When does a girl become a women? Is it when she can vote? Is it when she has sex? Is it when she is married? Has a job?
Rites of passage in today’s society are hard to come by in general for most children regardless of gender.
Women have an interesting struggle to contend with. One that many of the female bodied or women identifying persons I spoke with on this topic agreed was a significant impact in their life. The menstrual cycle.
Well of course, you may say, that is going to have an impact, it brings about all of these changes to a person’s body.
I agree, especially, these changes are both internal and external with some of the external changes being hard to hide. Breasts being an excellent example.
Why breasts? Well they are quite obvious when they begin to develop, and depending on the size, they are hard to hide at all. Why does this matter? Studies have shown that the age that a female bodied person begins to show breasts or begin to sexually mature can impact a variety of things in their life. Such as depression or other psychological stresses.
Additionally, they way the external world treats a person who has breasts is different than otherwise, they could begin to be sexually advanced upon, or given responsibilities over others, even being seen as someone to confide in or emotionally support others.
All of these things causes women to begin to navigate the way differently than their usually considered counterpart. They begin to be viewed as mature, and even in human sexuality class it is often communicated that once a uterus bearing person begins to menstruate this means that they have reached a form of sexual maturity.
Thus once again telling the female bodied person they are now mature.
I am curious at how this impacts the psyche, in that being told you are now mature due to this physical response that your body is going through, sounds as though it would be forcing someone to become something no matter what and the world acting them into that position.
What other choice would someone have, but to being to be “mature” if they are being told to care for those younger than them, having to be an emotional support and navigate the sexual pursuits of others in a “mature” way.
I contend that it is not so much as the menses or the development of breasts that spurns the emotional/social maturity of a person, but how that person is treated.
Thus our attitude in society “speaking in broad western culture terms here” of boys will be boys is also additionally harmful as it prevents them from being treated like emotionally/socially mature adults and then the female bodied persons are being put in positions to take up the emotional/social maturity slack as it were.
This can be having to do the emotional labor in the relationships with others, this can being put into the caretaker role for those younger or older than them, this can also be being put in charge of the more complex tasks of household and children’s lives management which take a large amount of emotional resources and priority/time management skills as well as patience. All traits of being able to be mature.
I am curious as to how men would act and be in relationships if they were also raised with the expectation to take care of others in an emotionally supportive way, to have to physically support others or to navigate complex emotional and sexual situations in a patient manner.
Perhaps it’s not that maturity is a trait that one has, in so much as it is a learned reaction to successfully navigating an emotional, and social environment while taking into account the feelings and needs of others.