In the past few weeks, Jaden Smith (Will and Jada's son) has been sporting ladies' fashion across the US. The 16-year old wore a floral t-shirt dress to music festival Coachella, and weeks earlier, a schoolgirl-inspired black skirt worn over a pair of shorts at a school outing.

Smith's Instagram post from early April is a particularly powerful gender-political statement: "Went To TopShop To Buy Some Girl Clothes, I Mean 'Clothes'", he wrote. Since that post, he has posted photos of himself online wearing various dresses, tunics, and other typically-female clothes.

Went To TopShop To Buy Some Girl Clothes, I Mean "Clothes"

A photo posted by Jaden Smith (@christiaingrey) on

Traditional gender roles are a set of ideas about how men and women are supposed to act, what they're supposed to wear, and the kinds of things they're supposed to do. We often think of gender roles as antiquated - e.g. women cook in the kitchen, men are the breadwinners - but there are still many pervasive gender-based traditions that go unchallenged in the modern world.

And challenged they should be, because one's gender should be irrelevant in 2015. Smith is a welcome example of a public person willing to break gender-based traditions.


Bruce Jenner follows suit: he was once the model of all-American masculinity, and now he is transitioning to female. The overwhelming support Smith and Jenner have received in recent days are a clear sign it's time to move on from old gender rules.

As per Smith's lead, clothes are an obvious starting point. When shopping in Paris earlier this year, I often unknowingly browsed the women's racks at boutiques, but French shopkeepers thought it irrelevant to tell me. This nonchalance about gender traditions was refreshing. If I wanted to spend 500 euros on a jacket that looked good, shopkeepers took no issue with the fact it was intended for the opposite gender.

Bruce Jenner's transition has been fully supported by step-daughter, Kim Kardashian. Photo / Getty
Bruce Jenner's transition has been fully supported by step-daughter, Kim Kardashian. Photo / Getty

I've brought that sentiment home with me. I now buy women's size large t-shirts at AS Colour, because the concept of gender-bias in a t-shirt is downright silly. Let's apply the same mentality to "boyfriend" jeans (we can just call them "jeans" now), and any other garment that is purportedly for one gender. If you want to wear something, just wear it. The world's most fashionable people sport garments that don't fit gender norms. If that's good enough for Alexander McQueen, Karl Lagerfeld, or, if you go way back, Marlene Dietrich, why not you?

Society also needs to break all gender-based traditions surrounding weddings and baby births. Why is it that men are not invited to baby showers? Why aren't women allowed to partake in celebratory cigar-smoking after the birth? Why are only gay men invited to hen's dos? Conversely, why aren't lesbians invited to stag dos?

Seriously, folks, most have friends of both genders, and nobody should be left out of nuptial and parturition festivities. If your best friend is a straight dude, invite him to your bachelorette party. If your sister-in-law loves the idea of smoking a Cuban, ensure she's invited for a puff outside the hospital when her niece or nephew is born.

When it comes to jobs, too, there are traditional positions that are still presumed to be more appropriate for one gender over the other. It's assumed men aren't interested in being receptionists, dental hygienists, kindergarten teachers, or work in any kind of administration. Women, similarly, are supposed to have no interest in careers on construction sites, as technicians, in the auto industry, or even as pilots or chefs.

There's no reasoning for this. Women can be just as physically fit or technically-capable as men. Men can be just as keen on caring for kids or keeping files in order as women. If a particular career is something you're willing, wanting, and able to do, go for it. You can't legally be barred from any job.

Gender-based traditions also exist in our behaviour. Men aren't supposed to cry. Women are supposed to be sensitive to the needs of others. But men can and do have emotions, and shouldn't be ashamed of them. Even Abraham Lincoln cried during some of his powerful speeches.


Likewise, women can be brutal. Yahoo's Marissa Mayer, for example, has a reputation for "running her company like a man", which means, really, that's she's just a tough operator. Take a page out of Lincoln and Mayer's books and employ your emotions publically based on your personality, not your sex.

Most gender-based traditions result from the fact we still live in an overwhelmingly masculine society. To quote author Ian McEwan, "Girls can wear jeans and cut their hair short, wear shirts and boots. 'Cause it's okay to be a boy. But for a boy to look like a girl is degrading. 'Cause you think that being a girl is degrading."

As this advertisement shows, doing something like a girl, or like a boy, isn't insulting. It's time to stop degrading each other with gender-based traditions. They all stem from the fact men used to tell the world what to do. Let's do away with masculine traits and feminine ideals, and refrain from repressing ourselves, and others, with societal conventions.


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One's gender should be irrelevant in 2015 - agree or disagree?

Posted by Herald Life on Tuesday, April 28, 2015