Nail polish, when taken for what it really is – colorful die that temporarily changes the color of you nails – it seems arbitrary. However, it is almost always associated with being “feminine”. Even with colors socially considered as “masculine”, such as dark blue, black, or grey, it is still considered solely feminine and looked down upon by males.
This is an example of a gender norm, or the social construction of what is deemed appropriate or inappropriate for the two gender categories. It is a label that is placed on bodies; a form of social policing. Masculinity is always associated with being male while femininity is always associated with being female; therefore, all things considered masculine or feminine must fit into their perspective categories of being male or female. Most of these things are arbitrary however, such as the pink/blue color system, however they are given real meanings within society. For years, society has been functioning off of gender norms and our need to create categories. We seem to have this irrational fear of not being able to immediately determine the sex or gender of an individual; therefore we place labels where labels don’t belong.
The issue of labels is seen abundantly in the Transgender community. Inherent in the definition of a transgender individual, in most instances the sex and gender of these individuals is “mismatched”, meaning for example that one may identify as male (their sex) but prefer to dress and/or “act” feminine (their gender category). One can see how this would socially present problems, since they cannot easily be labeled and categorized, causing a panic to ensue. Society seems to not understand the fluidity of sex and gender and the consequences are seen in the marginalization of transgender individuals. However, there is hope. In an article published by NPR, studies have shown that “for Millennials, gender norms have gone out of style”.
“Millennials” is the term now used to describe our generation of young adults, which comparatively, is one of the most progressive generations in history. The article cites a heterosexual couple in which the male prefers to wear nail polish while the female does not; illustrating how arbitrary gender norms are. The cites a study that says “more than two-thirds of people ages 14 to 34 agree that gender does not have to define a person in the way that it used to”. This not to say that all Millennials bend the rules (most still do comply with gender norms) however this is a good indication of progress that we can hopefully see in the coming years. Being a Millennial yourself, how do you feel our generation has shown progress in the perpetuation of gender norms?