45992776_sGender is a controversial subject, almost any way you look at it. It is certain to bring up heated debate and a plethora of opinions. It also, in my opinion, is the subject of any number of myths. I’d like to discuss some of these myths (Note I said in my opinion, everything written here in is simply a reflection of my opinion, no more, no less. Undoubtably, some readers will agree with me; some won’t, such is the nature of opinions. Take that you will and move on.)

1. Women are no different from men.

This seems to be a prevailing idea, and for the life of me I cannot figure out how it became so firmly entrenched when it is so patently untrue. Of course men and women are different. We are physically, emotionally, and mentally different. We process the world in vastly different ways. In general – and this is a large, therefore dangerous, generalization which means there’s no way it will apply to everyone – women tend to connect with the world more emotionally and men tend to be more action oriented. This in no way means to imply that there are not exceptions. I know there are, I know people personally who are exceptions. However, just because there are outliers doesn’t mean that this in general is not true. At our core, we are different. Think about it. If there were no difference between men and women, why would transgender people experience the kind of disconnection and distress they do when their physical body doesn’t mind who they know they are inside. If there were no difference, there would be no mismatch to feel. I’m not transgender myself but everything I know about people who are and every story of a transgender person I’ve ever heard or read speaks of this mismatch, which clearly demonstrates to me that there is an innate difference between men and women.

2. Different means unequal.42958694_s

You know, despite my earlier claim that I did not know how the not different myth got to be so prevalent now that I think about it, this myth is probably why. Someone, at some point in history, was trying to express the idea that men and women are equal and expressed that as them being no different. That’s not true. They are different, but just because they are different it in no way in five that they are unequal. I have two cats. They are vastly different in looks, personality, and temperament, but they are not unequal. They deserve and receive equal care, equal food, etc. They are different but still fundamentally equal. Being a person with a disability, I’m different from most people I know. That in no way means that I’m unequal to the next person on the street (not that I don’t sometimes get treated that way). Regardless of some people’s perception, I’m still within myself in no way unequal to to anybody else.

3. Men and women should/shouldn’t_________ .

If I asked, I bet just about everyone could come up with some example of running into this mythological expectation. I had an interesting conversation with my sister not long ago. Her son, who is in kindergarten, with temporarily taking dance lessons because his best friend – a little girl he has known since they were toddlers – had asked him to be her partner for the ballroom dance portion of her dance class. She shares joint custody with her ex-husband and was afraid that he would not take their son to dance lessons when it was his week for custody because it was too girly. It’s interesting to me to note how things change. At one point in recent history, every man would have been expected to know how to dance. It was a mark of culture and class. Now, in my community at least, learning to dance (with the exception of hip hop/street dancing) is something boys don’t do.

Similarly, I once had a conversation with a gay man on an Internet message board about the struggles of being of a submissive nature. He commented that he had struggled with admitting his own nature and needs because it was seen as anti-masculine, too needed, not manly.  He was rather shocked to discover that I had very similar struggles because modern women were supposed to be strong and independent. They weren’t supposed to need a man. To voluntarily do otherwise was backward and a betrayal of all that women had fought for. He had always assumed having more submissive tendencies was acceptable for a woman, just not for man. It was rather eye-opening, I think, for him to find out that wasn’t necessarily true.

4. Girls are the oppressed minority.

Okay, I need to explain this one. It’s not entirely a myth.  In some ways and in some places, girls and women are absolutely an oppressed minority.  I am not denying that–not in the slightest. However, in my years as a middle school teacher I became very aware of a kind of opposite phenomenon going on. In my observation, I noticed that there were an awful lot of limitations on young boys.  Thanks to the work of the women’s movement, many if not most the traditionally “boy” activities are deemed acceptable for girls.  A girl in one of my classes joined the wrestling team and no one said a word.  After all, girls are equal and can do anything guys can, right?  Then a boy tried out for cheerleading.  Despite the fact that there are male cheerleaders on nearly every college team, he was immediately ostracized.  Now maybe it’s just that I  live in the deep South, but before you write us off as just ignorant southerners, think for a minute.  You see women and girls wearing pants and menswear look clothes fairly often, it’s normal, but would you say the same for a man wearing a dress?

It wasn’t just clothes either.  Girls, particularly girls of color, were encouraged to excel academically.  That was Girl 34973315_sPower, showing the world what a smart, strong woman you were.  My boys, on the other hand, did not under any circumstances want to be seen as smart.  That got you labeled a nerd and made you a target.  I had football players who would sneak into my classroom between classes to turn in assignments because they didn’t want their peers to know they were actually doing the work.  To let it be known would damage their “street cred” and “status.”  People are generally shocked when I mention this.  They dismiss it as a fluke, but I’m telling you, it happened and is still happening.  Case in point, the picture to the right came from a search of the word nerd.  Why is a guy who is reading a nerd? To my mind, that is just as oppressive to boys as suggesting girls should be barefoot and pregnant.

 

 

Author’s Note:  I apologize for limiting this only to binary gender.  I know and accept there are people for whom this model doesn’t fit.  However, I chose to stick to binary terms for clarity and simplicity.

 

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