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GENDER AND YOUTH

December 28, 2010

Gender roles don’t seem to have quite the pull they used to have. In 2008, the U.S. came close to having a woman in the Oval Office. Engineering schools now actively recruit girls, and more boys than ever are choosing traditionally “female” fields like nursing.

Today there seems to be more options for men and women — and girls and boys— for the roles they choose. Just ask Shantel Rodgers, a seventh-grader at Charles A. Tindley Accelerated School in Indianapolis. A self-proclaimed “tomboy,” Shantel, 11,
didn’t think twice about going out for her school’s football team. She’s a wide receiver and corner, which means she gets hit.

Shantel says the boys on the team didn’t give her a hard time about trying out, though they didn’t believe she could actually play. She showed them.

“When I got tackled for the first time, they all worried about me, if I was OK and stuff like that. And then they saw that I was OK and that I took it easily and just got back up from it, and they patted me on the back and said, ‘Good job,’ giving me high fives and stuff,” she said.

Girls are less comfortable conforming to gender stereotypes than ever before, says Elaine O’Quinn, professor of English and woman studies at Appalachian State University
in North Carolina. However, the stereotypes still exist, she said.

“I think that we have made some strides there. And certainly you will be able to do things as a woman that perhaps even your grandmother couldn’t or wouldn’t have been as acceptable to do. But, you know, when you walk into a school, the principal is still usually a male and the cafeteria workers are female,” she said.

O’Quinn says young people are more accepting of diverse gender roles than ever before “but I fear that the larger society still rejects the notion of any kind of real
transgressive gender behavior.”

That has been the experience of Torrin Smith. The 21-year-old transgender Indianapolis man says he has faced employment discrimination because of his gender.

“I think gender is a very diverse thing. I don’t think that any one person can say what it is or isn’t. In the very most basic terms, it’s how you see yourself,” he said.

On the whole, however, he believes people are more open to a wider view of gender. “I feel like we’re moving toward a more diverse society, where it doesn’t matter
if the girl likes the dump truck or the boy wants to play with dolls.”

 

Copyright Y-Press 2010

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