Today, procrastination has led me to scrolling through a feminist tumblr – a task that has been pre-occupying me for the past hour or so, instead of a paper that I need to write for Evolution and Developmental Biology (a terribly, terribly boring class). There were many articles on gender roles, and how, for example, a parent’s expectation of each gender has led them to subtly guide their child to behave in certain ways. One post discussed an experiment in which mothers were asked to predict how steep a slope their child would be able to climb, and it was found that mothers tended to have more faith and confidence in their son’s abilities than their daughter’s (despite their equal or similar physical abilities in reality).
This led me to think about how I was raised as a child, and why every time I see articles like that, I’m always a little surprised. My parents have always been very chill and relaxed – they’re very willing to let me experiment with random nonsense and figure things out by myself. That attitude, perhaps, is most evident in the way in which they let me do almost anything as a kid.
I remember spending many, many Wednesday nights (because my dad ended work early on those evenings) wrestling with my dad, WWE style. Both shirtless, we’d scowl and tackle each other in the living room. He’d put me in five billion kinds of head-locks, teach me the names of each, and then challenge me to get out of them, any way that I could. At the same time, I also remember spending many nights (although, perhaps, considerably less) playing doll, and forcing my parents to take on the different roles. We also had Lego sets (usually sea-themed), and lots of fake plastic food, and all sorts of things.
They encouraged me to go for Taekwondo, or ballet, or music, or whatever I set my fickle heart on. Even with my tendency to get into random fights at the playground, my mum still watched Power Rangers with me, and brought me to TKD classes (which my five or six-year old self didn’t dare to join alone in the end).
I don’t think their parenting philosophy or style was unusual – but reading all these articles about subconsciously imposed gender roles is interesting in the sense that I never felt that way with how I was growing up. The only thing my mum would frequently comment, which she still does from time to time is, “Aiyoh, with so many injuries, how are you going to be Miss Singapore?” But I’ve never felt a pressure of ‘girls should behave like _____’ thing. I’m just wondering if that’s a more Western thing, because it certainly doesn’t seem that way in my extended family either.
If anything, my parents probably raised me to be more like a boy than a girl. With the amount of fights I’d gotten into as a child (which btw, why is getting into physical fights seen as a more ‘male’ thing?; and also, don’t understand why everyone always seems to think it’s weird that I’d fight with random kids in the playground), and the slow cultivation towards anything too dainty, and the subtle encouragement (particularly from my mum) towards martial arts (because omfg, my entire extended family on my mum’s side has black belts #justsaying), they probably were more prepared for a boy than a girl lololol.