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Men and Women: How to break through the gender norms and embrace our biology...

Let’s start with an example. We have one man, we’ll call him John, and one woman, we’ll call her Patricia.

What makes John a man? What makes Patricia a woman?

Their bodies definitely have a large role in this definition. Because of their genitals and the different ways their brain function, they are defined as male and female.

John and Patricia are born on the same day, in the same hospital. The first difference is obvious, they came into this world with different “equipment”. Because of this,

John is dubbed a boy and wrapped in a blue blanket, Patricia a girl and wrapped in pink. This is the first attempt from society to make a clear distinction. As they grow up, they will each face many other stereotypes and judgments about what a man or woman is and is not.

Sooner or later they will start to wonder who is right, society’s definition or their inner desires? How can it be right for a boy to dislike Football? How can it be right for a girl to love playing football more than wearing dresses? Terrible ideas indeed, but let’s go on.

By the time they are 18 years old, they will know the basic idea of what they should be.

John knows he should be athletic, competent, confident, assertive and ready to fight to defend what he holds dear, at least form society’s viewpoint. As far as emotions go, it safe to be passionate, angry and happy. John might get away with shedding a tear if his favourite team wins the championship. Other than that, crying is unmanly and fear, for some inexplicable reason, does not exist in men, they are all stoic and brave.

Patricia knows she should like dresses more than suits and cooking more then MMA. She should be polite and elegant, charming and seductive without being the least bit provocative at the same time. In today’s world she should be competent as well, but she should not really show that it makes her less feminine and we would not want that. Also, it’s ok to cry but not to be angry, that is simply unbecoming of a woman.

There is a chance that both John and Patricia like the sound of what society tells them, but it’s not a high one. Even if they like every gender role that is assumed on them, if they really believe the world would be a better place if everyone was like that, it will still bring a lot of problems.

The first problem would be the judgments they would impose on others. This would cause a lot of friction in their relationships with other people. It would make them frustrated and angry, sometimes confused and afraid.

This would lead to a bigger problem, the fact that they feel something they should not express, so they would bottle it up. The more they do it, the less energy they have, until one day they wake up, a shell of their former selves.

The biggest problem, if you ask me, starts when they start to realize that society feed them a lie.

That men have tear ducts, feel fear and sometimes even feel like crying. That women get angry and have opinions of their own. Then, they will get confused.

Some men are confident, even tough they can’t lift 10kg in a gym. Some are shy, even tough they can lift 200 kg. Some women will outthink and outrun most men in the world, while wearing make up that makes them look like a princess. This is a reality.

The cold harsh truth is that gender roles are a bunch of prejudices and assumptions, based on the past. That does not mean they are bad. It just means that they are a possibility, not a certainty. There are a lot of virtues and a lot of opportunities to learn from society’s view of masculine and feminine. You just have to develop the right approach.

John has to be brave enough to say that a beer belly makes him less healthy, not less manly then a six pack. Patricia has to sum up the courage and accept that shaving her legs and armpits don’t make her more of a woman. Once she realizes that, she’ll be happy both ways. If she wants to shave, she will do it for herself, not because she has to. If she does not want to do it, she will be able to stand up to someone who ridicules or shames her for it.

John and Patricia aren’t the only ones who need to deal with this issue. We all do. The thing is, it’s not something we tackle only on the state and legislative level. It’s something everyone has to tackle in themselves.

Gender is the first identity role we were given. Once it starts to crack, a lot of emotions will rise. Confusion and uncertainty could become a constant companion. This is normal and should happen. If it hasn’t you either have not looked deep enough or you are grand master at processing emotions.


Exercise time:

Pick any gender defined role, virtue or characteristic. Don’t start with one you have really high emotions or levels of tension, unless you are feeling especially adventurous. For example: Men are Brave.

Focus on it and start to write down how you feel and think about this. Write it down in detail, at least half a page worth. When you’re done, take a few minutes, then read it again.

If you feel that you need to let something else of your chest, write it down as well, if not, it’s time to work on it.

For every statement you have written, ask yourself: Is this always true? Does this have to apply to me? Am I less of a man/ woman if I am not like this (all the time)?

You should also focus on the feelings you have written down, as well as those who rise up during the second round of questions. The goal is to accept them and let them out. If you truly express them, you will gain energy and insight. I will give an example:

I feel less of a man whenever I have to try in order to succeed. If I allow myself to go deeper and express more, I can get to the bottom of this: Why do I feel like this? Because real men are always calm under pressure, and this means that they aren’t even trying and still they win. This was truly one of my assumptions. Of course, it’s wrong, because men who seem calm under pressure are like that because they have spent many hours preparing for that situation and now they can focus their emotions when the challenge is in front of them. This does not mean they do not try, this means they spend a huge amount of time and effort trying long before the challenge began. Realizing this helped me with my fear of failure and my procrastination. All this thanks to looking a bit deeper into my idea of what men should be.

I hope you use this article and my example as an inspiration to look deep into yourselves and become better men and women, defined by their willingness to accept themselves instead of society’s views on what men and women should be.

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