This week’s blog comes from Daire O’Dowd. Daire is a former Insight participant who has been involved in Development Perspectives since 2010.
Growing up, I think it’s safe to assume that most of us have heard of the age old Nursery Rhyme ‘Little girls are made of sugar and spice and everything nice’ While ‘little boys are made of rats, snails and puppy dog tails’. It’s probably another safe assumption to make that the little versions of ourselves never really questioned the societal norms the rhyme imposes. Or maybe we did? If so … Go us!!
Societal assumptions though and social conditioning is something that we need to address and discuss, not just on designated International Women’s days but also on a regular basis. How many of us women can relate to the feeling that ‘it’s not sexy or attractive to get angry?’ or as men that ‘it’s not sexy or attractive to get emotional?’ .With great initiatives out there, such as the Sustainable Development Goals which focus on, in particular No. 5 Gender equality and No. 10- Reduced inequalities, we now have the ideal platform to discuss these issues.
As a female. As a woman. I’m going to say one thing – If I want to get goddam angry -I’ll do it. If it needs to be all let out, in order for me to validate my opinion or my feelings- I’ll let it all out. I think the same should go for males. Regardless of our gender, our emotions are valid!
Let’s redefine those stereotypes attached to gender roles, in order to address inequality. What it means to be a woman in a man’s world. What it means to be a man, particularly on days like International Women’s day, in a woman’s world.
Strengths. Weakness’. Emotional vulnerability. Let’s talk about it……
Renowned actress Emma Watson, I believe, very clearly hit the nail on the head in 2014 in her speech as Goodwill ambassador for women to the UN. She highlighted the fact, that in a room in Beijing in 1997, when Hillary Clinton was asked to give a famous speech about women’s rights, only 30 % of the audience where male.
It’s up to us now to keep hitting that nail on the head and engage in open dialogue regardless of our sex about gender equality.
In an Irish context, it is evident, that there’s been a shift in these gender based stereotypes, which is great. There’s a move towards a more realistic perception of gender with role models such as Katie Taylor changing how we view women and sport. Trends such as weight lifting for girls and other sports initiatives are on the rise more on more. Right down to Instagram you can see people challenging the status’ quo hash tagging ‘girlswholift’, ‘girlgains’ and ‘female bodybuilder’. Not only have famous fitness health and fitness bloggers become more avid, as of late, in promoting this but it is filtering down to every day gym goers.
But let’s flip the coin – I mean sure we all agree that the link between health and fitness is phenomenal. But let’s look at it from a male perspective now. I mean it’s all good dead lifting, weight training and pumping those guns as an alpha male within those 4 gym walls, but what good is it all if you can’t express yourself outside of them?
Back to within our own Irish context, we see a rise in both current and former sports stars addressing just this issue. Niall Breslin ‘Bressie’ is one fabulous example, former Leinster Rugby sports star and musician – proving males and their emotions are still sexy.
Now, more than ever I think we are in a great position as agents of change to continue the conversations of ‘fab’ role models such as Bressie and Emma Watson and the issues they raise. Let’s hope they filter down to everyday dinner table conversations so that our children can grow up with alternative nursery rhymes on a balanced seesaw.
‘Boys your tears can move rivers.
Girls your punches can break walls.’