The Merriam-Webster definition for gender normative is “adhering to or reinforcing ideal standards of masculinity or femininity.”
I have always been one to notice and point out the harm that is caused by pushing gender normative behaviors onto people as they get older. It places people into a box of how they can and cannot act based upon their sex, which often constraints a person’s true personality from emerging.
Growing up, I always heard and was told, “don’t do this, don’t say that – you’re a guy.”
It causes insecurities in the boys and men being told these things; insecurities in other people’s perceptions of them, insecurities in their attractiveness and insecurities in their own masculinity as well as gender expression.
The same goes for females. With phrases like “that’s unladylike” or “act like a woman,” it can cause insecurities in women as well as create a bigger social divide between the two sexes.
These “rules” should have never been enforced to begin with, but its become something of a norm to teach to newer generations.
While this generation is very progressive in terms of having the freedom to be who you want, I still see these toxic roles being pushed and forced upon younger people. Men are being shamed if they’re not the boisterous, courageous, loud-mouthed, pinnacle of masculinity that they’re expected to be. And girls are being shamed as well if they’re not the timid, submissive bulbs of weakness and positivity like the “damsels in distress” they’re meant to be.
Heteronormativity and its role in the problem
One of the biggest factors pushing the toxic reinforcement of gender normative behaviors is heteronormativity.
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, heteronormativity is defined as “of, relating to, or based on the attitude that heterosexuality is the only normal and natural expression of sexuality.”
This thought process of heterosexuality being the only “normal and natural expression of sexuality” is purely toxic. It, mixed with stereotypes towards LGBT individuals, causes so much disarray, mainly towards heterosexuals.
This pushes shame onto anyone who behaves in a non-traditional heterosexual fashion for their gender. If you’re a man who likes musicals or fashion design, you are gay. Or if you are a woman who likes sports or dislikes makeup, you are also gay. And according to societal homophobia, gay is bad; it is synonymous with being weak or beneath others.
Hetero and gender normativity is inherently homophobic in nature. They push the agenda that being outside of the “normal” behavior of a straight person of your born gender is something to be ashamed of and something that shouldn’t be done, as you will be seen as gay, therefore you will be seen as less than.
This thinking that men and women have to behave in a certain manner to be seen as equals needs to stop. The thinking that a person’s sexuality is defined by their interests and mannerisms also needs to stop. This widespread shaming of “non-masculine” males and “non-feminine” females is a despicable and constant oppression on different personality types.
Life does not come with molds that each person is required to fill; life is a personalized experience for each individual that shouldn’t encumber being bombarded by constant tirades of disgust and humiliation for not acting like a cliché caricature of one’s sex.
Nobody wants a crayon box with only two colors. We need all colors and shades to truly be able to see the beauty that can unfold when no limits are enforced.