So… On some level I do believe that there is an absolute masculine and feminine, male and female. But at the same time, I’ve so rarely seen a single person adhere to every bit of what it means to (stereotypically) be male or female. This is just SUCH a complex issue, I fear I won’t do it justice, but I shall try.
Take my own children, for example. I have a three year old daughter and one year old son, both on the cusp of birthdays. My daughter is a princess. Seriously. I have even taken to calling her Princess, as she introduces herself as one. She wears dresses daily. She fusses about her hair. She sings songs and dances because that is what Princesses ought to do. She is also a very creative, tender and caring soul. If someone starts crying, anyone, my daughter will try to comfort them. If her attempts to comfort fail, she will probably start crying herself. She likes to help me in the kitchen. She likes to sing to babies and give them pacifiers and “help” with their diapers. This does not keep her from getting into fistfights with boys, climbing jungle gyms, being fascinated by mechanics, or any number of other things which are normally considered the province of men or of the masculine.
My son is not like my daughter. Yes, he can be gentle and caring. But he’d normally rather just punch you and ORDER you to be happy. He likes to demand and command and be in charge. He always wants to do things himself. He gets angry when he’s sad, he seems to not be as “in tune” with his emotions as his sister was. He’s still more or less a baby in a lot of ways, so he still craves affection and hugs and kisses from me, but as the days go by he’s less and less trying to win these with his sweetness and more and more just demanding them when he wants them and shoving me away when he’s not. He’s amused by farts and poops and FASCINATED with his masculine anatomy in a way my daughter was with her feminine, he’s just… him. And he’s a boy. That much is obvious. But he also likes to help me cook, help me garden, sit with his head in my lap sucking on his fingers. He’s masculine, but he’s also himself.
There are things that seem to be more true about women and more true about men, but there are always exceptions. Some women can’t stand small children, are afraid to hold babies, are more fascinated by numbers and less so by dialog. Some men are horrible with mechanics, prefer to be creative, are better at multitasking and hate being in authority.
It all depends. It depends on the person. It depends on both nature and nurture. I can attest to the fact that I am highly uncomfortable with my son’s combative nature. While I enjoy the fact that he likes martial arts and is already trying to emulate take-downs and holds and punches, I also never would have chosen to have a son who was as flat out aggressive as him. I certainly didn’t “nurture” him into it. And my daughter, my charming princess… I have no idea what to do with her sometimes. I told my best friend when I got pregnant that my worst nightmare was a pink bubble gum lipstick princess… and that is precisely what I ended up with. And I do love her desperately, I love everything about her, even her most maddening qualities.
But I didn’t proscribe gender roles for my children, and I would have loved them had they been absolutely the opposite of everything they are now. We live in an odd and complex world, full of souls who run the gambit of masculine to feminine, and sometimes those souls seem totally at odds with the bodies they are in.
I’m okay with that.