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Gender in Society

October 15, 2018

Only 4.8% of Fortune 500 CEOs are female. Last year it was 6.4%. 2016 was the first year that a woman made it to presidential primaries. In the past, there was no such thing as stay-at-home-dads. And even now, there aren’t that many. These are all gender roles. They are what’s people define as the norm for each gender. But why are they there, and what difference do they make on the world?
It began when she was in preschool. It was subtle at first but turned more obvious. She would want to be the brother when we played family and never wore dresses. She wanted to be a construction worker, unlike the other people in her class. By the time my sister was in kindergarten last year, it was more noticeable. She would mostly hang out with boys. She wore an old collared shirt of my brothers to picture day. She was different from most of the girls in her class. No one cared that she wasn't the stereotypical pink princess girl. In fact, she had no interest whatsoever in princesses. She was different than I was in kindergarten, but I understood. Life went on as normal. But one day she came home in tears and ran up to her room. Some girls in her class had teased her about not wearing a dress and how they could see her underwear through her baggy khaki shorts. She was devastated. But she got over it. She didn't let those girls change her. The kids didn't understand, because they had grown up with strict gender rules, even if their parents had told them ‘you can be whatever you want to be’. They were confused by the fact that my sister wasn’t like everyone else, and weren’t sure how to act.
That experience made me realize that some people don’t really understand how gender norms shape society. People assume that only girls wear dresses. That’s not true. Some boys would love to wear dresses, but they’re scared that people will judge them. That’s true. People will take note of it and remember it for a long time. Some people might even make fun of it. Next time I see someone defying gender norms, I won’t think “oh, that’s different,” but instead, “they are changing the world one small step at a time.”
We are surrounded by gender roles. We grew up with them. We live with them, and we experience them every day. Look up princess costumes. Are there any boys modeling princess costumes? No. If you saw a boy in a princess costume on Halloween, you would probably remember, maybe even tell your friends about it. But that doesn't mean you’re a bad person. We’ve grown up with them. They need to be abolished before they make an irreversible impact on modern society.
Prompted by the ‘this i believe’ NPR series.


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