We were about to sleep. She suddenly called my attention saying she had a question. I signaled for her to continue her thoughts. She popped the question challenging girls vs. boys. She asked:
Who do you think is better, boys or girls?
I: Do you still remember what I used to say to you when you were younger?
“Boy, girl, bakla (gay)….”
i: “…tomboy can do anything…”
Her face kind of looked disappointed as I had not made a choice. Hence, did not answer her question.
I: Exactly. Anyone can do anything they will put their minds to. So, I can’t choose who’s better – a girl or a boy. Each is different.
i: Just choose.
I: Well, I don’t want to. I don’t like the girls vs. boys idea. Each has their own strength. There are things that most boys do better than most girls. There are some things that girls will do better than most boys too. Usually, because of physical traits, most boys can do heavier tasks. But then again, some girls are stronger than some boys too. You see some girls who are strong enough to be in sports that usually for thought of for boys, right?
i: Like boxing and weight-lifting.
I: Exactly. And often because most girls are expected to take care of things in homes; girls are better with tasks related to it.
I: But some of the best chefs and cooks are men…
i: So, who is better for you?
I: None. each has something to offer, Anak. And if I choose a side and put it into girls vs boys, I am separating them from each other. I will divide them apart. I don’t think that is nice. I think we should work into cooperating with each other. Instead of girls vs boys – who’s better? I think it’s beautiful to have boys and girls working together! Is it not fun working together, like your dance?
i: But most boys are “langas” (rowdy), Ma.
I: Some girls are too.
i: Yeah… (Named some friends) can sometimes be too noisy and naughty too.
I: And some boys are responsible and reliable in the class too…
If we keep making the girls vs. boys choice, it’s like putting a wall between them. you separate them and force them to compete against each other…when, it will be more interesting to collaborate and share the load. Girls and boys should learn to appreciate the other’s strengths. It is good for both girls and boys to accept their weakness and limitations too. If you know where you are weak, and see that strength in another; you can ask each other to assist and buffer the limitation.
(But still thinking)
I: There is no competition for me, Anak. Don’t dwell on girls vs. boys. Try not to put a wall between yourselves just because of your gender. Our gender is just one thing about us. There are more things beyond being a boy, a girl, a bakla (gay) or a tomboy.
What do you think is better, a wall or a bridge?
i: A bridge…Ok I get it.
I: (Just grinned.)
That conversation left me thinking. And now, it got me writing. I can’t help but think about how much are we adults really providing opportunities for our children to appreciate gender differences?
Most school-aged children eventually learn gender segregation in school and opt for friends of the same gender. In a school of mixed gender, a child who spends more time with the opposite gender gets ridiculously labelled as gay/tomboy or flirts. Without much need to expound on it, children are quick to reference or pick-up on adult’s preferences and biases. Eventually, they will crowd themselves with the “accepted” idea. Let’s face it, who does not want acceptance and approval when at an early age we are taught to fit the mold.
I could not help think about how much appreciation we really show each other, regardless of gender. I have played with the ‘Girl, boy bakla (gay), tomboy; can do anything” statement when she was younger in response to having gender-stereotype choices; particularly for games which they can play. Also when they were asked what they wanted to become when they grow up. Gender stereo-typing on jobs was not helping her choose. She has seen some of my friends who are in different fields not normally associated for their genders. Besides my having a good mix of friends who see has been seeing. She has heard the labels. She has noticed the reaction towards gays and lesbians too. I wanted her to continue to respect my friends and the people in the community. I also did not want to limit her option and imagination on where she can bring her future self.
I believe, it is time for us to loosen up on division and competition. Besides, there are more things we can accomplish by bridging the gap, accepting and appreciating our differences and working together. That made me love the image on this post more. It’s just perfect for what I have in mind. There should be any gender wars. There isn’t girls vs. boys. We each have good. We each have bad. We each are different. That is not to argue about. It’s something to celebrate.