Last post, I explored some of the biological reasons women live longer than men. It made me wonder what the world would look like if women continue to live longer than men and eventually outnumber them.
Would we see more female characters in novels/movies? Would we see greater numbers of powerful women in leadership and business roles?
To explore my thoughts, a tale of two genders follows:
A girl is playing house with her friends. She declares herself the mommy. She assigns someone else to play daddy, someone else is sister, someone else is brother. The youngest cousin is baby and when she walks over, the mommy demands “You have to crawl because babies don’t walk.” Sensing some dissatisfaction in her daughter’s new family, her mom kneels down next to her and says, “Sweetie, don’t be bossy. Let someone else be the mommy once in a while. And let the baby walk if she wants, maybe she’s a toddler.”
Meanwhile, in the sandbox-
A bunch of boys are hunched over driving Matchbox/Hot Wheels cars and trucks. One boys stands up and demands that everyone one line up their cars in a row. “No,” he yells, “side by side.” Then he says, “Watch this,” and drives his huge Tonka dump truck over the top of all the cars as if it were a monster truck. Half the boys gasp and laugh. The other half complain. One boy tries to grab the truck. He pushes the boy back.”No, it’s mine.” His dad, sensing a learning opportunity goes to the boy and says “Good work thinking of the monster truck, you’re a good leader, but share with the other boys, okay?”
The lesson for both of the children was the same: share and be collaborative when you’re a leader, but for girls, early leadership efforts come with a negative label, “Bossy.” I’m not saying boys and girls are the same or that they should be, playgroups for boys are more likely to break into leaders and followers and girls are thought to play more co-operatively, but how much of that is because adults tell girls that giving directions is bossy?
I started writing this post thinking it would be about how the world would be different if there were more women than men. I realized, that it doesn’t matter if women hold a majority in the population, the dominant culture still encourages men to be in charge and .
Even though high school counselors no longer tell women they have three choices: Teacher, Nurse, Secretary- some gender expectations stay hidden. I am the bossy girl in the first story. I was surprised when I remembered it because my mom always told me I could be anything I wanted as an adult. She didn’t notice the sexism embedded in her own attitude.
But I think thing things are changing. Many authors are putting more female characters in their books, making them the protagonists and giving them non-traditional roles. The fact that we try to teach boys to share and communicate, things thought to be female strengths, means we are trying to cultivate the best in each person, regardless of gender.
We just have to be aware of the words we use to describe girls. A boy who directs others is not called bossy. There is no word for a boy who leads by being pushy or has trouble learning to communicate verbally. People just tell him to share or they encourage him by saying, “use your words.” What if we told bossy girls to share and left it at that?