Ideas abound about what the perfect boy or girl should look like on his or her way to success. It’s easy to picture these children—the boy playing with cars and the girl with dolls. While differences of treatment in the workplace are now frowned upon, there seems little concern over the treatment of boys and girls.
I remember a particular situation in second grade, on a day of particular classroom rowdiness. The teacher ordered all of the boys (cause of most of the disorder) into the hallway, told the girls to continue their work, and turned to scold the boys. A few of us, myself included, had been behaving the entire time. However, the teacher made no distinction in the scolding, telling us to stay in our seats and quietly complete our work. While the teacher scolded, standing next to the door on the wall opposite me, I watched as a few girls sneaked from their seats and began to continue conversations from the previous chaos. At the time, I felt the pain of an unfair punishment, of course. Most importantly now, however, I recognized the permanent bind of gender that divided us into two groups. The teacher used these pre-determined categorizations mostly for her own convenience rather than addressing each student as an individual and punishing the individuals who warranted it.
The teacher assumed that the boys were the more energetic and aggressive students, while the girls were quiet and expressive. But what about an independent and assertive girl? This teacher may express some disapproval at that behavior, although it can be useful for success in our society. In this situation, she gives the message that boys always are the disruptive students. This actually may show those who did not participate in this behavior that it is acceptable because they will be punished regardless.
These categorizations force children into roles, which may not necessarily reflect the strengths of the children who enter into them. Therefore, I believe that it is necessary to stop forcing children into gender roles, but rather raising each child as a human being, finding his or her potential and developing it. A child must be nurtured and developed based on who he or she is, not based on a societal defined identity.
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