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Toxicity of gender roles
At a young age, you are taught to adhere to gender roles. Apparently, the sex you were given at birth determines many factors in your life. These factors include how you dress, behave, and express yourself. What if you do not feel comfortable with these gender roles, what if you do not 'fit in'?
Even before you are born, gender stereotyping is present. Someone who gets to know your sex will often buy clothing and items for you that fits into the categories 'male' and 'female'. They will buy pink and like-coloured clothing if you are female, and buy darker colours (such as blue) if you are male. Then, your type of dress may also be determined by your sex. Frills will be for females and collared shirts for males. You have to ask, what is there to accomplish other than favorable appearances in the eye of society? Why are they fitting you into a gendered box from a young age?
It is not just with clothes that gender roles are being enforced at a young age. Commercials market toys specific to certain genders, and never seem to show mixed gender expressions in their advertisements. The atmosphere of such advertisements follow a certain formula, like a lot of marketing in society. Females are supposedly acquainted with being dainty, polite, and interested in dolls. Males are acquainted with being adventurous, bold, and interested in action figures. Guardians fall prey to the gender roles and stereotyping they are being fed, and think that this is the way to go to make you happy and fit in. What if you are not happy with the role you have been given? Inanimate objects and activities do not have a gender. Society may market what they want you to choose and how they want you to act, but you do not have to follow their suggestions. Maybe you do not even have to pay attention to gender as a whole if that is what is comfortable for you. Yet, this is difficult to assert as a child.
Gender roles will continue to cause a lot of stress the older you become. Especially in school, there is a barrage of gender segregation. Among different bathrooms, they have different instructions at times: "Girls go in this line, and boys go in this line". In secondary education, there are even different classes for males and females. The educational system will attempt to educate you further on how they perceive society wants you to act according to your sex. Gender stereotyping also has to deal with gender equality as time goes on. Why are males to be seen as more athletic than females? Why are females perceived to be more artistically adept than males? These ideas cause a lot of shame for those who do not fulfill them. Some of these gender ideals can be practically demeaning, such as saying females are only focused on appearances and males are troublemakers. In the work force, certain genders may even be favored for pay and opportunities.
Society in general will paint gender roles across your life with the illusion of what is 'normal' for your gender. No matter how you act, you will always be 'normal' for you. Every person is a unique being with a unique form of expression, and they should not be forced to stay in a box of what they should or should not do according to their sex. Gender does not have to be a binary, and gender does not even have to matter for every person. Your physical sex also does not determine your gender identity with finality. Humans are complex and should not be simplified. Break out of these gender roles, speak out against stereotypes, and find your own person among the masses.
Chris is an eighteen year old youth volunteer at mindyourmind that is currently coping with mental illness. He hopes to provide insight on experiences as well as creative inspiration to educate, empower, and end stigma in relation to mental illness.
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