When you are born, you are automatically put into one of two categories: boy or girl. Obviously, there are physical, biological reasons for this categorization of sex. But, the implications of that categorization far from stops there.*
While the implications vary greatly across country and culture, in the US, being a boy or girl determines a list of gendered expectations, from what kind of clothes you wear, to what kind of toys you play with, to what colors will be your favorites, to what skills you will be taught around the house. Depending on your family and community, you might be given freedom to shirk these expectations. But you have to have an incredibly strong sense of self at an incredibly young age to be successful at escaping them.
Despite growing up in a fairly conservative home where my parents played traditional roles, I didn’t feel the pressure of many girl-ish expectations (with the exception of not wearing pants to church). My parents were practical, and mostly concerned with raising independent children who could provide for themselves financially and sufficiently manage life in general. I was free to dance around like a princess or climb trees, to play with make-up or to practice my 3-pointers in the driveway, to like blue or yellow or pink or purple, to play with dolls or legos and pipeworks. I did all of the above and never felt like one set of activities was more for me than another.
Since I was largely free of gender-specific pressure as a child, it’s hard for me to tell whether there’s just been a surge of it recently, or whether I just wasn’t as familiar with it growing up. I suspect it’s a little of both.
Sure, we have come a long way from the below advertisement for “What shall I be?”, from a pamphlet I found in 1960s game of Scrabble I bought at a yard sale:
But, then I go to pick out baby clothes for a friend’s soon-to-be-born daughter and I am hard pressed to find something that’s *not* pink (nothing against pink, but there’s lots of other colors out there, too). From classroom items to party favors to church activities, there are themes designated for girls (dancing, princesses, clothes/make-up) and themes designated for boys (sports, trucks, strategy games).
Oh, and then there was a sermon I heard a few years ago, where the pastor told what was supposed to be an innocuous story illustrating how “young boys” assert their independence by insisting on doing things without help. Except for that’s a developmental stage for children, not just boys. Literally hours before I heard that sermon, I was playing with my young niece at a park, where she insisted, “Do it myself!” whenever I offered her assistance getting onto the playground equipment.
Yes, there are general patterns of similarities and differences between boys and girls, but general patterns do not account for every individual. Please, please let the children in your life be who they are first before assuming they will be one way or another. The way they view their gender now will affect them and their relationships for the rest of their lives.