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REIFERT RANT: Ah, Throwback Thursday; a time for reflection. A time to look at where we’ve been and where we’re going. As I look at these 3 pictures of myself from the 1980’s, I am reminded of a decade that embraced individual expression and the throwing away, or the attempt to, anyway, of gender-stereotypes. As a kid, my parents, products of the hippie-era, encouraged me to be who I was, regardless of what social conventions dictated. When I wanted to play baseball, not only did my parents sign me up w/ little league, my dad also ended up managing the team! I never played with Barbies, nor did I ever fancy wearing dresses. I was (and still am) a “tom-boy” through and through. Which is why it saddens me so much to see stories in the news of schools and parents trying to suppress kids from the freedom to express who they are, like the little boy in North Carolina who has been banned from carrying his My Little Pony backpack because the school says, “it’s a trigger for bullying.” I do not agree with this approach at all, and it reminds me of a similar story I read about, regarding another little boy, and his love for The Little Mermaid. He was discouraged from outwardly expressing that part of himself at school, but was told it was okay at home. Talk about mixed messages!! This is a serious issue that opens up an interesting discussion on gender and identity and being true to yourself and being okay with it from an early age. And having people around you to support what makes you uniquely who you are. This is a very delicate matter and should be handled as such. I believe that gender stereotyping needs to stop. But how do we get it to stop? By ourselves being the change we want to see. We need to embody that change and live it, otherwise the vicious cycle will continue. Yes, kids will be mean. As will adults. But why is that exactly? Is it in their innate nature to be that way? Or are they taught that from TV, parents, friends, etc? Who’s to say blue is for boys and pink is for girls? That’s a preconceived notion set up by society that makes it so. We shouldn’t instill shame in our kids for being who they are. To me, and I’m no psychologist, doesn’t that set them up for serious problems down the road? Insecurities and self-esteem issues? And what’s worse is if we teach them to hide behind closed doors. Is it really okay to make them pretend at school they don’t like The Little Mermaid, but they can play all they want with Ariel and other princesses at home? Isn’t that a little confusing for them at such an impressionable age? I know we want to protect our kids and bullying is a real problem, but how will it ever stop if we don’t start from the ground up and teach our kids early on that it’s okay to like what they like and be who they are and be proud of it?

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