Cookie Cutter Expectations

Boy Child: Plays with toy cars, LEGO sets, slightly more aggressive, highly active, explores outdoors.

Girl Child: Plays with dolls, kitchen sets, slightly more emotional, compliant, prefers to play indoors.

Once upon a time, there was a girl who fell between these two social norms. She was neither girly nor a total tomboy. Her dad tried to call her princess; she said princesses were for girly girls. She seldom wore pink, but enjoyed dance class. She refused to play Barbie with her mom or friends, but loved to play with her Beanie Babies or stuffed animals.

Hmm. Seems she broke the gender stereotype multiple times in her childhood. Oops.

Hopefully this isn’t all too cliche, but that girl was me (no surprise) and I’m sure more of you out there can resonate to some degree with the gender stereotypes placed on us as children.

A 2011 article with USA Today explores the gender stereotype issue and finds that it’s slightly more acceptable for girls today to play with boys’ toys or do things that seem more masculine. However, boys are more discouraged from doing anything that seems slightly feminine. The article quotes Anne Fausto-Sterling, a professor of biology and gender studies at Brown University saying that parents, peers and adults shouldn’t worry if a kid doesn’t fit a “cardboard cutout stereotype of gender roles” because kids like to “explore, sample, test and learn . . . they should have the freedom to do this.”

Even as adults, stereotypes portrayed in multimedia often blind us, though we don’t like to admit it. Every year, my mom makes this new year’s resolution to be ‘skinnier.’ Some of my peers talk about getting abs. Some women hope to be better looking. Some want to go on more dates or be more social in that respect. Overall, it’s great to look good, but when we stress over these things. Make it our primary goal? We aren’t going to be fulfilled because this isn’t what makes us who we are!

Don’t be a slave to your appearance or what you think others want you to be–be it joining a certain club or organization to make them happy, wearing certain clothes to look better, not cutting your hair because short hair looks bad, taking on more responsibility than you can handle to look better. All this is ridiculous. What really fills us is our passion, faith and love. The minute you’re totally comfortable with yourself and your identity, you are free.

What’s your identity? I found mine in writing, music, running, being a sympathetic friend and in enthusiasm for Christ. Feel free to share yours! Who are you under the makeup, the North Face jacket, the Vans sneakers, the hipster shades and beneath the tanned skin?

Megan Wilkinson is a blogger for Fusion magazine

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