Vol 12, Issue 10
I noticed a social discussion online last week, someone asked: Some parents respect LGBT groups, and even support same sex marriage. But at the same time, they do not want their children to be LGBT. Why is this?
One reply to the question made a lot of sense: Parents themselves may consciously understand and accept that LGBT is just a different lifestyle. (The article did say that being LGBT was a 'choice of' lifestyle. The author requested the edit to clarify the wording of her piece. She did not intend to suggest that being LGBT was a choice, nor is there anything wrong with being LGBT) However, they are afraid that their children may have to suffer too much after choosing to be one of them. The concerns come out of parents’ love and care for their beloved and the pressure comes from the outside – the whole society.
Same kind of social pressure is on a woman throughout her lifetime.
Instead of a truck she may get a doll at 5 – “a girl’s toy”;
Instead of playing footy, she may have go to some dance classes – “activity suitable for girls.”
How many girls choose a major in math or computer science? – “Girls are not good at math and computer stuff.”
How many women have to sacrifice a job to look after the family? – “Women should be the one to do the house chores.”
Do women have to change their family names after marriage? – “Probably yes.”
Can you say all these happen out of her own will? Are there any social stereotypes effectively playing in all the situations? When her parents let her choose between a Barbie and a Teddy Bear, can you say she has the ‘freedom’ of choices? Sadly, in most cases, the girl follows the guide of social rules to grow up as a ‘typical girl’.
Laws as normative rules are so much simpler compared to social rules, considering the latter are invisible in a sense that they are not written down and even not noticed by people when they comply with them. Acknowledging that all people are equal in legislation is only the first step to promote equality. More importantly, how are we going to fight against the complex, implicit unfair social rules when most people just subconsciously conform to them without a question?
Fighting against those unfair stereotypes involves the whole society. Because social equality concerns everyone, including men. When there are certain ways of living for everyone in different phases of life, everyone is constrained to the extent that any behaviour away from the ‘normal practice’ would receive pressure and criticism from the society. This pressure forces people to stick to the stereotypes, hence in fact, restricting our freedom.
Thus, although we ensure equality and freedom by law, there’s a long way to go to achieve real equality.
We are not alone in the world and we’re not free. We may never gain absolute freedom as long as we are members of a community. But I would love to have more options. To achieve that, we should allow and welcome ‘abnormal’ conducts in breach of the social norms – Being LGBT, girls having a boy’s hobby, boys doing a girl’s job, etc.
After all, each departure from the social rules is an attempt to expand our landscape of freedom.
Yujie Du is a first-year JD student
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