Today, there is a trend towards people spending more leisure time watching TV, listening to the radio, or reading newspapers and magazines. Shows on television and articles in the newspapers influence our decision-making process, shaping our perceptions of the world. The fact that we are better informed and in touch with the latest news, we should be aware that accepting this enormous flow of information and allowing it to shape our mind could be dangerous. The TVs infiltrate our lives, guiding us towards what are we are supposed to wear, how we look and act.
Children, because of the lack of mature judging values, are more susceptible to the influence of the television. They tend to accept everything they see on TV as real. Kids often identify with movie characters and comic figures much more than the elder generation does. It is the role of the parents to teach them that not everything that glitters is golden, and to give them a better perception of the world, however this does not mean that parents are less affected by the TV. On the contrary, they are often more affected than their kids, of course not by cartoons, but by shows that contain information about serious subjects such as parenthood. Concerned with being good parents, people are sub-consciously accumulating a lot of information on the subject. Just as the information can be very helpful, sometimes it can be destructive. Often times that is the case when it comes to the problem of “tomboys” and “sissies.”
What are these two terms used for? The term “tomboy” is used when referring to a girl who has masculine characteristics, and the term “sissy” is used when referring to a boy who shows feminine traits. One must state what society considers feminine and what is masculine. According to the established sense in society, femininity and masculinity are tightly bound to gender. Men are defined in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as an adult male human being. However, masculinity is those qualities conventionally supposed to make a man a typical or excellent speciman of manhood, which are typically physical strength and courage (Encarta World English Dictionary). Men are supposed to be masculine. They are expected to be strong, rough, and to have high stamina. The man in the family is the person who should provide money and build a career. On the other hand, They are not supposed to wear skirts (the Scots are an exception) but trousers, and should avoid colors like pink and violet. These are “feminine” colors.
Along the same lines, the Merriam-Webster dictionary tells us that a woman is an adult female person. With this comes many feminine traits. Feminine meaning conventionally believed to be appropriate for a woman or girl. Conversely, women are supposed to be tender and loving mothers and wives, to wear skirts and to walk on high heels. They should not have a career, but should take care of the kids and the house.
It seems that these perceptions have been existing forever. That is because from early childhood, we are told by our parents that pink is for girls, and blue is for boys. The trucks and weaponry toys are for boys and the dolls are for girls. Then, it is not surprising that we accept gender stereotyping and try to fit in the rigid models of feminine and masculine. For example, women athletes, such as, tennis players and basketball players are afraid of losing their femininity. These sports are famous for the large number of gay players that are involved. Because of that, the heterosexual athletes are a subject of suspicion. To avoid this they try to look more feminine. One basketball coach even had developed a term for this phenomenon–“hetero-sexy.” We are not only trying to fit in the molds, but we are prone to pass our perceptions to our children. In this way, we are trying to protect them from the society. However by doing this, we are causing them more harm than if they were to become gays.
A recent show on NBC Super-channel titled Expressing Me was dedicated to the problem of “tomboys” and “sissies.” In it, light was shed on the lives of some feminine males and masculine females, as well as on the anxiety of their parents. A girl at an age of three was shown dressed with a skirt and playing with dolls. The next shot was at an age of four, revealing that the attitude of the girl towards the dolls and dresses has been totally changed. Now she preferred to hang out in jeans rather than in dresses. When she was asked by her mother to try a pink dress, she refused with the words “Pink sucks!” The girl participated actively in sports such as basketball and baseball, demonstrating good technical skills at both. Why then, were her parents worried and searching for psychological advice? The answer to this question is in the assumption that when such kids grow up, they will inevitably become gay. The fear of the parents is raised by the fact that their girls or boys ignore the existence of the opposite sex and prefer to communicate only with their own gender.
A girl on the show, when asked about her friends, revealed that she hung out with only boys. Her mother explained that, when she was introducing her to friends and calling her “my little girl,” the kid argued with her that she is in fact a boy, “You have two boys mom, not a boy and a girl, ” she replied. The girl was involved in a test the to determine her affections toward some pictures that were displayed to her. The results could be inferred that the girl was prone to accept herself as a boy and to accept boys as her friends. The displayed attitude of the girl did not appear to be normal for the parents, thus raising concern. They were scared because they were not pleased with the possibility of raising a gay, which society tends to do more of everyday.
Most people in society are still uncomfortable with homosexuals. They tend to associate gays only with negative things such as AIDS and other diseases. Gays are not allowed to serve in the army and to occupy high decision-making positions. Why then is it not surprising that parents are concerned with this problem? They are trying to protect their kids from society, a large portion of which does not tolerate “deviations” from the established norms of behavior. The assumption being that when such kids grow up, they inevitably will be gay.
A recent study aired on the radio program Bob & Tom of this paranoia supported many peoples suspicions. The results were striking: 25% of all “tomboys” will inevitably be lesbian when they grow up, and 35% of the “sissies” will be gay. The parents were trying to prevent these effects with any means possible. Some of them even went to the extreme of oppressing their children by using punishment. However, as was discovered later, the studies were conducted on extreme cases. For example, all of the participants in the study on “sissies” were boys who not only played with dolls but also dressed themselves as girls. Most of them were raised by single mothers and in an environment where their contacts with men were limited. Lately, it has been suggested that you do not become a gay, but one is born with the characteristics of a homosexual, contrary to the assumption that sexuality is formed in childhood. In this case, the parental desire to fit their children into the stereotypes backfired and resulted in harm to their children. The parents were a victim also, by following the rigid path of stereotyping.
As the years have passed, views on sissies and tomboys have changed drastically. It was not until a sense of homophobia set in that sparked the concern for these children. Is it right for parents to take guns from their girls holsters or dolls from their boys cradles? Lets get back to the period of the baby boomers and accept people for who they are, not for societys portrayal of them.
Expressing Me. National Broadcasting Channel KHAS TV. Hastings. 18 September 2000.
Meriam-Webster. Meriam-Webster Online Language Center. 5 November 2000.
Microsoft. Encarta World English Dictionary. 5 November 2000. MSN.
Your Kid is an Opposite. Bob and Tom in the Morning. Host Bob Kevoian and
Tom Griswold. KROR, Kearney/Grand Island, NE. Summer