I came by this video across my Tumblr dashboard, and if you will just take a moment and watch it, this post will probably make sense in its entirety. If you want to wait until after you’ve read it, that’s all right, too.
Just, please, be sure to watch it, and spread it.
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To the public eye, I am considered “normal” in regards to gender roles. I’m a woman, married to a man, not the breadwinner to the home, and have two children. According to millions of people, I fit almost seamlessly into the category of “normal” because that’s how things should be.
But my parents, if you knew who they are and could ask, would probably tell you that they struggled with my upbringing. I was the daughter who had trouble with society defining roles for me just because I was born with reproductive parts inside my body instead of outside. I am expected to be more agreeable, to bend easier, and to submit to the more authoritative roles men played. I was expected not to have a vocal opinion – maybe not even have one at all, and to be quiet unless asked or spoken to. Women don’t share opinions in the presence of men, just amongst ourselves.
I don’t blame my parents. It was how they were raised. It was the only thing they knew. They taught me what they know, which is more than I can say of some parents in comparison these days. I do not blame my parents for society’s short falls. They were as much of a victim as I was.
However, it did spur the resentment I held for gender roles and the deep hatred I had for myself because I was born to grow into a woman.
“Don’t spend so much money and attention on the girls. They’re being raised for someone else.” – Some fathers in Asia.
If you heard that quote above from your own father (not from mine. Mine would never say those things), how would that make you feel? Would you have respected your mother? What self-respecting woman would marry a man who looked so lowly on her, right? I’ve seen the daughters of these men. They had nothing to look forward to, living their days being envious of their brothers. If we were stubborn, or if we stood to fight against the system, we were hammered down or stifled.
We were meant to be broken to better serve the men.
I sympathized with these girls, but I refused to empathize with them. Most accepted the role of being a victim. A few went on to become some of the strongest role models for some of us strong-willed ones to follow or moved abroad to carve a piece of the world out for themselves without their fathers or brothers to hinder them.
But in a society where there are men such as those raising their sons with the same ideology and beliefs and women were raised to be victims, then there was no place for me, and some part of me resented the men as much as I resented my own sex.
While I loved my father, I continue to live in a perpetual love/hate relationship with my younger brother. He could have had it all. I had to fight for every step and bled for every stumble.
My father loved me in the way that said I was his entire world. Until my younger brother came along nearly six years behind me, I was the only child he believed he could have because of my mother’s health. The doctors weren’t sure if she could survive another pregnancy.
I’ve always wondered how it made my father, and his parents, feel that I was cursed to be born a girl instead of a boy. Truthfully, he never gave my brother as much attention as he did me. How could he? I had six years on my sibling, but more than that, my father seemed to have taken more care in telling me things he either didn’t share with my sibling, or my brother had long since perfected the “in-one-ear-out-the-other” habit.
My father will always tell me that I can achieve whatever I put my mind to, but because I’m a woman, fighting in a world dominated by men, I will never reach the heights I could possibly achieve.
Not that I had ever aspired to great heights, to be honest. All I ever wanted to be is a writer, and in the grand scheme of things out there like finding cures for diseases and creating architectural feats and advancements, wanting to be a published author really isn’t aiming for the moon or the stars.
It is simply quirky… and a dream. “One can’t live on dreams,” he told me a few times.
Nevertheless, it has made me wonder if his determination to push me overseas in my education was in hopes that if I couldn’t stand up in my own society, then perhaps I could do so outside, in a society where women were not quite so oppressed. But in an effort to make me understand just how difficult it is back home for my sex, he kept me home for a year and worked with the Japanese for a couple of months.
These people have a level of discipline and commitment that I am in awe of and respect deeply.
I am blabbering. Apologies. Let’s move on.
It is the twenty-first century, and I have two children – an older boy, a younger girl, born less than two years apart – who my husband and I must raise in societies that fluctuate and are in the process of redefining themselves in a semi-bubble of itself. They have citizenships to three nations in the world, on three continents, by right of birth, and every single one has a different level of acceptance.
I am unsure if you understand the task that my husband and I face going forward and just how mind bogglingly wide and challenging the chasms that separate them are. Do we…
- Try to find a bridge someone else has built over the chasms,
- Build bridges of my own like the one I tried to build between my own culture and that of the West,
- Or do I define the borders on my own and teach them to fight the battles I know will be coming?
Is it possible to do all of the above?
I’m still figuring it out, and I suspect I will question my answers until the day I have to make a decision, and still question my own efforts and successes after all have been said and done.
But here is what I do know. I will not let clothing teach my children their roles in society. My daughter wears clothes from the boys section if I feel the girl’s version is either too showy or too restrictive. Her accessories will the same type as a boy’s – so if my son wears a brown leather belt to school, that’s the same type of belt she will wear. Not one in a “girl” color defined by the market, or stamped with stars and glittery decorations.
Her hair cut isn’t one to make her look cute. It will be functional the same way her older brother’s is. If she wanted to play with cars, trains, and climb like boys do, then she will not ever wear a skirt to school, or to any playground. She will be comfortable and active. She will be who she defines herself to be. She wants to be feminine one moment to tomboy and kick butt the next, that’s fine by me.
Parents of her future, potential boyfriends and girlfriends… be warned…
Her father’s already stocking up on… firearms and accessories and joined “DADD” – Dads Against Daughters Dating. One of their mottos is “Shoot the first one. The word will spread.”
I do believe he doesn’t discriminate between girls or boys.
Coming up on the day we buy her first bra should prove to be interesting. Hopefully this blog would be around long enough for all that.
And if my son wanted to play with the pink colored toys instead of blue, I am not removing the toy from his hand, although I do make it a point to use primary colors in the house as much as I can for both the children. If he likes pastels instead of the primary colors, there is nothing wrong with him. He climbs, builds forts, loves cars, trucks, and anything with gears. If he wants to care for the baby instead of his sister, that’s even better. If cooking interests him more than woodworking, I cannot fathom how that could be bad in any way, shape, or form. Right now, he has a boyish fascination with breasts and beautiful women (to the eyes of a child).
For now… he’s taking after his sire.
*Makes a mental note to keep Son out of Catholic schools… lest he crosses a Sister wielding a ruler*…
Where either one of them may choose to go is up to them. I do not wish to define their paths for them, and I will try to bar society – men like my father’s former co-workers and business associates – from defining it for them. As long as the children grow up to understand sympathy, empathy, forgiveness, love, charity, honor, sacrifice, and a slew of other virtues I am still striving to master myself…
… then I don’t think I have anything to complain about, I would like to believe. We will all eventually have to hand the keys to the future over to the generations who come after. Let them define it for themselves.
Let’s just work together not to screw it up any further so they don’t end up spending their days fixing our mistakes.
Redefining Gender Roles… Making the world a place for everyone.
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Disclaimer: The above is my opinion. I understand I have described a lot of Asian cultures in bad light, and it is not my intention to group everyone together. Understand that the point of view I present here is through both my teenage years as well as being an adult with children. It is narrow-scoped in the greater picture, but relevant nonetheless to explain, in part, how I ended up here.
Any comments can be directed to me via email. Thank you.
❤ Always, Lavender Wynter.