Men are insensitive.Women love to shop and wear makeup.
Men don't cry.
Women are irrational and dramatic.
Men love porn and sports.
Women are nurturing and good at homemaking.
Men are always horny.
Women aren't as sexual as men.
Men are physically strong.
Women are the weaker sex.
Do any of these sound familiar to you? The better question is, do they feel familiar to you?
These are all things we were taught and perhaps handed down unknowingly to our children, if we have any. This is what society teaches us explicitly and implicitly through media and unspoken social norms.
As open-minded and progressive as I believe I am, last night as I lay in bed in the dark in the wee hours, staring up at the ceiling, I thought about how I have contributed to the passing down of some of these insane social laws. I say "laws" because there is a definite gender police ready to shame you and give you a verbal warning if you stray from these norms, even if you never signed on to abide by them. I felt pangs of guilt as I realized I had treated my son (my second) with more harshness and less patience than I had ever treated my daughter (my first) when they hit the challenging toddler phase. The worst part about it is that I hadn't even realized it until it was too late. Somewhere hidden in my brain was the decision that men were stronger and could withstand spanking and harsher discipline and girls weren't able to handle that. That men only understand the physical and women understand words and intellectualizations. That to foster connections to the physical realm in boys and to the intellectual world in girls was not only better for them than the other but essential to their wellbeing in this categorical world.
Putting aside how much of a mess I felt while transitioning from one child to two, how hard that actually is, and the impatience and frustration that came from that, I treated my little son with much more physicality than I did my daughter. "You don't want to brush your teeth? Then I'm going to take you against your will." And I did... I would grab him by the arm and take him while he flailed his arms and wrangled his whole body and yelled the whole way. I never, ever did that to my daughter. I felt like that would break her spirit. Why I regret this so deeply now is because after a few years of being my son's mother, I realize that he was born incredibly sensitive. Not just emotionally but physically. He senses energy- of people and places- like no one I have ever seen (even more than me). But since he was born in the physical body of a boy, my programming deemed it okay to manhandle him and spank him if I thought he needed the discipline and yell when he wasn't listening. Now at almost four years old, I am taking the necessary steps back to balance. I shower him with love and kind words but he knows I mean business when the moment calls for it.
While I never did the princess thing with my daughter, I did treat her more softly and talk to her and explain things to her much more than I did to my son. I'm sure some of it had to do with the fact I had more time to do so with her, but I'm sure some of it was programming too. Which is why I encourage everyone to question all their actions, beliefs, and motives towards themselves and others because we all have so. much. SHTUFF. inside of us that is not genuinely ours. So much shame. So many taboos. So many rules that were set for us, without our knowledge or consent. Let's look deeply inside ourselves and see what we need to throw out, shall we? To this day, I am surprised at what I find.
By the time my 3rd was born, I had worked out a lot of my issues with gender stereotypes and roles and made sure I treated him as he cued me to. What can this individual child tell me about his inner life? What does he have to say to me about what he prefers as far as learning goes? How does he communicate with me? How physical or not physical is he? How sensitive is he? How does he like to play? How does he like to receive affection? All are important questions when raising each child individually and- just as important- when re-raising yourself.
The topic of raising and mothering oneself is always a touchy one. No one likes to consider that their parents were lacking and many won't approach the topic out of fear they will disrespect their parents. Especially when many parents have a sacrificed a lot to raise their children and given a lot of love, time, and affection. Re-raising oneself is mutually exclusive from the gratitude and love some of us may feel for our parents. We were all born imperfect. As I say, this is the learning planet. We didn't come here to float on fluffy clouds and be fanned with palm fronds. We came to do the work. We came to learn and evolve, individually and collectively. So, we were parented imperfectly due to the simple fact that we are all imperfect. No blame. No guilt. Just fact. When you look at parenting from this lens, you can let go of what you think your parents owe you or what you owe your parents. From here you can step into the very mature role of filling in the gaps that were created between the child your parents raised and the true, whole, unique person that YOU are.
A lot of these gaps have their origins in these gender and sex rules.
Who knows the exact difference between "gender" and "sex"? Most of us don't. I didn't until I looked it up so don't be embarrassed...
Gender: the state of being male or female (typically used with reference to social and cultural differences rather than biological ones).
Sex: 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.
So, gender has to do with your emotions and sex has to do with your actual machinery.
We teach girls and boys to never stray from their gender or their sex and thereby make life black and white and a whole lot of boring.
I think, "What if I was allowed to freely feel good being vocal and strong and defending myself growing up?"
... "What if I wasn't always gifted dolls and sparkly things and soft fuzzy things?"
... "What if I had female superheroes to look up to instead of always feeling like I should aspire to be a sidekick or a love interest to the hero?"
... "What if I was taught that I could and should enjoy sex?"
I asked my husband (awakened and wonderful man that he is) as I wrote this to ask himself questions about re-writing the scenarios of his upbringing and he asks:
"What if I wasn't expected by my culture to lose my virginity at a whorehouse at 14?"
... "What if my mom wouldn't have been so demanding of perfection?"
... "What if I wasn't expected to be number one at everything that I did?"
... "What if there wasn't a pre-conceived, religious notion that sex was bad and that it was better kept hidden?"
... "What if I would have been encouraged to follow my dreams without any barriers?"
... "What if I wasn't expected to be macho?"
... "What if being a lothario had not been expected of me or applauded by my culture?"
You can't spend too much time on "what if's" because the time has passed and what we have is NOW. But they are worth taking some time to think about because they clue you in to your specific gaps. They can inform you where you are needing nurturing and perhaps some re-defining of your self. Take the cues and then move on. Blaming is a waste of time. Change and re-creation is the name of the game.
In this new game there are no rules except those that you declare for yourself.
Come play. All are welcome. Shoes and shirts are absolutely not required.