Columnist discusses gender roles

Mary Ross and Mary Ross

 

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This past Sunday, I was sitting in church with my family waiting for mass to start when my mom leaned over and pointed to a family sitting in front of us. Upon looking at them, I saw the dad was doing the hair of his older daughter. When he finished up with her hair, he began styling the hair of his younger daughter. And he did the hair of both of his daughters with his wife sitting next to him.

My mom thought it was a cute sight, mainly because it’s not a sight we see often. In fact, I think it’s the first time I’ve witnessed a dad doing his daughter’s hair. I know my dad never styled my hair or my sister’s hair.

However, it’s acts like these that begin to break down gender roles.

As someone who grew up in a conservative home and community, I didn’t really begin to think about gender roles until high school. But reflecting on my life, I noticed specific roles and responsibilities had been placed on me.

I always was asked to help prepare dinner, to set the table, to wash the dishes and other common household chores, but my brother never was. It wasn’t until I started making comments like, “Why isn’t he helping with chores?” and “Why does he get to keep playing video games?” that my mom began asking him to help along with me.

Still, the fact that I had to do housework while my brother was allowed to do what he wanted is something I still carry with me today. It is one of the reasons I have started pushing back on these gender roles within my own family and have started bringing up conversations about gender roles in hopes my family sees what the idea of gender roles perpetuates: that people can’t do or be what they want, but rather that they must follow the guidelines society has put in place for them.

Having these conversations with people in my life who are still living in the myth that there are specific roles for specific genders is the first step in getting them to see the faults in the concept of gender roles. More than that, I know I have to act on this belief system in order for it to influence others into seeing it too.

However, it can’t just be a one-person movement. Everyone has to do their part. The good news is there is no set of instructions on how to eliminate the idea of gender roles, so anyone can find the strategy that works best for them and go with it.

Whether it’s the dad who broke stereotypical gender roles and did his daughters’ hair, or it is someone like me who decided to have the hard conversations with people who believe in gender roles, or it’s someone from the whole mix in between, everyone has the power to make a difference in how the world views gender roles or (one day, hopefully) the lack thereof.