Raising a Gender 28 Comments


On lazy Monday evenings when there’s really nothing interesting enough to watch on my meagre twenty-eight TV channels, I watch ABC’s reality show ‘Wife Swap.’ I find amusing the ridiculousness of polar opposites butting heads as they try to impose their personal beliefs onto another family.

This hour long reality show follows two American families as each woman becomes a wife and mother to another family that differs from her own in some extreme ways.

Atheists are matched with devout Christians; urbanites with farmers; control freaks and conservatives with liberal junkies. The extent to which extreme opposites who are set in their beliefs are sought after and paired is hilarious and is the mitmita in a recipe for katelo.

However, at the end of such an adventure, it is assumed that the couples will have a newfound appreciation for members of their own family as well as the valuable lessons to be learned from an interaction with the opposite world.

More than the minor value of entertainment and temporary distraction such shows offer, sometimes I find myself fully engaging with arguments ignited by what one of the personalities says or by how one of them responds to a particular event. The latest episode proved to be a stirrer of some sorts, as a stay at home mom comfortable with her role as a subordinate member of her family lashed out to the other wife “this man here is walking around with a vagina.

Hmmm, well good for him – as far as I know the vagina has been a hub of pleasure! C’mon now, it even had a monologue dedicated to it.”

Anyways, what I would consider as being a mereqat was used by her as an ergeman instead. Home boy was being accused of cooking for his family, he was soft-spoken; he sometimes styled his wife’s hair and painted her toe nails. He didn’t watch sports and his two sons were into ballet and tap dancing.

In contrast, the “manly” menin her household were an obnoxiously loud feisty bunch. As a man you should watch sports. A man should not be in the kitchen – that’s a woman’s place. Ballet and tap dancing is for girls, she further commented and encouraged him and his sons to take up boxing instead. While the show was just that – a show, I couldn’t help using it as a point of departure for an analysis of the gender misconceptions that children are fed from the beginning.

Current development theorists have evolved their model from the early nature vs. nurture debates towards a more interactionist approach that pays heed to a complex mix of both nature and their immediate environment to explain life span development. However, I can’t help being convinced that the types of gender roles children grow into is more a product of what society has decided is fitting of each sex.

Is it a boy or a girl? The first question most people utter upon the introduction of a new born. Pink, floral prints, dolls and emotions are for girls. Blue, gaming consoles, toy soldiers and a tough-ass attitude are for boys. Our shopping habits when we go gift hunting for a new born or even a toddler reinforces such stereotypes of who should have what. If either sex bypasses these societal boundaries and stereotypes then the labels are flung across – “‘ oh, he’s so gayyyyy.‘ ‘ Look at her, she’s such a tomboy.‘”

Whatever happened to respecting personal preferences?”

Many of the explanations I have been given for maintaining the gender status quo have been a reference to how “girly-boys or boyish-girls are not normal.” Isn’t ‘normality’ a decision you along with like minds consciously make to view the world only the way you think it should be? 3C= N. Conservative, Conventional, Conformist = Normal. Anything that challenges our firmly established principles and beliefs is outrageous, out of the norm and therefore unacceptable.

Then there is the controversial issue of immediate identity assignment for intersexed individuals. It’s sad to know that the fate of one’s sexual identity is in the hands of parents and doctors who reach their own conclusion as to chopping it off and making her a girl or sewing it up and making a man out of him. After all, why would you want to let it be until the child is old enough to make their own decision? Oh yea, I forget – lekas it would not be normal to grow with two genital organs. Ere demo, we have to hurry up and assign them characteristics too, eko!

I am curios to know how a very traditional colleague of mine trained in Adlerian psychology that focuses on social equality balances out her conservative personality and professional background as she watches her three-year old son form his identity. She tells me that she gives him room to explore and grow from his experiences and make his own choices.

“Mommy, mommy, I want a summer dress,” he has once asked. And he has it; he wears it. But I know pretty soon she will take away his summer dress as yet another semi-blank slate is programmed to delineate the border between what is feminine and masculine.

I am no parent yet. And I don’t claim to be an expert on the intricacies of raising a child. Perhaps when in the same boat, I might find myself conforming to these ideals of ‘normalcy’ for the sake of shielding my child from confusion and social isolation. “Weldesh kemeshiew,” she usually says to me. “Mamaye, I’m not into feasting on babies,” is my reply. She megelamet’s me and cracks a tiny smile.

28 Responses to “Raising a Gender”

  1. 1 celebratelife

    Nice article Maskino.

    I watched that episode at a friend’s house. She taped it and it was better than watching a movie. The “vagina” man was like a doormat to his wife but clearly showed he was not happy in his body language. In turn the manly man felt comfortable working around the house to help out his wife, in the end. Children learn by “doing as they do and no as I they say” unfortunately so whatever the parents could have preached to them I don’t think would’ve made a difference.

    I found it interesting how taking a ballet is not manly and fighting is. Now it is a fact we (the genders) are not the same and there are some defined roles each must take and I’m not talking about as in cooking or working. There is nothing wrong with defining the gender roles with kids so long as it’s not exaggerated.

    I for one have always stated I love manly men but that doesn’t mean he has to behave like a bulldog ready to charge at anything crossing his path.

    Do they have a husband swap show?

  2. 2 meron

    great article masinko…i loved it. i have two brother brothers, 10 and 12, and in helping raise them im confronted with these same issues. they are so different from one another. one is soft spoken and calm while the other is loud and hyper. even physically theyre different. one is skinny and tall while the other one is much more built. but every argument starts with the younger one calling the older one a sissy and saying “youre such a girl” even my uncle has taken out the older one to have “a man talk” with him because hes not as aggresive as the younger one. my mom always says “tewut feree lenatu yiterfal” but he gets teased so much. but i doubt shell be as understanidng if he wanted to wear a summer dress. part of th reason is you worry muc about how theyre going to turn out and how that is going to affect how people will treat them in the future. my uncle had the talk with my brother because hes worried at some point my brother will get teased and bullied in school because he looks “soft.” even myself im constantly worrying about what theyre thinking and how theyll turn out. therefore i encourage what the majority accepts to me “normal” for boys like sports and video games instead of ballet. not that i believe ballet is in any way wrong for a man but id pick something for them that theyll be most accepted for. therfore the cycle continues. from what ive experienced, at least in rasing kids, you try to make them fit into society the best that you can…

    its really late and im really tired but i hope i made some sense.

  3. 3 hewe

    you’re really good Ms. Masinko!!
    I personally like the manly man- and i define him as a man who is comfortable in being himself but NEVER in a dress- I like the separation of genders, I don’t think i want a man to sit there and style my hair (but if he wants to play w/ my hair, that’s all good). Sorry but I can’t stand a man who dances ballet but who moves to salsa is cool. Ne-ways nice article.

  4. 4 wudnesh

    M’lady….arif article! I must admit I’m guilty of most of what u wrote. I have no problem with a man who cooks for his wife or family, but I ain’t having MY man cooking…no way! Okkk, breakfast in bed once in a while is nice, but other than that, I don’t like a man making Wat etc…thank God my sis-in-laws are wonderful, I’d have had a problem seeing my bros cook.
    While I sometimes frown at my bros for giving my nephew a hard time coz he spends ‘too much time’ in front of the mirror styling his hair, putting on lotion, and too much eau de toilette,
    In a summer dress? ballet and tap dancing? call me too old fashioned, but even I don’t think I can take that…I second Heweye, nothing like a manly man ;)

  5. 5 mister.mayhem


    have you gotten around to reading some evolutionary psychology ? much of our social systems in regards to gender are created to support what is beneficial to us biologically. our society reinforces boys being manly because its of the utmost importance to our survival as the human race. we can debate the archaic nature of our customs but what does it serve us to promote ballet dancing men? i believe in personal choice at the end of the day everyone should have the choice to live as they choose. but i’m neither surprised nor astonished that we would promote men being men. it’s only very recently in human history that women have become self sufficient in terms of gender roles.

    a good e.g. of evolutionary psychology is feminists against polygyny. they argue that its misogynistic and places women in a subservet position that does not play to their well being. but in reality in cultures where polygyny is accepted women are economically stable and cared for by the wealthier members of the society that are able to take on multiple wives.

    so again the offer still stands. would you like to become my second wife ? i’m still awaiting a response from celebratelife for the pole position.

    mayhem out!

  6. 6 Moi

    There is nothing sexier than a man cooking for me, as far as I’m concerned. Besides, has anyone noticed that the best chefs in the World are MEN? There is a huge difference between a man who is a door mat and a man who takes cares of his wife and kids, whether taking care entails cooking, brushing the wife’s hair or whatever else. Arguing that a man who cooks is not man enough and is the same as arguing that a man who beats his wife is a MANLY man. I f my husband cooks, cleans and does stuff around the house, all power to him. I will not complain.
    Also, if my son wanted to be a ballet dancer and play with Barbies, I would not care. At the end of the day, as long as he is a good person with a pure heart and contributes to society’s betterment instead of detriment, I would be very much grateful and proud.

  7. 7 meron

    Moi –than youd love nolawi :)

  8. 8 Nolawi

    Lol meron… atasikign

    Masinko, I believe in the Nurture aspect of the nature vs nurture talk….you can train a macho… body building chauvinist pig…. or a dress wearing fashion fanatic that is super sensitive…

    people are not born gay… that is what I am saying…

    anyways… lets not judge manhood by the amount of testosterone

  9. 9 emebet

    sundress?? U-U-TE!!! i don’t know how i would react to that if my future son asked me for a dress. actually, i do. but i will refrain from saying it here. ballet/tap, i dont mind. sundress is asking mommy if she is willing to be put away for a long long time…

  10. 10 Alazhar

    Good article indeed! But why do we encourage Men to act like a Lady while he should live for the purpose he’s created? God created Men with larger & solid muscles with the intention that he could handle tough jobs as well as protect his girl. Women necessitate strong Men both physically and mentally.
    “Setaset Wond”= “Yeahiya bal kejeb ayastel”
    I detest the “ Bushti” type men.

  11. 11 Moi

    Meron, if only I weren’t married with a child on the way LOL…

    Nolawi, there are macho men that are oh so gay. They call them thug something…I can’t remember the expression they use, but there is a name for them.

  12. 12 kiki

    Nice article Melody. It is all culturally relative, isn’t it? Male Ballet dancers are considered effeminate in America but in Russia it is quite different. There is nothing effeminate about Mikhail Baryshnikov – sexxxy!! Nureyev was gay, but still very manly. The men in Scotland wear skirts/kilts, in Polynesia men wear pareo, lava lava, or sarong – all very manly I think. So it all depends on your perspective. If I had a son I wouldn’t want him to be ridiculed but I would like to think I wouldn’t make him feel bad about wanting to wear a dress. I will explain to him the implications of a boy wearing a dress in our culture and how wrong the implications are– if he is old enough to understand. Hopefully his father and I would be in the same page on this. It would be bad to give conflicting messages. I see nothing wrong with men who like to cook; in fact all men should cook.

  13. 13 dawitm

    lol…. cook like marcus …. or just cook like any dude ….. :) ? i have no problem with cooking, if i try it in the house sometimes. but i will not choose it as a profession… hey that is just me. unless you are scottish and only wear them during st patty’s day skirts are out :) ballet for guys is creepy too.

  14. 14 Dinich

    I do cook for my wife and kids a lot and in my mind there is nothing unmanly about that but I still believe in the manly man concept and I proudly consider myself one….ahem….

  15. 15 Nolawi

    [quote comment="82982"]Meron, if only I weren’t married with a child on the way LOL…

    Nolawi, there are macho men that are oh so gay. They call them thug something…I can’t remember the expression they use, but there is a name for them.[/quote]

    is this your first child?


    is yoru hubby abesha?

  16. 16 lola

    Yes its a given i’m a liberal. I believe that ppl should live and let live. I don’t believe in “normal”. What may seem normal to some is not to others. I say let children be who they are. They definatly need guidence, love and affection. If they turn out to be gay, transexual whatever it shouldn’t matter as long as they grow up to be genuinely good human beings. As long as they are elevating human condition and not taking away from it, i say its all gravy. As far as whats manly and girly its all relative. I consider a man to be manly when he can laugh at himself and is comfortable in his own skin. I will admit that a man who gets manicures and pedicures bothers me but hey whateva floats your boat. At the end of the day that does not define the person that he is.

  17. 17 celebratelife

    Lola, I know very manly men who get manicures, facials, etc. That just shows he cares about his appearance but not that he’s leaning towards anything. It’s a different story if he’s wearing color nail polish and barrettes on his hair but to take time out to look good doesn’t lessen his manliness.

    I think there’s a misconception on what a manly man is.

    Mister, lol can I have a second husband too ;)

  18. 18 Selam2

    Well said kiki & lola, I agree with you two 110%.

    I also think it is very manly to take care of your family. Part of taking care of your family is cooking and helping out with household chores. Especially, here in the west where there is not a lot of household help. So my fellow Habesha guys…please be a man and take care of your family.

  19. 19 Moi

    Nolawi, yes my first baby, I’m very much excited. We wanted to wait until birth to find out the gender, but I have a feeling it’s a baby boy. And yes, my hubby is abesha.

  20. 20 masinkomelody

    Celeb, apparently they had a husband swap in the UK but that didn’t catch on fire like the wife swap did.

    Hewe, living in the DC area i’m sure you’ve visited Showa at least once. He is a man and he styles hair, like so many other men stylists. Are we saying then that as a profession men taking what has been considered women’s roles is okay so long as they don’t bring it into the domestic sphere?

    Mister, i have gotten around to reading some evolutionary pscyhology, but need i remind you that the field, like many others, has been dominated by the male voice. You can become my second husband if you wish. I’m still reviewing applications.:)

    Nol, your comment reminded me of the Iranian presidents speech at Columbia University…”we don’t have homosexuals in Iran like you guys do,” “we don’t have this phenonmenon”….lol

    Emebet, in addition to Kiki’s list of dress wearing men, it was common for men in Greek and Egypt to wear dress like robes and skirts. In fact, everyone in ancient Egypt (both women and men) used to wear eyeliner, red lipstick, and rouge. Also necklaces, bracelets and rings was very common to the men too.

    I loveeeeeee Eddie Izzard for this. He is a heterosexual male who loves to wear makeup and type of clothes that society has assigned only for women, and damn he looks good in it! And he’s very funny too…


  21. 21 mitu

    “After all, why would you want to let it be until the child is old enough to make their own decision?”
    I found this very disturbing decision to make. I am sure most parents want what’s best for their child. And they would not want their child to be ridiculed or outcastes. Intersex children (hermaphrodite) are much much common than we think. I have the numbers at home but I was shocked to see the figures. But I guess in North America the doctors and parents decide the best sex and the child undergoes surgery. But honestly I would not blame the parents who choose this procedure. I can only sympathize. Remember we live in a cruel world and we judge each other so badly. Intersex people go through so much trauma, confusion and identity problems. So what is wrong with wanting your child to have a ‘normal’ childhood and life?

  22. 22 masinkomelody

    Mitu, point taken. But the same data reveals to us that while some are happy with the sex assigned to them, there are many others who go through the trauma, confusion and identity problems you just mentioned because the decision was MADE for them. So they really don’t end up having that ‘normal’ life you say there’s nothing wrong with having because they are still negotiating identities among other things. Yikerta, gin i kind of find it unethical to perform something irreversible and permanent on someone without their consent.

  23. 23 Sky

    Nice post M’Lady.
    Very sensitive/controversial issue though.

  24. 24 hewe


    ewe, living in the DC area i’m sure you’ve visited Showa at least once. He is a man and he styles hair, like so many other men stylists. Are we saying then that as a profession men taking what has been considered women’s roles is okay so long as they don’t bring it into the domestic sphere?

    Masinko, Showa is very good, – i can’t stand the long waits so i haven’t visited him (you assumed wrong) but my best friends have and he is really good. The point i was trying to make is that I personally, as i said on the post, have my picks……There are some roles that do not sit well w/ me, that being one. That’s all.

  25. 25 masinkomelody

    Hewe, my bad. Personal preference respected!

  26. 26 masinkomelody

    Interesting read…thought i’d share…

  27. 27 Carey Piatek

    naturally like your website but you need to take a look at the spelling on several of your posts. Many of them are rife with spelling problems and I to find it very bothersome to tell the reality nevertheless I will definitely come back again.

  1. 1 Modern Kitchen Burton

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