A deconstruction of feelings and gender roles
“You’re a girl you can’t say that”
“Men don’t cry”
“You’re being such a little girl”
These are only some of the sentences we all probably heard while growing up. Girls are expected to cry because they are sensitive and boys are not because they have to be tough. We all heard this at some point. No matter how you grew up, these comments not only sexualized our behavior but also categorized our emotions as accepted or not by our gender, and they were present in our daily lives either at school or at home.
Slowly, we are noticing children claiming their right to define who they are regardless of gender stereotypes. The dichotomy between boys and girls gets blurrier each day and children understand it better than we do. Pink is not exclusive to girls anymore, and we as parents need to be open to buying our son a pink shirt and our daughter video games and Legos.
It is our responsibility as adults to be able to create a safe space in which children feel free and safe to be whomever they choose to and to play and wear whatever they want. Gender roles are a social construct and they will not be stuck with this old vision unless we pass it on to them.
When discussing emotions though, it is slightly more complicated because even we as grownups sometimes struggle on how to express ourselves. We have years of gender role indoctrination, old beliefs, and habits that are hard to let go of. Therefore the first step for us to work on is awareness. To think about how we feel with no prejudice or judgment and then to talk about it with our kids. We need to communicate with them, help them explain, and put into words what they are experiencing.
The bottom line is that they need to feel safe to experience all feelings, and most importantly to express their feelings as they are, all human feelings are normal and acceptable. To be able to cry when sad or frustrated or to be able to say that they would like to be alone when needed.
Don’t we as adults get those privileges?
So why shouldn’t our children? We need to empower and respect our children to express their emotions and communicate freely and intuitively so they don’t even think twice about it in the future or associate their feelings with gender roles. Most importantly, It has to be a natural, human process in which all people are allowed to feel every emotion available. Sometimes we feel bad, and that is natural, and part of being human. We all feel and we can all learn how to feel even deeper, we just need to know how to notice and work with the signs.
Teaching our children they are allowed to express their emotions freely is a gift that we as parents can give them. We grew up in a world where gender stereotypes and sexualization were present daily and it has made our lives as adults harder. But this reality is changing and we should make sure that we prepare the new generations for a society in which they do not feel judged or discriminated against because of expressing something that was not “gender-appropriate” for them.
We need our children to know we accept them.
That we got their back.