In our society, we segregate men and women the way we organize our closets. Just as we put shirts, pants, shoes and dresses in their categories, we categorize the sexes.
Placing things in categories gives us a sense of order among chaos. However, when it comes to people, that is something different. Not everyone fits in the category we put them in as easily as a pen or a pencil.
A category is, “a class or division of people or things regarded as having particular shared characteristics.” It is a way of putting things in a specific order. A label placed on a group to describe characteristics that each person within the group shares. An example would be athletes.
Athletes all do something athletic whether it’s baseball, gymnastics, soccer or football. Yet, even among sports, where it used to be predominantly male, that definitive line has been crossed.
In 2012, 12-year-old Audrianna Beattie, of Line Mountain, Pennsylvania, joined Line Mountain Middle School’s wrestling team. Originally banned from wrestling by the Line Mountain School District because she was a girl on a boy’s team and couldn’t possibly handle it, Audrianna and her parents filed a lawsuit against the school district and she won the right to compete on the boys’ team.
The idea of separating males and females into gender roles is not new. Since mankind first emerged, men were the hunters and protectors. Women gathered nuts and berries, crafted, cooked and took care of the young.
Generally, those gender roles have remained prevalent. Although, where there once was a definitive line between men and women, boys and girls–lies something not nearly as clear.
The line separating men from women is constantly blurred and to some seems obsolete. As one of my friends put it: “Gender roles are outdated.” A statement which appears to be true when considering the changes that have occurred over the last forty years.
Women and men have jobs thought to be specifically tailored for each gender. Individuals among both genders undergo surgery to become either male or female. Others reject the notion of even identifying as any specific gender at all.
We generalize instead of placing people in a category, effectively blurring that once stark, bold divide between the sexes. Men are called boys and women girls. People are gay, straight, religious, non-religious; the list goes on, but we’ll focus on the first.
Actress Mayim Bialik, known for her role as Amy Farrah Fowler on “The Big Bang Theory,” released a video in which she criticized the practice of calling women girls.
“So, when we use words to describe women that are typically used to describe children,” she said “it changes the way we view women, even unconsciously, so that we don’t equate them with adult men. In fact, it implies that they’re inferior to men.”
She goes on to say people calling women girls may have good intentions but should learn to see what the unintentional and negative affect using the term girl, or girls to describe a woman can have.
After all, the definition of girl is a female child. Calling a woman girl seems absurd. Referring to a grown man as a boy seems equally absurd. Neither term fits the description of an adult even in the slightest.
Perhaps there is a reason we put men or women into the category of boys or girls.
Another friend said the only time she would ever call a man a boy is if that man were immature. Similarly, a man who is fifty years old may call an 18-year-old woman a girl because she is much younger than him and he perceives her as a girl.
Taking that into account, it seems categorizing males and females has less to do with their gender and more to do their level of maturity, or another person’s perception of them. There are men and women who act like children and adults much younger than other adults, but it doesn’t really seem fair to include them among actual children.
It may not be necessary to stop categorizing the sexes entirely, but perhaps it should be considered that by doing so, we are placing them in a box, restricting their potential.
We are beings of free will. That should not be stifled by our need for order. Let people be who they are, not what we want them to be.