Transformed Mentality: Gender Neutrality
Illustrated by Valentina Martorana
The other night, I told my mom I was going to visit my boyfriend at Vanier. He and I share a break on Wednesdays, mine three hours long, his an hour and half. She answered, “Why are you going to see him? He is the guy. He should come to see you.”
I disagreed, for two reasons. First, since I have the longer break, I can spend an hour and a half with him and still have ample time to return to my class. If he visited me, our time together would be much shorter. As well, doesn’t this brand of chivalry reinforce general gender stereotypes, such as girls liking pink and playing with Barbies, and boys liking blue and playing with cars? As I grow older, am I required to conform to traditional gender roles in order to have a functional relationship? Or is it these weak associations that disallow the progression of a gender equal society?
The Gender of Sexuality: Exploring Sexual Possibilities, by Virgina Rutter and Pepper Schwartz, explains essentialists’ and social constructionists’ views of these questions. In essence, essentialists believe that one’s “sexual desire is innate” and that “gender differences follow from reproductive differences.” Essentialists believe that men are “hunters” and that women are “gatherers.” This notion ties well into what my mother was saying; biologically men hunt, thus, the man should seek the woman.
A month ago, after my first date at the movies with my current boyfriend, my friend insisted on knowing all the details, particularly whether he paid for my ticket. The answer was yes; he did pay for my movie ticket. But while I appreciated this gesture, I also found it unnecessary, since I am currently working part-time. I would like to think this entitles me to pay for my own ticket. And I wondered why guys still feel compelled to pay on the first date, and why is it necessary for them to do so? My friend Chris explained that a woman should never support the guy. He asked, “Why would any woman stay with a guy who did not pay for her during a date, let alone sleep with him?”
I felt compelled to remind Chris that while the tradition of paying for the woman was common in the time period prior to women having their own income or independence, these traditions are no longer evident in the year 2015. Yet I could not blame Chris for having this mentality. Why? In contrast to essentialists, social constructionists believe that sexuality is “culturally imposed” and that the “biology of desire” is fictitious. For instance, according to a social constructionist point of view, Chris’ parents taught him that on dates, he should pay for the woman, because they themselves were brought up this way. Basically, Chris is paying out of cultural principle and not necessarily because he is a guy.
I take a different approach than both the essentialists and social constructionists. Rather than try to explain gender differences, I think that the elimination of stereotypes is necessary, and that we should strive for a gender neutral society. Recently, the Dawson Student Union turned two washrooms into gender neutral washrooms. This was done to accommodate students who constantly feel cornered because they do not necessarily conform to the usual gender binary. If gender neutral washrooms can be achieved, then I am inclined to say that one can surely eliminate stereotype gender roles in intimate relationships. Rather than fixating on who should pay on the first date, one should simply enjoy the date by making the most out of the evening.