I've been thinking about gender roles a lot since a facebook discussion broke out regarding those sexy (I'd say almost pornographic) versions of what should be regular Halloween costumes. Admittedly, I've worn a few in my day, but I don't think I could put one of those on again with a straight face. Not to mention the fact that since then I've birthed two children. Things happen. And by "happen" I mean things in your body get er... softer. This video also got me thinking about gender roles...
In my mind, I already worry a little less about my son. It may be due to the fact that he is my second and am a more seasoned mother. But it may be due to some programming regarding gender. I worry about my daughter having to fight her way to be heard or equally paid or treated with full dignity and respect by everyone. But with my son, I feel he will automatically be respected simply because he was born with a penis.
Break in thoughts; uncomfortable pause...
So, I think I have some re-evaluating to do about what are my true beliefs around gender.
The truth is, I guess I'm not sure.
What makes a woman a woman? It's certainly not being born with a vagina because there are men who claim to be more woman than some actually biological females and whom I actually wouldn't refute. What makes a man a man? Again, not a penis. Look at Chaz Bono. He says he is a man and who is going to tell him otherwise? And what is each man and woman supposed to do in this world as themselves?
The more I ask these questions, the less I am sure of the answers.
An older woman once said to me when I was in my second trimester, "Oh, you think you're having a boy? GREAT! Boys look after their parents in their old age and will be very successful." Never mind my daughter who was playing just a few feet away from her. What of her care for us and what of her success? I was kind of outraged and called my husband immediately to complain about people's ignorance. And now I'm facing mine.
I put my little girl in pink and purple (the color of the Bic pens "for her") and I like how she looks in dresses so she wears them often. I like frilly foof for her sometimes. I do. Am I doing something wrong? I don't think so... not in my book. Who else's book matters? No one's, really. But there are books out there that will coincide with my daughter's book and will treat her like less if she wears heels or a short skirt or red lipstick. (I like red lipstick. A lot.)
I often wonder- being a stay at home mom for three years now- "What would I DO without my husband?" Automatically, I see a picture of me in my parent's house struggling while my husband is off somewhere with a new, younger, perkier-in-all-ways wife. The other day I caught myself in that daydream and thought, "Wait a minute. This is not mine. I will be fine. And where the hell did that come from?!?"
From movies, from tv shows, from magazines, from people who have decided to settle for less, from society's standards, from unwritten and unspoken rules we sometimes unwittingly follow. From some of our parents, from advertising, from places we surely don't even realize.
The facebook discussion began because someone mentioned the racy Halloween costumes. While I do think them to be a tad bit much now too, I admitted to having dressed up once like sexy Little Bo Peep for a college boyfriend. Most of college for me was about feeling I that I HAD to look a certain way because I was part of a sorority and I was dating the most popular greek (social affiliation not ethnicity) who was the president of his fraternity and loved by everyone in school. Feeling I needed to look good back then felt harmless to my true womanhood and power until I look back and realize it was what drove me to get plastic surgery. A move I still wonder about to this day. How did I get there? Remnants of that bruised self-esteem remain I suppose because today at the Whole Foods, I ran into one of said college boyfriend's fraternity brothers and being that I was leaking milk through my bra onto my shirt, in comfy homey clothes and my unbrushed hair tucked in a slouchy, I ran the other way. I don't want my daugther to have these or any semblance or remnants of these hang ups.
And why haven't I mentioned my son when talking about my hangups? Because men are "supposed" to not care about the way they look. If they do they're "effeminate" or "metro" or "a homo" or "soft" or "pussies". And it's "okay for a man to smell" and certainly alright for him to have hair anywhere (except his back, right my former sisters of Phi Sigma Sigma?). If I ran into an old boyfriend and he was sweaty and was wearing frumpy clothing with his hair all a mess I wouldn't think anything of it. I would think he just came from the gym or from shooting hoops with his macho friends. I wouldn't conclude that he was going through something and I wouldn't necessarily say he looked awful and was a hot mess which is what I thought said ex-boyfriend's fraternity brother might think about me. So I ran and hid behind the sushi maki section where I was sure he couldn't see me. And now I must run farther to where the shame won't follow me. Why in the heck did I care what some random fellow thought? What standards am I holding myself to? My own present ones? Past ones? Someone else's? I'll tell you what though... I did care what he thought. Otherwise, I would have gone to say hello and ask him how he was doing.
It's all so confusing.
We have some friends that let their little boy wear whatever he wants. Anything. Girl's panties. Dresses. Princess outfits with crowns and all. When they talk about it they say, "We don't want to give him any hang ups." And I so understand it. But letting my son wear a dress is beyond my level of comfort. Is anyone right or wrong here? I don't think so. It just comes down to differences, I guess.
What makes a man? What makes a woman? What is RuPaul, in that case?
I say in the end, none of the prescribed roles matter. After we figure that out, then we go from there on our own.