These days, it seems that the media is plagued with images and mottos telling young boys and young girls who they should be. Female actresses and presenters, for instance, are always being analysed by their fashion sense, rather than their talent. Young male actors and presenters, on the other hand, are analysed by their level of sport activity rather than their talent.
And what about the sale of children’s toys? Toys created for girls seem to always involve caring practises for dolls or Barbies. In girls’ toy advertisements, small girls are either slapping on gaudy makeup, styling their Barbie’s hair, rocking their plastic doll, or writing in a ‘secret diary’ about their crush. In boys’ toy advertisements, however, small boys seem to be constantly hyperactive and mischievous, flashing our television screens with footage of them gallivanting around the place, squirting their older girly sisters with waterguns, pretending to fight with plastic army equiptment, operating electronic toy cars, or producing some sort of gungy slime from a Science set and again, using it to fool their girly and precious sisters.
When young boys play with Barbies and dolls, it is presumed they are ‘camp’ and ‘girly’. Often, their parents assume they will be gay when they’re older. When young girls play with action men and army figures, they’re labelled ‘tomboys’, it is presumed that their group of friends will be boys and they will never flaunt their appearance, instead they will choose to hide away in baggy boys’ clothes.
And, shall I delve into the matter of ‘grown up’ people? We are led to believe through society that women should be younger than their male partner, or perhaps the same age. There is even a way for men to decide what aged woman they should approach, if they divide their own age by 2, and add on 7 to it. This would mean, for instance, that a 25 year old man should be seeking a 19 year old woman, while a 30 year old man should be seeking a 22 year old woman, and a 19 year old man should be seeking a 16 year old woman. But, where did this small ‘tip’ for men come from? Supposing women thought of it first, and it was always programmed into it us to believe that women should, by rights, be older than their male partner? However, this is not the case. A woman who is older than her male partner is instead considered a ‘cougar’ by friends and family. While, on the other hand, a man who is older than his female partner is considered a ‘charmer’ by many.
What about society’s stereotyping on homosexual men? It is presumed that they will be interested in fashion, hair, makeup, etc. It is assumed by many that their main friends will be female, that they like to go out and have fun, that they’re ‘party animals’, that they should always be well presented, that they have a high-pitched voice and female mannerisms (ie. hands on hips, tucking hair behind ear, etc), and that they will say ‘like’ a lot in their dialogue, and speak in a slighty ditsy fashion. But, where did this fixed view on gay men come from? Why is it presumed that just because a man is sexually attracted to people of the same sex that he should behave like a woman? If we were to inspect the physchology behind this issue further, we would probably come to the conclusion that many people simply do not understand homosexuality, and therefore presume that gay men are, in a sense, like women in disguise. Why else would they be attracted to men?
What about the recent story in the media, for instance? Chris Birch, who was a Rugby player, and who enjoyed typically ‘macho’ activities, such as going to the pub with his mates, playing sports, etc, suffered from a training-related accident, and woke up, apparently, as a gay man. He gave up his Rugby and his career, changed his hairstyle, lost eight stone in weight, broke up with his girlfriend, took a sudden keen interest in hair and fashion, and qualified as a hairdresser. Now, he is living with his 19 year old boyfriend. He claims the accident ‘made him gay’. Personally, when I heard of this story, I couldn’t get my head around it. How could an accident ‘make someone gay’? Just like straight people, gay people are naturally sexually attracted to people of the same sex. So, how is it that a physical accident dramatically changed his sexual interests? And, even if this was possible, why was it necessary for Chris Birch to change everything about himself because he had now ‘come out of the closet’? Out of all of the changes he made after his accident, I can only understand his choice to break up with his girlfriend. Was it society that led him to believe that he had to become ‘a gay man’ now that he felt attraction towards men?
A similiar expectation exists for gay women. It is assumed that they will behave in a ‘manly’ fashion, have short hair, a deep voice, wear male clothes, partake in ‘male’ activities (ie. boxing, wrestling, beer-drinking, etc), and essentially try their hardest to rid themselves of any ‘womanly’ looks. Strangely, there also exists a totally opposite expectation for gay women. If the gay woman in question is physically attractive, it is presumed she will carry with her a ‘sex addiction’ and have no sexual morals, and dress in a revealing way. It may also be presumed that these gay women are determined to ‘sexually please’ straight men.
On a sub-conscious level, we are taught from an early age how we should look and how we should act, depending on our gender. We are thought that as girls, we need to be well-presented and fashionable, girly and ‘precious’, colourful and pretty, fearful of muddy/messy surroundings. We are thought that as boys, we need to be boisterous, hyperactive, mischievous, cheeky, macho and protective, interested in sports, and drawn towards muddy/messy surroundings.
But, why can’t we be ourselves? Why is it that we also have to carry with us society’s expectations? Why is that, as children, we can’t be interested in playing army games, without being boys? And, why is is that, as children, we can’t be passionate about fashion, without being a girl?
So, the next time you see a woman with short spiky hair serving you at Spar, don’t assume she’s a lesbian. Don’t automatically buy female children dolls. Just open up your mind, and realise that they’re people, and they’re unique. They should never be determined by their gender.