When someone says sex or gender, usually the first thing that comes to mind is “girl and boy.” Although sex and gender may sound like they are the same thing, they are actually very different. In sociology, sex is defined as the biological differences between boys and girls. Gender is defined as the social and cultural significance that we attach to the biological differences of sex. When one thinks about a male, the words that usually come up are masculine, provider, protector, and so on. When one thinks about a female, words like feminine, soft, and emotional usually come to mind. But why is this? Why do we classify different genders with different ‘labels’? The answer is simple: society.
The society we live in is almost always in control of classifying what defines males and females. Society and the people that live in it can—unwillingly—determine how a boy should behave and how a girl should behave, which begins at birth. Baby boys are usually wrapped up in blue blankets when they are born and are given dark-colored clothing to wear. Baby girls are wrapped up in pink blankets and wear light-colored clothing. This is known as gender socialization. Boys usually wear dinosaurs or trucks on their shirts, whereas girls will most likely wear butterflies and hearts. If a young boy was wearing a pink shirt, people would stop and stare at the child as if there was something wrong with him. This is because it is not normal for a boy to wear such a “girly” shirt. The parents of the boy would most likely be frowned upon as well for allowing their son to wear that shirt.
The toys we buy our children also classify them with gender. We usually buy young boys violent things—like trucks and plastic weaponry—while we buy young girls less violent things—like tea sets and dolls—because that’s the “normal” thing to do. Seeing a boy play with a Barbie is considered deviant, which means it’s not normal for that society. The same goes for girls who play with monster trucks. The normal thing to see is boys roughhousing with other boys and girls having tea parties with other girls. We never expect to see a boy in a tea party, although it does happen, but there should be nothing wrong with that. We get so caught up in what we “think” are the normal behaviors that boys and girls need to obey, we overlook a simple question: what if we’re wrong? Children should be allowed to express themselves however they want. So, if a boy wants to wear a tutu, we should let him. If a girl wants to play football, we should let her. We need to stop forcing our kids to become what we think they should be and let them be who they want to be.
Unfortunately, gender classification doesn’t stop at childhood. Teens and adults are still categorized as being either boy or girl by society. However, as people grow, they are more socially obligated to adhere to the stereotypes that society has placed on them. A boy is only classified as a “man” if he is strong, aggressive, active, and dominant. Likewise, a girl is only classified as a “woman” is she is nurturing, kind, submissive, and emotional. A man who displays any stereotype classified to women would be labeled as a “girl” or a “wussy.” A woman who displays manly aspects would be labeled as a “tomboy” or a “lesbian.” There is no escaping these stereotypes. Men must act like “men”, and women must act like “women.” If someone steps out of these boundaries, he/she will be negatively labeled for his/her deviance.
Although both genders experience stereotypes, one thing is true: gender inequality exists. It’s true that both men and women must alter their lives so that society will accept them, but it’s harder for women. Women are still treated unequally to men. Now, it’s true that women have more equality than they did decades ago, but they’re still fighting to be treated equally. One way women are still unequal to men is income. Women—to this day in the USA—only make about seventy-seven cents to a man’s dollar. This is called the gender pay gap. Woman must also face the facts that men get more opportunities in jobs and education than they do. It’s not just up to women to fight for women’s rights. Men should also reach out and try to help women become more equal. Together, they can change the world for the better.
Another aspect of our lives that classifies us as people is our sexual orientation. Although the majority of the world is known as heterosexual—liking those of the opposite—some people classify as something else. Some people classify as homosexual, which means they are attracted to the same sex. Bisexuality is another one, which means they are attracted to both sexes. There are even people who claim to be transsexual, which is when someone has the body of one sex, but they claim to have the mind and soul of the other sex. Sexual orientation has a huge impact on how others see us. Those who classify as homosexual, bisexual, transsexual, or anything else that isn’t heterosexual are usually frowned upon. This is because they aren’t considered “normal” and people believe they should be negatively sanctioned for their lifestyle choice. People should not be classified as “immoral” for being a little different from everybody else. Everyone deserves to be treated equally. Nobody should be ashamed of who they are.
Considering everything above, sex and gender plays a huge role in who we are. But why do we let our sex and gender control us? Everyone should not be afraid to be who they are. We should be able to live our lives the way we see fit without getting the “stink eye” from bystanders. We must also try to bring more equality to the world. I know that there’s been movements to try and bring equality to the world, but just because some have failed doesn’t mean that we should give up. Equality is desperately needed in this world and we have the power to bring great change.