Why can’t Jaden Smith wear a dress? Is it for the same reason little boys are told they can’t wear princess themed shirts or pink shoes? This doesn’t make much sense. How would we have reacted if Amanda Stenberg had worn a suit? There is a clear contradiction between calling a little girl who wears a superhero shirt picked out of the boys clothing department “avant-garde” and “feminist”, and calling little boy who wears a princess shirt words I prefer keeping off this blog. Did our focus on building a world that treats our girls and women better make us forget about the well-being of our boys and men? Why are we letting the same constraints girls and women are constantly fighting against to cause boys and men to suffer?
Why are girls and women allowed to do “male” things, but boys and men are not allowed to do “female” things?
Perhaps it is an attempt at making sense of an ever-increasingly confusing and chaotic world—a world in which the list of gender orientation terms has been steadily increasing—by clinging to old-fashioned, narrow definitions of gender. After all, we humans do have this pesky little instinct called “fear of the unknown” that has historically contributed to our survival.
Thankfully, we have tools and methods allowing us to safely explore the unknown without threatening our survival. We have a higher nature that can control this fear. We have advanced intellectual abilities that can be used to refine our understanding of our new collective reality. We can rid ourselves of toxic mental constructs and embrace more complex ones. In other words, we have it in us to create an environment in which we are can examine these changes, find our place within them, and accept the place that others have found for themselves.
Perhaps the most toxic of mental constructs we should rid ourselves of posthaste is the false dichotomy of old versus new. Just because new definitions of gender are emerging doesn’t mean the old ones are obsolete. It just means that there are new ones in addition to the old ones. Similarly, being “old-fashioned” doesn’t mean being a bigot or a racist. Open-mindedness doesn’t mean adopting a behaviour; it means accepting that it exists. A man who chooses not to wear dresses or a woman who chooses to wear pink can be extremely open-minded. But those who judge them are not.
Image courtesy of Chad Mauger.