Thursday, 5 August 2010

Attitudes to Gender can Kill

Gender stereotypes may run rife in society, but they are no laughing matter. In a tragic piece of news from America, a man has beaten a 17-month-old child to death for 'acting like a little girl'.

Pedro Jones, who was not the father of the boy, punched and beat the child so hard that he had a cardiac arrest. He claimed that he was 'trying to make him act like a boy'.

Whilst this case is certainly extreme, it is symptomatic of the views society holds on what it means to be a 'boy' or 'girl'. This is not just a feminist issue - it is limiting to everyone. Females can't possibly act in a 'masculine' way, for fear of being un-ladylike. Males acting in any way feminine are seen as weak, and are often labelled gay. Whether this is a sign of the negative view held towards women or homosexual men isn't clear. It's likely both. But it needs to be stopped.

Admittedly, such views don't usually result in the death of a child. But they do stop men and women, and particularly boys and girls, acting in a way they enjoy. Whether it's a grandparent fretting that a young boy's interest in makeup will turn him gay (a sentiment I've heard recently), or a mother worrying that her daughter doesn't like pink, gender stereotypes are ever-present and inescapable.

A blue versus pink mindset is engrained in our society, and there seems little chance of changing this now. But I'm optimistic. Whether it leads to savage cruelty inflicted on a child, or mindless comments here and there, let us challenge these restrictions. It's not about what makes us masculine or feminine, it's about what gives us fulfilment.


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