Conformity: The Gender Edition

Some friends and I were discussing the concept of gender conformity recently. I was reminded once again why this matters to me. As old classmates and friends alike continue to grow into having families of their own, I have heard a significant amount of talk regarding the child’s gender than how they intend to involve the child in their lives. There are gendered games, colors, books, and toys. Our society has, for a long time, decided what is acceptable and what is not. These norms sometimes change, but the concepts don’t tend to stray far from their original ideologies. Sometimes, this is cultural. Such as in Nordic Countries such as Sweden, there have been programs implemented since 1998, when an amendment was made to Sweden’s Education Act, which stated that schools needed to begin to work against the way of gender stereotyping. They are ahead of the United States in this way, which does not have a law against gender stereotyping. There are some plans we have worked on, such as replacing the terms ‘husband ‘ and ‘wife’  would become replaced with the phrase ‘married couple’, to put less reflection on why it mattered what the sex is of the person that they married. It’s significant and it matters, but it’s unlike the progress that other countries have made. This law has not been passed, so it’s more of a dream to Americans everywhere who feel that their marriage should reflect less on who they marry on paper. People are so much more than a sex, and people are more than a gender, but gender can become a major part of a person’s identity. There has been a common belief that there are only two genders: boy and girl. Boy and girl is dependent on the sexual anatomy of a person. Gender is more of who a person feels that they are. Sometimes this doesn’t line up with their physical anatomy. This doesn’t make them wrong, or weird, but they often feel ashamed. This shame can come from the way that they were raised, or how people around them were. Community makes a large impact, and people often underestimate the power of society. Building the social interactions around you starts with family, or who you have become to know as family. It progresses into school, and the friendships formed there. Alliances are formed, but a certain toxicity in the environment exists. Alliances can turn. Trust can be ruined, and it’s a very difficult bond to piece back together once it’s severed. The beneficial aspect of being in a more tight knit environment is what gives people a sense of community. The benefits of community, from a psychological standpoint, make a difference in how people form relationships. From childhood, for example, children in some schools in Sweden interact in such a way that they are seen as equals and they don’t have toys separate them, or the way that teachers address the students. They have the gender neutral term ‘hen’ as a pronoun to address children, regardless of their sex. The success of this is a work in progress, and as children grow into what we refer to as the ‘real world’, they have a chance to either hold onto what they grew up with and make an effort to contribute to a revolution and create ‘egalia’, the word for equality in Swedish. Their other option is becoming silent and simply accepting the inequalities. They can live contently this way, but I have personally learned that I’d rather be a little afraid in being a part of a change, than letting a problem snowball. I learned what matters to me, and I have no wish to live life in fear. Other European countries feel the same way and though America is behind in this way, I will be part of the community who stands up and fights against gender inequality.



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