Did you ever question the way you were raised, or the way children around you are raised: like your cousins, siblings or maybe you just heard a parent telling something to their child that you fully disagreed with and you genuinely wanted to interfere? That has continually happened to me, usually I silence myself and do not voice my thoughts, but sometimes I speak up and talk to my mum about the things that bother me. She usually dismisses them and sometimes even denies the fact that such things happen in the stereotypical world we live in.
I think many of us realise the main role gender plays in our raising. How it usually is the deciding factor of how we are treated. It starts out from childhood, or in fact from the moment the parents find out the sex of their child. they go to a store where everything is labelled and divided by gender as if the colour of a onesie you’re wearing when you’re three months old really makes a difference. Of course, it’s a child so they are going to buy toys which change as they grow up, for girls you will find: barbie dolls, the befamous kitchen and of course the toy make up kit as well as a pink bike. If it’s a boy, however, you will find guns, cars, Marvel and DC characters and a blue/black bike. This child unfortunately isn’t allowed to choose their preferences since masculinity and femininity are already defined very narrowly by society which cannot be altered or changed and is blindly followed.
Now the girl and boy become teenagers and certain ideas are drilled into them, boys for instance they are caged in this small box called masculinity which defines their actions: they should not cry (3ashan keda msh ragel), they should always pay for a girl (3ashan yob2a gentlemen), “we stifle the humanity of boys… we teach boys to be afraid of fear, of weakness, of vulnerability. We teach them to mask their true selves, because they have to be”* in Egyptian speak ragel!
This is in every sense a great disservice, which leaves boys with fragile egos. This is of course reflected in how girls are raised and treated by “a much greater disservice… we raise them to cater to the fragile egos of males.”* We teach girls to quiet their inner voices, to have ambition that does not top that of boys, to shrink themselves so that the boys can shine and overpower as in no way it seems logical for a girl to be better.
As the girl hits puberty she is told to be ashamed of her body- her period. She is told to never talk about it as it is embarrassing. For a very long time I never talked about my period. When I got my first period my neighbours got theirs too and they asked me if I got mine, to be honest, 13-year-old me panicked and hesitated then replied with a pathetic: “ma3rafsh… momken” I then went and told my mum proudly after they left that I didn’t let them know when they asked. For a few years I fell a slave to the shaming of my period and never spoke a word about it to anyone, until I heard other people talk about it. I then read and understood that I shouldn’t be ashamed of something god gave me. However, I still see boys blame girls’ anger on hormonal changes, or pathetically asking a girl when she is crying or shouting if she is on her period. Their actions anger me, but they are also blameless as this is the stamp society has left on them.
Something else parents do, maybe unconsciously, is that they relate certain actions to gender. They would criticise a girl if she talks a bit too loud, or eats way too quickly, or laughs in a “non-feminine way”. More than once has my dad told me: “If you were a boy you could laugh like that but… you are a girl.” See the problem here isn’t my loud voice, or laugh or the fact that I eat a bit too quickly. The real problem is I am doing this as a girl.
“If you you criticise X in women but do not criticise X in men, then you don’t have a problem with X, you have a problem with women.”
Why do parents define how we should be based on our gender instead of our personality? Why do parents not give us the room to choose how we would like to be. It seems by just being born a girl or a boy you are expected to live up to certain criterias and expectations otherwise you are an outlier that’s detached from reality.
* We Should All be Feminists- Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
** Dear Ijeawele- Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie