When I was just a little girl, I asked my mother, what will I be? Will I be pretty? Will I be rich? Here’s what she said to me…
Que sera, sera.
Somewhere in a little girl’s memory, this song played on in the background of a life that had blinked past. They were frustratingly complex words for a little girl. Yet unknowingly, she had simply become.
What had she become? Was she a rich and gorgeous trophy wife dressed like a Barbie doll and waiting for her cheating husband to return home or a fiercely intelligent woman whose work comes before family? Or was she that physicist working on the coolest projects while ironically being the epitome of uncool? Does it even matter?
Apparently it matters because here has been a lot of talk of late over stereotyped toys for little girls. Why should they be gender-segregated, asked parents. Why can’t girls play with normal bows that don’t have pink or the word ‘belle’ in it? For a retired feminist as myself, all that comes to mind is ‘so many questions that mean absolutely nothing’. Yes, girls should be allowed to play with whatever they want. The question is, who is stopping them? I’m sure if your daughter wanted one of those cool orange-blue Nerf guns that the boys are always playing with, you would buy it for her too. If a little girl wanted a bad-ass sword, would a gender-unbiased person purposefully buy her a pink, crystal-encrusted one because it was marketed as ‘for girls’? No, because the only reason for doing so is to gripe about the world being unfair to females later on captioned with a picture of a girl unhappily playing with a pink sword. The hard truth is that it’s these feminist stereotypes that are the real obstacles to young females’ development.
Hailing from an Engineering background, I’ve witnessed firsthand the detrimental effects of what I call ‘reverse stereotyping’. Unless they’ve always been that popular, pretty girl in school, most women that I’ve met in sciences have mentally confined themselves to the idea that they have to not care about appearances, be either asexual or completely desperate and play out their intelligence because ‘it is their best feature’. Just across from my department, there were also the law school women, fiercely strong and independent, and occasionally overbearing. The boys, or men I suppose, that I used to hang out with often joked that there wasn’t anyone dateable around, which made me take a hard look and wonder how all this began. After some time, I realised this must stem from the misconception that to be the antithesis of femininity, you’ve to be simply another stereotype of feminists.
With the rise of female empowerment, I fear that young girls are being engineered in a completely different way. Instead of becoming simply who they wanted to be, they are being told how they should act by the media, their peers and even their parents. Be a Beyonce or Michelle Obama is usually what I’ve been hearing from gender de-stereotyping advocates without realising the one important fact: they aren’t trying to be someone else, someone greater; they are amazing because they are themselves.
This battle against gender stereotyping will never end as long as the trumpets keep sounding. Yes, there are still wars to fight in countries where higher education for females is unheard of. However, instead of creating a racket over every Lego or Nerf advertising campaign, why not support a real cause in action and let the children be? Children have the extra time to discover themselves that we don’t, and in a blink of an eye, they’ll become that beautiful engineer-writer who switches career paths for that one handsome artist who loves her for being a feminine feminist. Or, you know, que sera, sera.