Imagine a world in which every child, at the moment of its birth–and often months before–is placed into a category, labeled and processed. “You are this,” it is told, before it even opens its eyes for the first time. It is dressed according to its category, handed a list of assumptions about itself based solely on singular physical characteristics. It will be given a particular subset of toys to play with and expected to behave in certain ways based entirely on the category it was assigned.
One category of children will be encouraged to cry, to be tender, to look on the world with wonder and delight. Children in this category are raised to nurture and care for others. They are trained from the moment they are born to look to the needs of others. They are told that their lot in life will be to care for the young, to see to the needs of the elders, and to serve the desires and needs of the members of the opposite category.
Members of the other category are told that it is never acceptable to cry, and they are punished for showing emotions, which are–for them–a sign of weakness. They are trained to be aggressive and strong, powerful and dominating. They are pushed to excel in competitive games of strength. They are trained to be the leaders of the society, told that members of the other category will see to their needs. They are meant to protect, and must be served by others in order to fulfill their obligations as defenders and providers.
I had the disturbing experience the other day of hearing some people discussing something that someone in one of my circles said about women’s roles in society, the “inborn” leadership qualities of men. This is an acquaintance, and not a close friend, but I feel like it might be important for me to address it, to ask if what I heard is true, and if so, express my concern. I am really bad at this sort of thing, but I feel like this is one that needs to be addressed, especially in the particular circle where it occurred. In the night last night, when I would wake up, I found myself thinking about it, and trying to see it from outside the culture. What would it look like to someone from another planet, to see how we categorize ourselves into two genders with incredibly powerful ideas about what is acceptable or unacceptable behavior for people, simply because of the accident of the gender they were born with?