Beat the Stereotype, Be the Stereotype

By Janessa Palmer
Distinguished Young Woman of Minnesota for 2013
Something I hear of incredibly often is gender stereotypes. Many of us were raised, either by our parents or by the characters shown to us on TV and in movies, to believe that girls are good for some things and boys for others. While this can be very true, it’s not always the case. I’ve brainstormed a few stereo-typically ‘girly’ things to try and better understand why they are categorized as such.
Gymnastics & Cheerleading – ‘little girls in sparkling leotards’ – truth is, the strength and agility of these athletes is so rare, only handfuls can stay up to the challenge and have the determination to push their bodies past their limits. I’ve had the privilege of watching collegiate cheerleaders up close, and I would be scared to be the girl thrown in the air or the man who has to catch her!
Dance – When exactly did this get pegged as a ‘girly sport’? Dance requires an incredible amount of concentration and precision. Ballet, tap, jazz… There are so many different styles each with their own ideals and requiring the performer to use their body in a way that takes many years of training. Dance can often result in injuries sole to the sport. Although I’m not much of a dancer, one of my favorite quotes is, “Sure he [Fred Astaire] was great, but don’t forget Ginger Rogers did everything he did backwards…and in high heels!”
Singing & Acting  In the early days of the performing arts, women were banned from performing. Men played the roles of both hero and heroine. Now, women take the spotlight as leading ladies and Oscar/Grammy/Tony award winners, and they didn’t get their purely on talent. I know from personal experience that vocal training is rough. Learning to control parts of your body that you didn’t know existed (soft pallet, anyone?) and re-teaching yourself how to breathe will challenge you both physically and mentally.
Cooking – It takes knives, fire, and a great ability to follow instructions clearly and skillfully. Not to mention that it is an art form and the most successful cooks go on to make millions of dollars on TV or radio, so I don’t understand why women are stuck in the kitchen making sandwiches…
Horseback riding – This is one I take personally. I have spent multiple summers and hundreds of dollars working with an animal that is ten times my weight, can jump and run in ways no other animals can, and is also used to measure the strength of your pick-up truck. I’ve been bucked off, kicked, bitten, and stepped on, lifted hundreds of bales of hay, carried fifty-pound saddles, and gotten back up every time I have fallen. I would not test the strength anyone who rides horses.

Now, I could go farther and debunk stereotypical ‘boy’ things such as football, cars, or video games, but I have met enough women who are also amazing at these things, along with many men who are fantastic cooks, singers, and riders. My point in this post is that nothing  should hold you back from trying something that looks fun or continuing to do what you are passionate about. If you’re a boy and your ballet shoes are your best friend, or you’re a girl and you spent the last 12 hours fighting dragons in Skyrim, all the more power to you. The world needs passionate people, no matter what you are.

Janessa Palmer is a college freshman at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota majoring in Animal Science (pre-veterinary) and minoring in Spanish. Originally from Willmar, Minnesota, Janessa was a participant in the Distinguished Young Women program and was selected as the Distinguished Young Woman of Minnesota for 2013. Learn more about Janessa here!

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