A few weeks ago, my husband and I began watching the first season of ‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel‘. He had started watching it a day earlier and realized that I’d like it too, so it was added to our post-dinner TV list and we binge watched it together in two nights.
Sometime during episode three, while we were laughing at one of the many, many witty jokes doled out by the very smart, interesting women on the show, my husband turns to me and says, ‘Don’t tell anyone I like this show!’. It was an innocent remark, but it stayed with me, echoing for days about what it really meant.
And it wasn’t the first time something made me feel this way either.
A few years ago, when I was still single and working near Philadelphia, living in a tiny apartment with room mates, I became close friends with a lovely couple in the area who had the most adorable, most perfect, well-behaved and angelic two year old son. Needless to say, my room mate and I became quite attached to the kid, and spent a lot of time in their home and they in ours – they became my family away from home.
One day, the kid and his mom were hanging out at our apartment, and the kid saw my room mate applying nail polish and got curious, so we decided to play the color game and painted his toe nails, each a different color and made him repeat the names of the colors back so he could learn them. Fast forward to a few weeks and our friend (the mom) was back at our apartment for ‘girls night’ when she casually mentions that her husband took offence to the nail polish game – he was worried that the boy might grow up to ‘like effeminate things’ and asked us to not do it again. While she found it absurd and even a little hilarious, I realized that under the blanket veil of ‘effeminate‘ was a fear of so much more.
It’s moments like these that remind me that we, as a species are still evolving. Most of the world still fights against any change in status quo – boys must be boys and girls be girls. Monster trucks for one, pretty dolls for the other and never the other way around. But we no longer live in a world where the same rules apply, do we? This is the age of stay-at-home dads, career moms, male nurses and female action heroes. Singing and dancing used to be considered effeminate jobs once, but have you met Hugh Jackman? So much has changed in the last few decades, and yet so little is different. Last month, I was invited to a social gathering with a few families in the area. After the initial introductions were made, the women whisked me off, rather unwillingly into the kitchen/dining area, while the men huddled around the living room sofa, having their own ‘manly’ conversation. Here I was, in a room full of women with whom I shared nothing besides gender, forced into a conversation about marriage, kids and associated complaints that I did not particularly enjoy or relate with.
Why this disparity? Why can’t some men socialize with women as equals without feeling like their masculinity is being attacked and why is it that when married women get together, it’s almost always to vent about familial troubles? Why is there shame in being perceived effeminate or butch? I’ve stood in a circle of men as the lone woman, and have them avoid eye contact with me, or reply to my questions directly. As long as one gender looks down upon the other, fears shame in being associated with its characteristics, does not value its opinions and is having private conversations in separate groups, there can never be equality among the sexes, and we will never become a united species.
Teach your sons to cook, do the dishes and respect women. And teach your daughters to use tools, mow the lawn, speak their mind in public and physically defend themselves. Let these tasks/qualities no longer be associated with genders, rather just seen as skills that each individual has to learn in order to survive this world. If a boy cries, do not chide him by saying that only girls cry, rather let him express his grief in a way that feels natural to him. And if your girl likes climbing trees or jumping off things, do not tell her to ‘wear a dress and act like a girl’ – enroll that kid in an outdoor activity/sports club. There is no shame in being who we are and doing what we were made to do- unique, beautiful and magnificent in our own special way. There can be no true progress in conformity. Do not reduce the complex glory of humanity into two simple groups, ruled by gender cliches that have no place in an evolved world.
“We’ve begun to raise daughters more like sons… but few have the courage to raise our sons more like our daughters.” ― Gloria Steinem