Unfortunately, the conventional views of gender, especially in children, have not improved since the 70s-80s when I grew up, despite some larger advances for women. Mass media and consumerism (a male dominated field), sickening Disney stereotypes, and the over sexualizing and accessorizing of little girls is meant to keep women in boxes. How can a little girl in a tutu, with painted nails and carrying a purse even think about going into the woods? They are trained to go to the mall! I remember some neighbor kids who had to worry about getting their pretty clothes dirty and their Mom yelling at them. Might as well put them on a leash!
I was always very happy with and proud that our parents provided us with "play clothes" that can get muddy and allow for freedom of moment, so we could explore the woods, climb trees and wrestle. In the summer, we'd actually get hosed down and dump our wet clothes in the work sink in the laundry room before entering the house. I am so grateful to my parents for this. But, if they had been like other parents -- putting me in dresses and skirts all the time, forcing me to wear pink and flowers and ruffles...believe me, I would have rebelled big time! Dresses were for dressy occasions only. Thank you, Mom and Dad.
I had no trouble embracing being "Feminist," because I saw it as being against the inequities in our society. I never equated it with hating men or with being overly serious, unhumorous, non-sexual and no fun. I am and have always been sensual. Growing up, this felt like a dangerous thing to be, so I hid it, but did not try to stifle it. Sensuality is a divine right and gift for all humans. It's sad that it's not safe to express and explore this side of ourselves in society -- at least outside of the "norms." We in the US are screwed up about sex -- shame and repression -- especially towards women's sexuality: "slut, weirdo, nympho...." as if testosterone paves the way toward "normal" sexual desire and not other hormones (those that women have). And by the way, the mind, soul and heart need not apply. This is complete poppycock! On the other hand we're over-sexed. It's "normal" for a man to be into perverse imagery of the humiliation and domination of women by men -- the majority of porn today, while it's normal for women, especially married ones or mothers not to desire sex? How many sitcoms and movies have I just summarized? How could a relationship between these two extremes work? We are fed this garbage daily to maintain the status quo. It is evil.
There is a huge difference between erotica and porn. Erotica is mutuality, sharing, exploring sensuality and sex with caring and like-minded partners. It takes finesse, craft and sensitivity to your partner. It's a courageous act to be honest, ask for what you want and to drop your inhibitions with someone else. This beautiful dance of give and receive is the stuff of love. This ought to fire people up, fill them with desire, and be something one searches for in relationships. The sexual revolution was actually going in this direction in the 60s and 70s, but sadly was stopped by fear-mongers, greed and censorship. I think the larger issues of equality also halted it. We weren't ready.
I love men -- I've always been fond of their company, but now that I'm an adult, I'm far more comfortable with women than I was growing up. I've made peace with my femininity -- which is not and should never be equated with weakness. It was so liberating to get beyond the rumor mill, the back-stabbing and petty, competitive nature among teen-aged girls, though mostly I chose not to participate -- which can be a powerful weapon in itself. There's a personal vehemence unique to girls -- not that boys don't have their own brand of nastinesses and harassment to face from their own sex growing up. The desire to hurt each other often reinforces our oppressed state. Girls and boys instinctively know when someone refuses to toe the line -- this makes everyone else look bad and is a threat to all conformists! Insert bullying here.
We as a society need to move beyond the patriarchal paradigm, without blaming or trying to be vengeful against men. This is not men's fault -- they thought they were protecting society when they dismantled matriarchal religions, and maybe they were -- we'll never know. The urge to protect is a very sacred and "male" trait. It implies personal sacrifice and a taking on of responsibility. The hunter protects and provides for his people. We can honor this, just as we can honor the "female" trait to nurture and share -- because doesn't this create a better quality of life too? Yin and Yang both have their sacred uses, but they aren't neatly divided among men and women. Every individual is a complex blend of both. It's in the Yogic scriptures. It's in you. There is strength and power in networking and care-taking, just as there is sensitivity and forethought in providing and protecting.
We need to move towards gender equality -- while honoring the differences in genders and individuals. We need to stop being so polarized in a false dichotomy that is utterly immature -- it no longer serves us and automatically omit non-conformists, the LBGT community and intersex, transexed people. Being invisible in your own society is a painful thing. These are the people we need to listen to to make these changes. We've already begun moving toward greater freedoms for all types of people -- how many states now accept gay marriage? But, we have a ways to go before we can honestly say that our society values all peoples as the unique and divine beings they are -- actually how our founders meant us to be. It's not going to be easy to step into our highest potential with so much economic, educational, racial and other inequalities in our world -- these all need to be ended to do it.
Those of us that know this and can see the real issues need to stay awake, vocal and to stand up against oppression of all kinds. The people who give knee-jerk reactions against those who dare to point out inequities are trying to keep the status quo going. They are frightened, ignorant and sometimes hateful. It may be hard to find compassion for them, but think of how limiting their viewpoints really are -- how stifling it would be to live under them. We can choose not to participate in sustaining negative gender roles, not to give in to Disney and beauty "norms" and macho crap. It's time to be real humans: capable of critical thinking, with living hearts that we listen to, and with a desire to see the good in all. We can do it.