This is a response to another student's post in my Gender and Women's Studies course. I removed all references that would allow you to figure out who the posters are. Comments added later that were not part of my response are in brackets.
Trigger Warning: References to sexism, fat-shaming, cissexism
*Name1*, I found your idea that prior generations contribute to reinforcing the binary in each new generation interesting and accurate, along with *Name2's* note that Western (white) societies have traditionally seen the man as the providers and leaders. My personal experiences have been that it is those from prior generations who have the most discomfort with those who use gender-neutral pronouns, are trans*, or even simply act outside of the expected roles within the binary. (For example, my age peers have never taken issue with the fact that I don’t shave my legs and never have, but my 50-something year old male neighbor has directly told me that I should start doing so on multiple occasions, starting around age 14.) I also definitely agree that the traditional binary privileges the masculine over the feminine, and I think that this valuing of the masculine is part of why we find tomboys to be more socially acceptable. I also noticed that there are certain standards that you say everyone is judged to, regardless of gender- this is true. I think that men are typically given more room for deviations that are considered “excusable” and that there are certain types of deviations where this difference is huge. Body type is one of the biggest: DXL is a men’s clothing store that starts at size extra-large and does quite well advertising to this demographic, but no such well-known major line exists for women. Big and Tall is another example of this- the size that men must be in order to face discrimination for being too large is significantly greater than that for women with some stores having women’s XL and men’s M or S similar in size. (Yes, men tend to be larger, but the actual difference between average sizes would come out to men’s medium and women’s large being similar, not medium to small with extra-large. ) The standards people have for the ideal are similar, but the acceptable level of deviation and the punishment for going beyond this level of deviation are both more stringent for women in many cases. [Blog about fat shaming here and here. Second is mentions a campaign meant to "combat childhood obesity" by singling out and attacking actual children.]
I share *Name1's* hope that with time, we will become more familiar with people who do not conform to their assigned roles or assigned gender, and that in time, familiarity will reduce the fear people tend to feel towards us. Thinking on the idea that it will become more accepted as it becomes better understood, one line from the Mob Song in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast repeats in my head: “We don’t like what we don’t understand, in fact it scares us, and the monster is mysterious at least.” Trans* people and people who break gender roles while identifying with the gender they were assigned at birth are certainly not monsters (“He’s not the monster, Gaston, you are!”) but people fearing what they don’t understand and sometimes becoming monstrous in order to defeat the perceived threat is very real, as are its effects. [I do have this hope, mainly because I know about a whole lot of people doing things to try to make that happen. And yes, I do think that positive understanding helps. Kind of like I think good autism awareness can help with acceptance and bad autism awareness makes it worse, I think that good education about gender issues can help make progress.]