil mommy. 😉

        The only way one would be able to prove that boys’ and girls’ brains do develop differently would be to put one of each on an island somewhere with no human intervention and see what happened. While there are times when I am tempted to sign Isaac up for such an experiment, well…

        It’s difficult to say where cultural conditioning leaves off and actual hard-wiring begins. I’m sure somewhere some post-doc researcher is pulling their hair out right this minute trying to figure it out.

  3. kelly October 19, 2009 at 2:05 pm #

    ugh…this one hollows me out. I am so torn btwn what i see my beautiful boy as, and the way school sees him. The line about the mother’s eyes made me sad.

  4. Miss Britt October 19, 2009 at 2:36 pm #

    As the mother of two children – a boy and a girl – who defy gender stereotypes, I applaud this.

  5. Jennifer October 19, 2009 at 2:41 pm #

    Meh, she had an opinion, she wasn’t stating fact. The problem is that people can never tell the difference in conversation. You saw the fallacy in her logic, and if the person she was talking too had a shred of critical thinking ability, they will see it too.

    My kids are polar opposites as well. Both girls. I never fit into a category either growing up, which I think was hard on people around me.

    You know what they say about opinions and assholes. Everyone has one and they usually stink.

  6. Marcy October 19, 2009 at 8:45 pm #

    There’s at least two impulses to balance here — the impulse to be unique, and the impulse to belong. When any kind of category helps someone feel like they belong, that’s good. If instead it threatens their sense of uniqueness, that’s bad.

    Reminds me — for some reason — (my connections / associations are almost always puzzling to others) — of some of my experience in therapy, where sometimes I really wanted to be the only person in the universe who struggled with X or felt X or whatever, and where Joe’s efforts to assure me that I wasn’t alone backfired and made me feel trite or commonplace (and therefore uninteresting or insignificant) instead. Either that or it was a pride thing, and being reminded that I’m not the only one with X was humbling.

    I still deal with some of that gender stuff — sometimes I dislike that I am into cooking, knitting, sewing, and so on, or that I have a chest, because I don’t want to be pigeonholed. I like sewing because I like sewing, not because I’m a girl.

  7. Vicki October 21, 2009 at 3:54 pm #

    My mother once told me after she listened to me tell her about hearing another person’s parent talk badly about that person that my name was always safe in her mouth. She meant that no matter what, she would not talk bad of me. She would disagree with me about things but she would never attack me for my own personal beliefs. Children should never have to worry that their parents may one day question their character in front of others. I applaud everyone here who has said that they let their children chose their own paths because following the path laid out before us may make the road easier but you never get to see anything new…

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