When we are born our parents are told to pick names based on our genitals – people with vaginas get pretty names like Stephanie and people with penis’s get names like Jack – we are wrapped in gender based colours (blue for a boy, pink for a girl) and bought gender based toys (Baby dolls for girls, action figures for boys). From day one we are lumped in to a category, a box if you will, that tells us how to live our lives, how to act, what to wear and even what we’re supposed to enjoy. Here’s the thing. There are many boys who like the colour pink, enjoy playing with Barbies and some even enjoy putting make-up on and there is no shame in that. In the same sense there are girls who don’t like make-up, dresses or jewelry (girls like me minus the dresses. I like the dresses.) and there is no shame in that either.
As someone who went from being a pink “Barbie Clone Girl” who wore one colour and always followed the crowd instead of stating what I wanted to do and how I felt to a freethinking, opinionated and “eccentric” person I feel it’s my issue to address this topic. Personally I found this whole thing to be quite difficult in my teens, the time when I presume most people struggle with finding their place in the world, see I didn’t enjoy most of the things my peers did like underage drinking, shopping, general tomfoolery (this one I have gained with age…) or getting make-up done with friends so I never felt like I ticked any box for any particular social group.
I was never girly enough to be in the girly crew, I was never goth enough to be in that crew, and although I often found myself in the gaming or nerdy crews I was never quite as in to the things they were and often felt I was faking my way in to friendships by pretending to enjoy things just to I had company. This all started when I got to academy (or high school, whatever you call it) and realised that this was my chance to fit in, but I never really did. Don’t get me wrong I made some great friends (some who are still my best friends today), but they were also a bit like me in school so we became outcasts together. See it was simple things that made me stand out the most like not wanting to shave my legs until I was older than when all the other girls started, my sensitive personality (I cried. A lot), I was also quite reactive so a very easy target for bullying (none of which I actually remember – suppressed memories much).
The only reason I started shaving my legs is because I was sick of people laughing. Now I can see that not shaving my legs wasn’t a bad thing, if anything I was standing up for feminism before I knew what it was. Why should I have to live up to the beauty standards set out for us when it only makes me feel inadequate and unhappy. Sure I shave my legs now, but more for the smooth feeling than anything else. People always ask why I don’t want to wear make-up or do my hair, I believe the words are “don’t you want to look pretty”, and the truth is that it takes up far too much of my time and effort when I could be doing something bigger and better. I am a supporter of individual freethinkers who look past the advertising and the social conventions to make the world a bit more unique. I like to think I am a freethinker too, but I know I have a long way to go.
None of it matters. It’s all man-made and will be out of fashion in a couple months time. Do you really need the same lip-gloss you friend has? Break the norm, where bright coloured lipstick or wear neither. You don’t need to be a mindless clone to the societal pressures because, and this is important, at the end of the day absolutely no one cares. With the exception of exams, friendships, family members and career nothing I did or said at an educational institute or at any point in my life affects me any more. It’s a blip in my timeline that is over. People might remember me as the weird emotional girl at school, so what? You think I see any of them? I don’t. Has it ruined my adulthood? Absolutely not. What seems to important in the moment won’t matter 5 years down the line when you’re being praised for being the “eccentric” one in your friendship group.
In adulthood I take pride in not being a clone, I take pride in speaking my mind and having debates, I take pride in questioning everything people tell me or the things that I read and testing people by asking why they believe what they believe and most of all I take pride in forming my own opinions instead of being a sheep that only follows the crowd. I don’t go out of my way to try to fit in and, to be honest, I have never been happier or had more friends in my entire life. So today I sit here to tell you not to force gender stereotypes on your children, bring them up to be unique freethinkers because those children will be our future.