The Truth About Gender Norms

We see them everywhere. They are deeply intertwined with our everyday culture, habits, routines, and decisions. They condemn our personal interests and passions, they taint our self-confidence, and they’re inevitably present in the world. Gender norms. They smolder the raw and authentic beauty in amazing people.

Gender norms are expectations and standards that convey certain concepts regarding how males and females should behave. It’s alarming how much impact they have on our lives, making it difficult for us to act the way we want, like the things we do, and enjoy the activities that interest us unless they fit the outlines that gender norms have constructed. It’s unfortunate how our lives are being driven by these unwritten rules, and it’s even sadder how they prevent so many people from being who they really want to be.

How very silly, not to mention unbelievable, it is that gender norms are still existent in the 21st century. You would think that such old-fashioned views would be abolished from society by now, but that’s not the case at all. Despite the many ways in which the world is progressing, the matter of gender roles seems to be one aspect that isn’t moving forward as much as it should be.

We’re constantly being told that something is wrong just because it doesn’t match up with what is stereotypically deemed to be appropriate. For example, men can’t even wear the colour pink without being ridiculed because pink is somehow labelled as “feminine”. Women don’t receive the respect they deserve when pursuing certain career paths that were traditionally dominated by their male counterparts. Men are expected to be tough and athletic, while women are supposed to be nurturing, docile, submissive, and the damsels in distress. The list goes on and on…

But why should they matter? Why should these rules control our lives when we have every right not to follow them?

Photo by digitalart Freedigitalphotos
Photo by digitalart Freedigitalphotos

It’s definitely a challenge to contradict the gender norms that have been around for such a long time. It’s hard to go against them and be your own person, but being ourselves is really what we should all be doing. Instead of tolerating the socially accepted but insincere version of you, embrace the version that genuinely stands for who you are. That means dressing in any way you want to. That means aiming to achieve whatever goals and dreams you may have. That means presenting yourself however you wish and rejecting the mannerisms and lifestyles that don’t feel right to you. And if there are people that have a problem with that? Well, those are the people you don’t need around. You are the one person whose opinion should matter the most to you, and if behaving in ways that differ from traditional gender norms makes you happy, then you go for it.

See, I’ve never been able to comprehend why there are people out there who are so firmly against other people’s happiness. I mean, if someone wants to behave in a certain way and what they’re doing isn’t hurting anyone, then why should it matter? Why oppose someone when their actions are adding joy to their life and don’t even affect you? Is it really anyone’s business? I simply don’t understand the need to force someone into stereotypically fitting their gender role when they can be happier by not doing so. In our society, gender norms are being viewed as far more relevant than they should be.

Unfortunately, instead of being eliminated, these gender stereotypes seem to be thrust upon newer generations, too.

Even children are being introduced to gender roles starting from the earliest years of their lives. They are expected to play with toys and participate in games that reinforce society’s norms, and often times kids are met with disapproval from parents when they find amusement in contrary activities. It’s very common for young boys to be given cars or building blocks, while girls are handed frilly dolls and teacup sets. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m sure many of them genuinely do enjoy those activities, but there are always a few who are attracted to other hobbies. I believe it’s important for adults to support and nurture their children’s interests, even when they don’t match specific expectations. After all, young children typically don’t pay attention to what’s traditionally categorized as “masculine” or “feminine”. They simply like what they like, and they deserve to do so without being judged. A boy wants to take ballet lessons? A girl wants a new soccer ball instead of a stuffed toy? Sure, why not! Their happiness is what should really matter in the end, anyway.

If people showed greater encouragement for adolescents and their various passions, new generations would pick up on more open-minded views. Passing on more educated and accepting morals is what’s going to change the world for the better. In fact, we should be showing greater encouragement to everyone in general. Everyone should know that being who they are isn’t a bad thing, and no one should be ashamed of themselves. Going against society’s ideas of what’s “right” is tough, so why not show love instead of hate? It’s time to really break down the barriers that are setting people back from fully loving and appreciating themselves.

Gender norms are a dangerous thing. They put restrictions on people’s lives and create pressure for people to fit in with molds that may not suit their inner selves. Insecurity and artificial behaviours often replace genuine personas as a result of society’s inflexible standards. But despite all the challenges that gender roles can create, it’s so important to be true to yourself. I know, I know. What a totally cliché thing to say, right? And yet it’s true. Be who you are and value your personal styles, preferences, dreams, and so on. Rock it all and be your own person without the negative influence of gender stereotypes pulling you away from things that are important to you. Don’t ever discredit yourself. You. Are. Awesome.

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