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How to Win the Gender War: Sexism and Teens [Teen Article]

Posted May 12 2009 3:23pm

gender war: sexism and teenagers

Cathy is a 17 year-old from Seatac, WA. She spends her time watching reruns of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, reflecting, and listening to various types of music as she writing her thoughts away. She hopes to live through her passions.

I have come to the conclusion that sexism would not exist if gender roles did not exist. Let’s agree on this. Little girls are expected to act a certain way and little boys another. That is why such phrases as “Boys will be boys” and “Now, that’s not lady like” even exist.

Children are quick to learn their roles. Part of the growing process is to emulate what they see. Little girls familiarize with their mothers and begin to act like mommy. Boys as we know are taught the complete opposite. They can be messy and rude with very little repercussions. They can get away with anything. They do as dear old dad does.

This is where double standards come from. We learn quickly that anything one gender does the other must not or can not do. Girls can, however, dress like boys. Although, now they are labeled butch or something else. But boys can not do the same because then they are gay or transsexual. They are ridiculed and bullied. Girls may be seen as not feminine but that is all. They can get away with it.

Let’s look at double standards. One of the most talked about ones are the “Player/Easy” double standard. Guys are encouraged to get as many girls as they can. They are seen cool for it. If a girl does it, she is seen as easy and goes on to have this reputation.

How does it affect our teens? Well, we are being pushed every day to fit our gender roles and to continue the cycle. Young people are quick to judge especially when they know they are constantly being watched and judged themselves. It is hard because we are so vulnerable and self conscious. If you take one step out of line we are the first to call you out on it.

It seems almost impossible to leave high school without being called a “Slut” or a “Whore” if you are a girl. No matter who you are. Girls get comments on their hair, clothes, and make up all the time. What kind they buy. How they wear it. How they choose to style it.

People are quick to use derogatory words to describe a girl. “She was wearing this really slutty shirt…” It is our way of trying to get them to be modest and act like the little lady they should be. Even if we did act like that perfect polished young lady the times have already changed. And there is this new generation and style that the media is pushing them into being. So, if they were to be that young lady she would be seen as cold or a bitch.

Why should we have to be a certain way? Isn’t this what being a teenager is all about? Expressing yourself and being who you want to be? Not what everyone else wants you to be? In middle school I never dressed for anyone but myself. I liked wearing my plain t-shirts and chucks. It made me a nerd and unappealing to the boys and girls. Every other girl wore skirts and pretty blouses like they were expected to. Gender roles want us to be cookie cutter people.

Obviously, life does not work that way. The sad thing is that it doesn’t stop people from commenting. What is worse is what it does to the young females. Yes it will hurt for a bit but they quickly get over it. Barely standing up for themselves. I mean, it is pretty much normal to be called a slut these days. Girls call other girls sluts all the time. We have become desensitized because sexism is this vicious circle we can not stop.

Last year I was sitting in class when a girl I know walked in and sat near a table of boys. She usually wore her hair straight but she decided to crimp her hair that day. Not two seconds pass and one of the boys tells her that her hair makes it look like she has been raped. What hurt for me to witness more than the comment itself was her reaction. She showed no emotion as she said that it didn’t and began to play with her hair.

I mentioned earlier that it all comes from taking on the roles we see when we are younger. To combat gender roles we need to start with the adults and parents. Shake things up. Just because for the longest time women have done the cooking and cleaning and men have done the handy work it doesn’t mean that it has to continue that way. Make a change so your kids grow up truly seeing equality. Do not divide the chores, rather have both genders do equal amounts of different types of chores. Do not be so gender specific when it comes to clothes and toys for your little one.

If the adults and parents take these first steps, we can hopefully begin a change in an issue that has had us in this gender war with each other for ages.

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