Finally we have decided to get the discussion started and possibly find some answers to questions that some of you asked! :)
If you feel like some points should be changed/rediscussed or if you simply want to offer how you think about this topic, feel free to comment or message us anytime.
Where do gender roles come from?
Well, we will just start by quoting Wikipedia, saying that gender roles are ‘a set of social and behavioral norms that, within a specific culture, are widely considered to be socially appropriate for individuals of a specific sex’. Frankly, this sounds odd. Why are there norms? Why are some of them gender-specific and some of them aren’t?
Maybe we should start by asking whether norms in general are actually a useful thing to have? Basically all that norms (seemingly) are supposed to do is to tell you what to do without giving you an actual reason. ‘Be patient!’ why? ‘Patience is good.’ - ‘Don’t lie.’ why? ‘Lieing is bad!’. Doesn’t that sound peculiar? You decided to do something (hence you have a reason) and then you are told to refrain from doing so. Why? ‘Because of norms.’ ?!?! However there is more behind it. People don’t just say those things for no reason. That you won’t refrain from doing what you decided to do without a good reason or a punishment is obvious. So why do people still cite norms all day long? One reason is: because it makes them feel better about themselves. They have an image in their head of how the world should be. And if it isn’t how it should be in their heads, then obviously this is a bad thing. In their eyes, you are the bad guy and they are your saviour because they tell you how things should be… They actually take huge credit for knowing what’s right. It seems that many people need this sort of self-confirmation and hence it is easy to transfer this whole concept onto genders as well. Therefore it’s not only the gender roles that are wrong, but bascially the whole concept of having this ‘how do things have to be?’-image in your head without thinking much about whether your norms actually make sense or can be backed by any logical reasoning whatsoever. This way of thinking is very dangerous. Once you reach this point (which happens quite early because many social norms play huge roles in education) it is easy to judge things without having any interest in the truth. Those people tend to take credit for feeling like they are right instead of actually thinking twice and maybe discovering that they might actually be mistaken. If you have adapted this way of thinking, the transition to ‘Men are stronger and thus better.’ (or any other gender-sepcific prejudice) isn’t actually that far-fetched. This is also the reason why it is so common.
How can those gender roles (and norms/morals in general) lead to self-loathing thought?
That is another great question that we have been asked! After having written the first paragraph, the answer to this should hopefully seem a little more obvious :) Living in a world where norms and (gender) roles play such a huge role makes it very easy for people to think that they need to do justice to those norms. After all, most people tend to back those morals - so they must be right. Right? No, no, no! It really is an easy step to think that what most people think must be right. And it is yet another easy step to feel bad for being different or not fitting inside the boxes that society has created. This has also been an issue for both of us (you can read about it in the ‘about us’ section). It is easy to feel broken or wrong or sick or mad for not fitting inside the boxes that society has made up - especially if you don’t know that there actually are people that are like you and that being asexual or genderqueer or whatever actually is NOT a disease or wrong or evil as many norms and gender roles try to instill into everyone’s brain. That’s why it is really important to question norms and gender roles. It is important to talk about misconceptions. It is important to let others know that there is more than just male-female or hetero-homo. It is important to let people know that any sexuality/gender identity is legitimate. Because the more people get to know about the wrong reasoning of norms and those who use norms to justify their way of living, the higher are the chances that there will be more openness. This again increases the likeliness that people like us (and anyone else) can freely access information about sexual orientations and gender identities without developing self-loathing thoughts due to wrong norms in the first place. Our advice: Pay attention. Question jokes with a discriminating punchline. Question discriminating comments. Ask people why they actually think the way they do. Chances are, they won’t even be able to give you a reason. And chances are as good as 100% that if they give you a reason, it is going to be utter bullshit (pardon me.). I think the point is clear now: It is extremly crucial to intervene if you witness any sort of discrimination. However it is also important to not start by saying ‘meeep. WRONG!’ because as discussed in the first pragraph, people that argue with norms usually ponder on being right so it is much more effective to stay calm and try to actually make them think about whether they might be wrong. I (Benni) have tried this with my parents many times and as soon as I get mad, they completely ditch any arguments I bring up because they don’t want to lose ground and admit a mistake in front of me. The key really is to set someone’s brain into action and let them do their work with a little guidance (maybe throw in some thoughts and arguments pointing in the right direction)! At least this enabled me to convince my parents that girls’ clothes aren’t gay if worn by a boy or that being strong doesn’t make you manly or that it actually doesn’t matter what gender you are. It might take a while, but convincing people can be done! :) Actually this already answers ‘How can you change the mind of narrow-minded people?’. We hope we were able to cover most of what was asked! :D
That’s probably enough for now. We hope you enjoyed the start of this little requested discussion and we would love to get some feedback.
Untill then, take care. Carina & Benni <3