Gender, empathy, and getting to know our boxes
I recently had a conversation with someone about the social constructed role of empathy and gender. After the conversation I took some time looking into the research on the topic. It is evident that this is a subject matter a lot of people have looked into. However, finding conclusive evidence on the topic is difficult. It is interesting to note that in many social settings empathy is more often associated with the feminine. So coming back to the conversation I had, I wonder where this originated? Could it be that little girls are expected to play with dolls in a nurturing and caring way, and boys play with cars that crash into each other? Could it be the sports boys play in primary school that promote getting the task done (getting the ball across the line) and only after the task is done looking back to see if the guy you tackled is okay? Boys are told “don’t cry” and girls are told “don’t be so rough”. From a young age we are conditioned to be something, to fit into specific roles and boxes. I know that many people are questioning and challenging these societal teachings, but how much of it even lies within our consciousness?
Why do we get triggered?
If you think about the Depp and Heard trial many witnessed over the past few weeks, it’s easy to get sucked into a “he said, she said” battle. Where we get triggered by our own experiences of gender biases and discrimination. Being able to identify and experience feelings of condolences (coming back to the empathy theme) with someone’s lived reality immediately calls us to pick a side. Or at least that’s what we’ve been taught to do. What would happen if we didn’t HAVE to pick a side? There has been a lot of judgement towards those on the fence, which if you think about it just reinforces the “pick a side” narrative. In a world filled with camps and sides we loose sight of out shared humanity. We loose sight of the fact that we all have a story that brought us to the place we are today. This does not mean that you should just be okay with everything, or that anything goes.
Get to know your boxes and when you place others in boxes
I firmly believe we need to question our beliefs the moment they call us to dismiss another person’s dignity and humanity. We need to constantly be look ing inward and ask ourselves where our beliefs and convictions come from. Being “woke” is not a stagnant state of being. Even enlightenment is not an ultimate destination. It is a commitment to saying “I will always be open to learn”. A wise friend once told me “the moment you think you’ve arrived, you are in a very dangerous place”. I carry these words with me every day.
Look inward so you can grow
So how does this relate to empathy and gender roles? We cannot truly have empathy and grace for others if we cannot look our own shortcomings in the eye. If we cannot see how we have played a role in placing someone else in a box, we will always point fingers and have this internal conflict of measuring ourselves against others. “Am I a better man than my friend? Am I more enlightened than my co-worker?”. A constant struggle. If we are able to see how we fit into boxes due to societal expectations, we can have grace for how our loved ones also play out the roles from the boxes they have been placed in. The long and the short of my story is get to know your boxes, how it serves you, and where it doesn’t. Be kind and gracious with yourself and those around you.
Disclaimer: These are my current perspective and thoughts. I would love to hear from you about this topic. Feel free to leave a comment below.