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Let's talk conditioning

You may be wondering why there’s a picture of me in a blue hair turban…don’t worry, it’ll all make sense in a minute.

Now that my hair is getting longer again, when I wash it I put it up in hair turban to dry. We have three of these at home, a blue one, a purple one and a pink one. Today I realised that I automatically reach for the blue one each time. But why? Blue is most definitely not my favourite colour, in fact none of these three colours particularly appeal to me. Yet sometimes I will even move the pink or purple ones out the way to ensure I get the blue one. So again, I ask myself why?

My husband and I do not subscribe to colours being linked with gender, and we make a conscious effort not to inflict those kinds of societal beliefs on our children either. Yet somehow I still find myself automatically reaching for blue. My mind still tells me that it would be embarrassing if someone saw me with a pink hair turban. Which is hilarious in itself for many reasons that I simply should not be worrying about.

This isn’t the first time the subject of colour linked with gender has come up recently. I was speaking to a friend about her son wanting something purple, and she responded with “I made him choose green, because, you know…” which really surprised me to hear. I pondered this for the rest of the afternoon and sent her a kind message to reassure her that kids don’t get bullied for that kind of thing anymore, unlike in our days at school. What was sad to hear was that she wasn’t concerned about the bullying aspect, it was more to appease her husband’s and father-in-law’s views, to which she didn’t actually agree with but felt obliged to follow in order to keep the peace.

Like many things seem to, this too made me feel mad at the World! But I had to step back and realise that this is all conditioning. Conditioning from a narrow-minded, heteronormative society and a cultural norm from the past that is clearly still being inflicted onto children now. I’d just assumed people didn’t think that way anymore, but I was wrong. And I couldn’t be mad about it, because here I am doing it too every time I wash my hair. It’s ingrained into our culture and belief system, whether we agree with it or not. Pink is for girls and blue is for boys. Infuriating when you think about it. And I can’t even blame my parents, because as a kid my favourite colour was pink and my parent both really embraced that for me.

Isn’t it amazing how our subconscious mind works? Even though my parents didn’t raise me that way, and even though I consider myself to be open minded, accepting, embracing and both an ambassador and ally for equality, I still find myself in a blue hair turban over a pink one. I seem to be ok with breaking the mould in terms of being a man with long hair and a man who uses a hair turban, but pink is clearly a step too far for my conditioning. This both fascinates and terrifies me. How can I have come so far, yet still have so far to go when it comes to breaking down gender norms and stereotypes?

Because I’m human. Because being human means I’m imperfect, that I’m always learning and that my journey isn’t linear, it’s a dance. So while I’ve taken some steps forward for toxic masculinity, that doesn’t mean I can’t take the odd step backwards to check myself. Then perhaps my next step forward may be a leap instead.

So here’s to my blue turban, and maybe next week I’ll have the confidence to be sporting the pink one instead.

Until then, my lesson here was not to judge others for being victims of conditioning, but to use those experiences as life gifts to remind myself of the work I still have left to do. We are all responsible for our own growth, and nobody else’s. If we want the World to grow along with us, we must lead the way by example. And only then, when the World is ready, will it follow.

What practises do you follow that break down the heteronormative gender stereotypes?

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