Inspire! Topic: Gender Roles

March 17, 2018
Out of the Box

Last month we Celebrated ALL Love and in the process began a conversation about gender that we are continuing today. I am heterosexual and cis-gendered, meaning that I identify with the gender that my physical body presents. I am a woman. And that had implications for my life even before I was even born.

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Because what is the number one piece of information we want to know when someone is pregnant?
Is it a boy or is it a girl? 

That teeny tiny piece of information unlocks the entire future.

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Because Boy or Girl goes way beyond what color I am going to paint the nursery. It also tells me what clothes I am going to dress my child in, what toys I am going to buy for them, and how I am going to refer to them. It gives me a good idea of what kinds of activities they will be involved in, what kind of career they might follow, what life transitions they will face.

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Perhaps most importantly, it tells me how I will relate to my child. What kind of relationship I can expect over the years and what role will I play in their life in the years to come. The sex of my child ultimately becomes something very personal about me – because my role is different if I am the mother or father of a boy than if I am the mother or father of a girl. Often those expectations play out as expected. But not always. And not without creating artificial boxes around what is considered “normal” behavior.

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As a woman, I am expected to fulfill the nurturing role of a mom and wife and I do that pretty well. But I am also highly driven and competitive. I am happiest when I am in control and making the decisions. And those aren’t necessarily thought of as feminine traits.

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My partner Leif, a man, is also the caregiver for his 19 year old niece. When she was born with Down Syndrome her own father went away, and Leif stepped in. He has provided the kind of nurturing care, love and support that we often attribute to women.

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Understanding that we all have both feminine and masculine energy allows us to escape the man box and the woman box. The man box defines men as domineering, aggressive, competitive, achievement oriented, and controlling. The woman box defines women as nurturing, supportive, passive, sacrificial, giving, and vulnerable.

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Unfortunately, our society incorrectly dictates that if we move out of the appropriate man or woman box, we will be negatively labeled. For instance, men who move out of the man box risk being labeled from the woman box or the gay box. They risk being seen as weak and ineffective, of being called a “pussy.” Women risk being seen as threatening and unattractive, of being told they have “balls.” The truth is, each one of us can express both attributes of masculine and feminine in different aspects of our lives and that’s a good thing.

When we claim our whole identity and give others permission to be the whole human beings they are, we can celebrate all of our strengths and recognize that the traits we exhibit are present in both men and women alike. Escaping the man box and the woman box offers us liberation from that which oppresses, binds, and enslaves. It allows us to become more vulnerable with each other and more open to accepting people as they are.

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It’s also important to realize that we are not frozen or static in our energy field. We can and do move back and forth between masculine and feminine energy as we are comfortable and as the situation requires.

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Today, we get to further explore the fluid nature of gender. To look beyond the boxes of society to claim our whole selves. Our panelists today are a diverse group – breaking gender barriers – some in terms of what they do and others in terms of who they are. We are all fortunate that they have joined us. For our reflective exercise today, I’d like to ask you to come up and write a word in either the man box or the woman box. A word or a phrase that relates to an expectation about being a man or being a woman. You don’t have to believe it yourself, but it should be something meaningful to you – either because you were told it, believed it, or set out from the start to disprove it. (We wrote words or phrases that have to do with expectations about what it means to be a man and a woman in our culture.)

Special Thanks to all of our Panelists!

Special Thanks to all of our Panelists!