I was walking down the street this morning and the person in front of me was explaining to a companion the intricacies of the latest hot topic in Vancouver. You see, Vancouver is a city that can really get behind an issue and debate the pros and cons, hold rallies and even the occasional riot. (Not something the city should be proud of.) It seems the latest issue is of the utmost social importance and has the whole city talking, like the couple in front of me this morning. The issue of the most social importance at the moment, it seems, is whether or not a bridge in the city should be shut down for a day so Vancouverites can lay out their mats on the hard, hot and smelly asphalt and practice yoga on the bridge.
This issue honestly doesn’t bother me one way or the other. What struck me is that I have heard so many more people talking about that this weekend than about a group of grade 12 students gathering downtown Saturday to collect signatures for a petition for equal rights and protection for transgender people in Canada. Which issue will matter the most 6 months from now?
Another social issue that really does matter and has been in the news all over North America for the last few years is the right for two people to get married. There have been numerous stories about groups and individuals defending “traditional” marriage. Being a person who finds it unnecessary to adhere to traditional gender expression just because I am expected to, tradition is becoming an interesting topic for me.
Tradition seems to be another very subjective term used to serve certain causes when it is convenient, much like masculine or feminine are subjective terms not always used consistently. Who decides what is tradition and what is not? How long must something be in place for it to become a tradition?
North America has a relatively short history compared to other parts of the world if you only look at from the time of the first European settlers. If we want to maintain the traditions older than that on this continent, our current way of life will be even more radically changed, but I need to focus on my main concern so I won’t breach that topic. The earliest European traditions in North America are probably not the the idea models to follow, but who decides which traditions we adopt and which we conveniently forget about? I can’t imagine the earliest explorers were extremely domesticated like they seem in the movies. If they were, they probably wouldn’t have been out exploring the unknown world.
We can move through the years and look at the various traditions. They seem to change from generation to generation. Some move in the right direction and some don’t seem to. Women have been afforded more rights, are more represented int eh work place and can safely wear pants in public. I acknowledge that there is still a ways to go, but I just wanted to point to some of the changing traditions.
At one time on this continent it was fashionable for well to do men to wear powdered wigs. Not so long ago, pink was the appropriate color for male babies because it was closer to red (a power color) and therefore more suited for males and blue more suited for females. It was also not frowned upon or laughed at, at one time, for males to play female parts in plays.
The defenders of tradition paint the picture that the way things are are the way they have always been and were meant to be. That is not the case. Our world has been changing since the beginning of recorded history and most likely before that. Hopefully, one day, what we consider non-traditional gender expression will be looked at as normal. I can’t imagine there ever being gender equality as long as there are two opposing poles. Traditional gender expression and gender roles just serve to reinforce this opposition. Maybe by becoming a little more non-traditional we can move towards true equality by being able to express ourselves as the unique individuals we are without the confines of a gender label. Maybe, one day, the new tradition will be a lack of gender labels and inequality. Wouldn’t it be nice if closing a street for yoga honestly was one of the more serious social issues we faced?