What is gender? Without using gender categories like boy, girl, woman or man, the term is hard to define. Here’s my attempt:
- Gender is a structure of social systems that teach, elicit and reward different behaviors from different people depending on a person’s sex classification, age, race/ethnicity, and socioeconomic status.
Historically, the systems of gender have been structured according to two boxes, one bound as boy/man and the other as girl/woman.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
The idea of gender as a box, a role, a stereotype is familiar to many of us. We often feel nudged, shove, or pressured into these boxes, resulting in alienation from ourselves and from each other.
And there’s potential for something better.
Sometimes I like to think of myself as on a gender jungle gym. I use my upper body strength to pull myself out of the box, and I swing my body around in order to perch on top, pause, and view the horizon. From here, I can see all of you pull yourselves up and swing yourselves around, from sports to skirts to tears to engineering. Sometimes graceful, sometimes awkward, you are consistently courageous. You inspire me, and I want to know your stories. I want to know how you feel.
I invite you and encourage you to post in the comments section and tell some of your stories, some of your feelings about the gender boxes and the gender spectrums and the gender jungle gyms that structure our lives.