Harrisites share views on gender stereotypes

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Townsend Harris may be known for its large population of females, but having many girls in a school doesn’t necessarily make for a student body filled with feminists.  A look at the perceptions surrounding femininity shows that many in Townsend Harris view gender in different ways.

What Students Had To Say

In a recent poll, students were asked to describe what being ‘feminine’ entails and they provided stereotypical answers like: talking in a low, timid voice; being emotional and non-confrontational; or wearing dresses and makeup.

Junior Alessandra Taboada said, “I think someone feminine is a person who has a very gentle or docile appearance to them. They don’t have to be wearing a skirt or a dress; instead they can be dressed very classy but still represent femininity. I’m sure all women have it.”

However, many students also said that femininity is a mere representation of the female gender. An anonymous respondent said that it is “nothing but a classification regarding biology and not mentality.”

According to the poll, 20% of Harrisites admitted they look down on both males and females who exhibit feminine characteristics, yet they have no problem with either gender having masculine traits.

Why the Stigma?

The answer isn’t clear cut. It comes from a multitude of things stretching all the way back to the beginning of civilization. As society progressed, gender roles developed as men hunted for food while women stayed at home. With time, these gender roles solidified and created the patriarchal societies that defined most cultures.

Alessandra explained, “I come from a Hispanic family where there is a huge separation in gender roles. In society, I think women are seen as the caretakers of the children and the home, while men are the workers and financial suppliers of a family.“

Junior Maham Ghani added, “I think traditionally girls are expected to have the more domestic roles like washing and cleaning, and guys are supposed to work and provide. But it’s changed now since anyone can do anything; these stereotypes don’t matter as much anymore.”

Since this is the twenty-first century, students of this generation are more open to a change in traditional roles. Senior Alexis Martinez said, “In this day and age gender roles are a blur. You have women working and providing for the family and men sometimes staying at home taking care of their children.”

However, because these gender roles have been in place for so long, some people are uncomfortable when the roles are breached. When a man cries in public or a woman declares her desire to be a combat soldier, the stereotypes that  people have clung to for so long are challenged.

“I’m not against men crying because guys have emotions too, but crying for a movie is ridiculous,” said sophomore Dan Szewczyk. “And this is going to sounds so sexist but I think its okay for a girl to cry during a sad movie, if they like those kinds.”

“If a guy were to cry during during a movie , I wouldn’t know what to do. That would just be uncomfortable,” commented sophomore Raina Salvatore.

Junior Anthony Chiarenza noted that some students may think it is “plain weird” because males and tears together go against gender norms, but he believes that “everyone should do what feels natural to them.”

Some females also believe that certain rituals and traditions should be restricted to a one gender.

“Guys should make the first move when it come to dating and related things,” said senior Derya Rodoplu. “Girls should be considerate of the fact that some guys like to assert their “manliness” more than others but they shouldn’t hold their tongue or alter their opinions of anyone.”

“Are you sure you want to play with that doll? Here try this one.”

Traditional people have a difficult time handling the idea that the star quarterback likes to watch chick flicks, or that a little boy wants to dress up like a princess. Whereas little girls are taught to play with dolls and have tea parties with their stuffed animals, boys are encouraged to collect race cars and play in the mud.

Sophomore Taylor Johnson recalled, “When I wore pants other girls would call me a boy and make fun of me.They were [the reason] why I started wearing skirts and dresses.”

Other students see no difference between a doll and a dinosaur, or a skirt and pants. Alexis questioned why society believes it’s okay for girls to play with “trucks, cars, and water guns” when boys are scolded for dancing around with a tiara on their head.

Alessandra reasoned, “They’re just another toy. They aren’t promoting violence or any other dangerous behavior. I know people try to stray away from having boys play with dolls because eventually they’re afraid the boy won’t “fit in” with other guys, but I don’t see it doing any harm.”

Accordingly, there has been a recent upswing on gender neutral toys. Toy companies in Sweden now have magazines with little boys in tiaras and little girl’s with construction belts. These kinds of ads are showing support to foster a more accepting new generation and to teach kids that it’s okay to be different and disregard old gender norms.

Derya concluded, “I don’t think the toys you played with as a child define you. If a boy plays with dolls he might be exploring his curiosity. If you only give boys trucks and girls dolls you will not alter their lifestyle choices in the future but instead you would be restricting them. I don’t think playing with a certain “girl” or “boy” labeled toy makes someone anything.”

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