Prof. Karen Hall Teodor Dimitrov
Today, every one of us is spending more of his leisure time watching TV, listening to the radio or reading newspapers and magazines. The shows on the TV and the articles in the newspapers influence our decision process, shaping our perceptions for the world. Besides the positive fact that we are better informed and in touch with the latest news, we should be aware that accepting this enormous flow of information and allowing it to make our mind can be dangerous. The TVs infiltrate our lives, guiding us what are we supposed to wear, how are we supposed to look and act.
Children, because of lack of mature judging values, are more susceptible to the influence of the television. They tend to accept everything they see on TV as real. Kids often identify with movie characters and comics figures much more than the elder generation does. It is the role of the parents to teach them that not everythink that glitters is gold and to give them a better perception of the world. That of course does not mean that parents are affected less by the TV. On the contrary, they are often more affected than their kids, of course not by cartoons, but by shows that contain information about serious subjects such as parenthood. Concerned with being good parents, people are accumulating a lot of information on the subject. As the information can be very helpful, sometimes it can be destructive. That is the case when it comes to the problem of "tomboys" and "sissies."
What are these two terms used for? The term "tomboy" is used when referring to a girl who is masculine, and the term "sissy" is used when referring to a boy who is feminine. We need to state what we consider feminine and what is masculine. According to the established sense in the society, femininity and masculinity are tightly bound to gender. Men are supposed to be masculine. They are expected to be strong, rough, to have high stamina. They are not supposed to wear skirts(the Scots are an exception) but trousers, and should avoid colors like pink and violet. These are "feminine" colors. The man in the family is usually the person who should provide money and build a career. On the othere hand, women are supposed to be tender and loving mothers and wives, to wear skirts and to walk on higheels. They are should not have a career, but should take care of the kids and the house.
It seems that these perceptions have been existing forever. That is because from early childhood, we are thought by our parents that pink is for girls, and blue is for boys. The trucks and weaponry toys are for boys and the dolls are for girls. Than, it is not surprising that we accept gender stereotyping and try to fit in the rigid models of feminine and masculine. For example, women athletes and especially tennis players and basketball players are afraid of losing their femininity. These sports are famous for the large number of gay players that are involved. Because of that, the hetero athletes are a subject of suspicion of being gays. To avoid this they are trying to look more feminine. A basketball coach even had developed a term for this phenomenon--"hetero-sexy."
We are not only trying to fit in the models, but we are prone to pass our perceptions to our children. In this way, we are trying to protect them from the society. However by doing this, we are causing them more harm than if they were to become gays.
A recent show on NBC Superchannel was dedicated to the problem of "tomboys" and "sissies." In it, light was shed on the life of some tomboys and sissies, as well as on the anxiety of their parents. A girl at an age of three was shown, dressed with a skirt and playing with dolls. The next shot was at an age of four, revealing the changes that the attitude of the girl towards the dolls and dresses has been totally changed. Now she preferred to hang out in jeans rather than in dress. When she was asked by her mother to try a pink dress, she refused with the words "Pink sucks!" The girl participated actively in sports such as basketball and baseball, demonstrating good technical skills at both. Why then her parents were worried and had searched psychological advice? The answer to this question is in the assumption that when such kids grow up, they inevitably will turn to be gay. The fear of the parents is raised by the fact that their girls or boys ignore the existence of their gender and prefer to communicate only with the opposite one. A girl on the show, when asked about her friends, revealed that she hang out only with boys. Her mother explained that, when she was introducing her to friends and calling her "my little girl," the kid argued with her that she is in fact a boy "You have two boys mom, not a boy and a girl, " she replied.
The girl was involved into a test the nature of which was to determine her affections toward some pictures that were shown to her. From the results could be inferred that the girl was prone to accept her as a boy and to accept boys as her friends
A recent show on NBC Superchannel was dedicated to the problem of "tomboys" and "sissies." In it, light was shed on the life of some of them, as well as on the anxiety of their parents. A girl at the age of three was shown, dressed with a skirt and playing with dolls. The next shot of her was at the age of four, revealing that the attitude of the girl towards the dolls and dresses has been totally changed. Now she was preferring to hang out in jeans rather that in a dress. When she was asked by her mother to try a pink dress, she refused with the words "Pink sucks!" The girl participated actively in sports such as basketball and baseball, demonstrating good technical skills at both. She revealed that all of her friends are boys. Her mother explained that when she was introducing her to friends and calling her "my little girl," the kid argued with her that she is in fact a boy. "You have two boys mom, not a boy and a girl." This attitude of the girl did not appear to be normal for the parents and that is what scared them. They were scared because they were not pleased with the possibility of raising a gay. This underlines an important tendency in our society.
Most of the people are still uncomfortable with gays. They tend to associate gays only with negative things such as AIDS and other diseases. Gays are not allowed to serve in the army and to occupy high decision-making positions. That's why, it is not surprising that parents are concerned with the problem. They are trying to protect their kids from the society, large portion of which does not tolerate "deviations" from the established norms of behavior. The assumption that when such kids grow up, they inevitably will be gay. This paranoia was further expanded by studies which appeared to be dealing with the problem. The results from them were striking, 25% of all "tomboys" will inevitably be lesbian when they grow up, and 35% of the "sissies" will be gay. The parents were trying to prevent that to happen by every mean. Some of them even went extreme and oppressed their kids by using punishment. However, as later was discovered, the studies were conducted on extreme cases. For example, all of the participants in the study on "sissies" were boys who not only played with dolls, but dressed themselves as girls. Most of them were raised by single mothers and in an environment where their contacts with men were limited. Recent studies discovered that you do not become a gay, you are born one, contrary to the assumption that sexuality is formed in the childhood. In this case, the parent's desire to fit their children into the stereotypes backfired and resulted in harming their children. The parents were a victim also, by following the rigid path of stereotyping they wounded the one that they love most--their children.
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