Let’s start simply…I’m a man.
I had a pretty crummy time growing up knowing that I was socialized to be a “man’s man” and like john Wayne and see women as body parts and such. I knew this was happening, but everyone told me it was normal and ok.
I knew it wasn’t…..but when you’re alone and you’re 6…you do what everyone else is doing.
Flash forward – I have a son and 2 daughters.
I begin raising them exact like I believe kids need to be raised. I teach them about gender equality. I let them choose their clothes, their toys, the colors they enjoy – etc, etc.
At a young age they begin to speak out on the inequality of women’s clothing. They see the problems with calling an adult spider-”man” and another adult spider-”girl”. They don’t utter words such as “like a girl” or any gender based nonsense.
One of my daughters loves peace signs and wants to promote peace and non-animal-cruelty tot he world.
Both of my daughters (1 in 5th grade, 1 in 6th grade) are accepted by their friends, and the boys just look at them as that’s who they are. One boys said, well girls are like that and it’s pretty cool.
Then we have my son…he’s confused! Why you ask.
My son loves pink, hates fighting, thinks there’s way to solve problems without anger, thinks football is too violent (not my influence thank you), and wants to play games that involve vehicles with tires (trucks, cars, bikes, skateboards, etc).
Mid-way in the 1st month of 2nd grade he dresses himself in his new pick shoes, pink pig shirt (btw – he loves pigs), and his light up shoes. He got teased by the other boys mercilessly for liking pink, liking pigs, and not wrestling with everyone else. By the time I found out about this, a month later, many things had come up. Suddenly my son was different – he wanted to fight and hit all the time. He hated his pig shirts and pink (he even changed his favorite color to red…but kept a secret drawer of pink things and pigs). In the middle of playing catch he yelled at me (in front of his sisters) you throw like a girl you little woussy. We all were shocked…but I took it as a compliment since one of my daughters can throw a heater that would tear your hand off. Little by little he wanted to be more and more violent, he wanted to play football, but hated learning it. When I finally asked what was going on….I heard about all the problems.
He was girly. He was soft. He was (enter every derogatory gay term in existence). He was dumb. Because he didn’t fall into the same norms, he was mercilessly teased…so he changed. OUCH! For more of his experiences check out “why does it have to be this way”.
Then one of my daughters suddenly wanted to shave herself….she’s 11 and has hair on her legs and under her arms. She began to cite all the same nonsense I’ve heard women say for years…the same societal training that all women get about hair and what looks good and what doesn’t. Then her shorts were hiked up 2 inches. Her shirt was tied at her waist. The other daughter followed suite….
Augggggghhhhhhhh!!!! My children have gone crazy!!!!
Nope….this is the power of peers!
Every parent in the world knows the power of peer pressure. It can change clothes, the way a person acts, and even turn a law abiding citizen into a jail bound thug.
Humans, whether we want to accept it or not, inherently know that we are part of a larger community. We subconsciously know that we are part of a global community of people all around us. Just looking at a picture of masses of people walking down the street in New york, you have an overwhelming sense that in some way they are like you and you are part of what we call human kind. In addition to that, our brains break down the idea that we are in a global community, a continental community, a country community, a state community, a county and city community, and a local community. We also see ourselves as part of our parents and groups of friends community and lives.
Though we know this deep down, we want to feel accepted in all those communities as well. As children, the first communities we see that we are part of is our family. This family dynamic is extremely important because it is a microcosm to the outside world at large. The family dynamic teaches us morals, values, and accepted beliefs of our world at large. When we leave the family unit…we go holding on these ideas and thoughts that were taught to us in our family unit.
However, that familiar sense of belonging starts to nag at us. We are not individuals alone on this planet, we are part of this class, and this group of people. We want to be accepted by classmates, teachers, and everyone around us. But when they are thinking differently than us..it becomes difficult.
We as an American culture, and as a global culture, do not teach the idea of understanding and acceptance. This would be the idea that everyone is different. However, these differences are what makes all people neat and awesome. We must celebrate these differences and accept the people who have them as wonderful points of light ready to light the world.
Instead we teach, your way is right and others’ ways are wrong. You are a light unto yourself and you must shine brighter than anyone else. A familiar adage is “lead or get out of the way.”
Most people change!
This is where this 6 part series all comes together!
With the media, society, and the cultures all saying the same thing – the children are taught these things as well.
These children that have been taught by all these factors then go out into the world of school. They find other students that don’t buy into the norm and in order to validate themselves and their own beliefs force the people who don’t buy into the norm…into being like everyone else. Some people see this as a favor to the children. Some do it because different is not acceptable. Some do it to make their own questions of the ideals they uphold make more sense or simply go away.
We are teaching our children that violence, violence against women, and gender inequality are ok in so many different medias, forms, and ways – they are bullied and forced to see the world that way.
In the end, if we don’t change the other factors raising our children in thinking the correct way gets harder and harder because of the constant peer pressure.
Then we decide that we must end bullying, but we don’t teach acceptance and understanding…instead we teach: Don’t bully!
In order to justify oneself about what they’ve been taught and believe, a student must get others to think like them. They must work on creating their own community and culture of understanding or group that they can feel they belong to. When they are taught that violence is ok and the right way of doing things, these same people use violence to create this community of people thinking the same. The obvious response is power and control which turns into abuse, violence, and bullying!
In the adult world it turns into oppression, domestic violence, intimate partner violence, rape, atrocities towards other human beings, and war!
We must end this violence against women.
We must end bullying of all kinds.
We must end the abuse of power and control.
We must eliminate violence of all kinds.
We must promote healthy relationships.
We must promote understanding and acceptance.
We must begin teaching understanding and acceptance of all experiences and people.