The year is now 2019. Gender equality has come a long way, but there is still progress to be made on both ends. Both men and women face prejudice and discrimination when assumptions are made about them based on their gender.
"Raise Boys and Girls the Same" is a popular saying and T-shirt slogan that has been circulating for as long as I can remember now. The premise is simple; boys and girls should not be treated differently from one another, especially not in the same family, simply based on their gender. Opponents of this idea, however, may claim that it is impractical to treat boys and girls the same because they're not the same. Some who are parents insist that boys naturally seem to gravitate towards the rough and more rowdy activities, while girls seem to naturally like more feminine activities.
Others say that it is subconscious societal influence on children that created such large gender dichotomies. For example, marketing that pushes girls towards dolls and boys towards legos, or parents that unconsciously encourage their girls to be more expressive with their emotions than boys.
Some psychological studies have supported the former view, while others have supported the latter.
However, I've never thought that the nature vs nurture debate in this case is as important as people make it out to be. Why? Because by and large, whether or not the differences exhibited by young children are natural or subconsciously taught, men and women still have more in common than not. We're all human, not species from different planets trying to understand one another. And it is a disservice to humankind to act like we are.
I've heard stories, sometimes heartbreaking, of boys who could never form bonds or relationships with their parents because they didn't behave enough "like a man", or didn't have the interests/hobbies their parents had assigned to them before birth based solely on their genitals. Or girls with parents who never respected or trusted them as much as they did their brothers.
A couple years ago, I was spending time with two friends (both male) and we somehow got on the subject of whether or not we were having children. One friend stated that he would prefer to have a boy over a girl, saying that he wanted to have someone he could teach how to play ball.
And I couldn't help wondering, is there any reason you couldn't do that with a girl? What if this friend ended up with a boy who hated sports and a girl who just wanted to spend time throwing a baseball around with her dad?
The problem with having a preconceived notion of how you should raise a child based on their gender is that every child, just like every person, is not exactly the same. Children should be raised to nurture the interests they have already have, not be pushed towards one thing or another based on their gender. If that means you end up with a boy who likes pink dolls and a girl who likes trucks, what's wrong with that? On the flipside, if it means a boy who loves sports and a girl who adores making bead necklaces and arts and crafts, there's nothing wrong with that either.
Raising boys and girls the same way means giving them the same amount of respect and consideration. It means not telling your 10-year old son that he's not allowed to cry because he's a man, while being fine with his teen sister crying her heart out. It means not telling your daughter that it's weird to wear certain clothes because she's a girl.
That's what it means to raise boys and girls the same. Masculinity and femininity are both traits that should be given an equal amount of respect. There is no set amount of masculinity that makes someone a "real man" just like there is no set amount of femininity that makes someone a "real woman." Some men are more feminine and some women are more masculine, and that's just the way it is.