Gender: The Hardest Puzzle To Solve | Teen Ink

Gender: The Hardest Puzzle To Solve

June 20, 2022
By efaithm GOLD, White Plains, New York
efaithm GOLD, White Plains, New York
16 articles 0 photos 0 comments

People are like puzzles—complex beings comprised of a plethora of parts pieced together. The puzzle pieces that make up a person’s identity make them who they are. They can get scrambled, can take a while to figure out, can move around over time. One puzzle piece of identity is gender. Let’s clear one thing up: gender is not the same as a person’s sex. Someone’s sex is solely based on reproductive organs, while gender is how a person socially identifies, making it something that cannot be defined by anyone but them. Over time, stereotypes and sexism have encouraged the frustrating cycle of unjust gender roles and expectations that seem to eternally exist in society. It’s time for these gender roles to change. Our gender affects our lives because it is a large part of our identities, but it is time for society to shift into a place where it is commonly understood that a person’s sex does not determine a person’s gender, and a person’s gender does not define who they are or the role they play in society. 
 
A key part of the Jewish religion is the Bar Mitzvah, which directly translates to “son of the commandment.” At a Bar Mitzvah, a young Jewish adult (usually around 12 or 13) reads from the Torah, the religious text used in Judaism. This ritual is an exciting achievement; it commemorates the religious adulthood of a Jewish adolescent and is often celebrated with family and friends. The first Bar Mitzvah took place in thirteenth-century France. But it wasn’t until 1922, around 7 centuries later, that the idea of a “Bat Mitzvah” (daughter of the commandment) was introduced. It took nearly 700 years for women and girls to become included in the ritual that is imperative for some to embrace their Jewish identity. It was believed that women weren’t capable or smart enough to achieve the same things as men. When I had my Bat Mitzvah when I was 13 years old, as I stood atop the raised platform chanting in Hebrew in my purple dress, I thought about how lucky I am. It hasn’t always been like this; my own mother hadn’t even gotten the chance to become a Bat Mitzvah. If I had been born just a few decades earlier, I wouldn’t have gotten to experience the joy and pride of reading from the Torah in front of my friends and family. It is understanding things like these that influence the way I view the world as a woman. I understand that the achievements of women can often carry greater weight than the achievements of men, because of all of the sacrifices women have made throughout history to get to that point.  
 
In Macbeth, a play by William Shakespeare, Lady Macbeth, Macbeth’s wife, symbolizes a strong, stereo-type-bending female figure. In the early 1600s, the time of the play, women were often viewed as good-natured, soft-spoken, and fragile. Lady Macbeth is the exact opposite. In the play, she is a sadistic murderer, and at times, she holds more power than her husband. Through her actions including helping her husband plot and murder King Duncan and returning to the chambers to place the blame on the guards, she portrays a slightly sociopathic yet strong woman. In a soliloquy, she prays to become ‘unsexed,’ meaning she wants to gain the traditionally masculine qualities of bravery and the ability to act violently, despite her gender. This alone sends the message that despite a person’s gender, they can hold power, and men are not the only ones who are capable of acts of violence that require strength. 


In the same play, not only are stereotypes bent for women, but they are bent for men as well. When Macduff, a thane, hears the news that his family was killed, he is devastated. When he’s told to act upon his anger right away, he states that he must feel his emotions like a man too. This goes against the traditional belief that men should not show emotions or cry.  
 
I’ve observed that in society, people who identify as men are expected to be strong and fearless, while people who identify as women are expected to be sweet and fragile. A person’s gender does not determine who they are, though. Women can hold positions of power and men can cry. People can identify with more than one gender, or they can identify with none at all. Gender is a major piece of one’s identity, but it is irrelevant to the roles people play in society. We’ve yet to see a female president in the US, which is the epitome of the continued gender expectations in society. People assume that a woman wouldn’t be able to handle the pressure, or would act impulsively, but a person’s character has nothing to do with a person’s gender identity.  
 
What I’ve learned over time is that people are not completely like puzzles. Although people are comprised of many parts, including vast and complex identities, not every puzzle piece will click perfectly together, no matter what. A person’s gender identity puzzle piece may not match exactly with a person’s sex, and there’s no guarantee that someone’s sex and gender will fit with a person’s expected social, cultural, or societal roles. At some point, we must all shove a corner piece into the middle of our ‘puzzle’ and pretend that it fits, no matter how glaringly wrong it appears to outsiders looking in. But as people, we will all inevitably need to accept ourselves for who we are. Gender and societal expectations aside, when it comes to identity, if it feels right to you, that is all that matters.  



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