I like to watch trashy sitcoms with one of my best friends. We play a game where we try to guess which characters will get together by the end of the season, and the loser cooks the winner a meal.
A few weeks ago we were browsing Netflix when we happened upon another contender. We watched 6 episodes of some new laugh track comedy, and I noticed a few things. Tropes that riled me up a little. Gender stereotypes I would call people out on IRL. The sad thing is that these themes are so common in film and television that they are considered normal.
Guy meets girl. Guy dates girl because she’s pretty, but either because she’s super young or just that beautiful, he assumes she’s boring. Or less than intelligent. Suddenly she lets slip that she has an interesting hobby (usually something like Monster Trucks or American football) and he’s so bowled over by this beautiful woman’s interest in a stereotypically male hobby that he falls hopelessly in love with her. Not her personality, but her ability to reel off the names of all the players on his favourite team.
What is this we are teaching kids? That the only way to win the respect of a man, to receive that highest compliment of “she’s cool, she’s not like other girls” which makes them see a woman more than an object to look at, is to have the “right” interests? I remember somebody saying to me years ago that she was proud of the fact she “looks like a girl, but acts like a man”. Why is this even something to aspire to? In film and television, we are shown that the only way for a man to see a woman as human being is if he fancies her, and so the only way to gain the respect of any man is by acting “like a dude”.
It’s these sorts of toxic gender stereotypes that hurt everyone. A person shouldn’t be reduced to their interests being masculine or feminine, because it puts us in little boxes. Humans shouldn’t fit into boxes.
Being defined by our hobbies is so reductive; I remember when I was a little girl, sheepishly explaining to people that I was into sports and collecting baseball cards because I was raised with my two cousins, both boys. As if it was something I should be ashamed of, liking sport. My parents bought me a Castle Grayskull playset when I was a kid, and it sat alongside Barbie’s Dream House. We didn’t have gender stereotypes in my house because my parents DIDN’T KNOW WHAT THEY WERE.
During the last World Cup I told my friends I was going to the pub to watch one of the final Bayern München matches and was mocked because some people thought the only way I could be interested in football was because I was trying to impress a guy. Not because I could possibly be interested in the sport, or that I even supported a team because I’d lived in Bavaria for 6 months in high school.
We shouldn’t be teaching children that they need to conform to certain ideals of gender, we should be encouraging them to find what they love and go with it.
Whilst I love hockey and baseball, I also adore musicals and cheesy pop music. I used to work in fashion. I wear pink more than any other colour and I fucking live for glitter. I have no intention of identifying my interests as “feminine” or “masculine”, because all of these things make up parts of my personality.
Classing the things we like as gendered is ridiculous and above all, unhealthy.