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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A Long And Winding Blog About Gender

I'm going to show you a couple of images of products that you can find in any store. They are manufactured by much-lauded toy manufacturer Fisher-Price and are designed for 3-to-18 month old babies. Take a few second to look carefully, because it is important.

Note, that the Saw and Hammer toys are for a"busy baby boy" and the Purse and Diamond Ring are for "sweet baby girls". Yes, you too can indoctrinate your 3 month old kid into a life of forced conformity- your boy a hardy carpenter and your daughter a twit desperately waiting for Prince Charming to put a ring on it-before they can even form words.

What the blue Hell is going on here?

I know that I may not have been your typical prissy girl, but I certainly wasn't spending all my days and nights waiting passively for Prince Bloody Charming to "save" me from having to work or whatever. I was Little Ms. Busy- zooming around and getting bumps and bruises and hitting my thumb with a hammer. That being said, even though I wasn't into purses or Prince Bloody Charming, I was a pretty sweet kid. I was reasonably thoughtful and kind and quite intelligent. You can even ask my pop, as he frequents this blog.

The thing is today we seem to have completely reversed feminism. We're not only as gender-typed as we were in the 1890s, but we're even more sexist. Sure, you might be Rosie The Riveter in your day job, but when you get home you're expected to change the diapers, prepare all foods including cookies for the school bake sale, (which you will be shunned for not volunteering for because your outside job actually means something to you) serve your "king" his supper in a lounge chair, take his plate away and wash it, etcetera, etcetera. Girls are allowed to be electricians and mechanics, so long as they're sweet and gentle and make sure that their profession doesn't offend Mr. Macho Man.

But it's not just girls who are gender-typed to death, as these products show. Back in the day, there were defined gender roles, but boys' attire was quite similar to that worn by girls. Boys weren't looked at too funny if they wanted to help mum around the house, and as they got older, genuinely respected women for being there. The roles were different to be sure, but men could brag about how amazing their wives were and would open doors, buy flowers, and shower their lady with affection without being regarded as "soft" or pussywhipped for their thoughtfulness. Nowadays, boys are pressured from shortly after birth to be hypermasculine and uncaring, with gentle boys even shamed by other parents. Real men in our age best earn a lot of money, listen to no authority, and make sure that no bitch turns them down or insults their machismo in even the smallest fashion.

I was having a discussion with a gent a few days ago. He works in assisted living units for adults and is working on a nursing degree. He loves to vacation in San Francisco and is a very gentle man. So we were talking about life in general and he mentioned the fact that he doesn't have too many guy friends and chilling with his wife's friends isn't some form of torture for him. He's a gender nonconformist, and I think being in the company of someone who also doesn't quite fit may be the reason for the conversation. So, as the chit-chat went on, I mentioned that one of my brothers was considering giving up his job as the manager of a furniture importer to become a nurse as well. Mr. Social Worker pal nodded and said that it was brave for my bro to consider the career change (said brother has also had the macho job of Corrections Officer), but that it's kind of a lonely (yet still rewarding) road for the gentle giants who pursue such a non-traditional trade.

Now, my bro Chris was a gender hero long before passing this new idea through his dome. He was a big and sporting kid who also happened to love ballet. (Try envisioning a 200 pound 11 year old dude doing pirouettes in the kitchen, and you're spot-on) Today's winner of football pools is also very content dusting or cooking or whatnot. He's pretty social and has straight friends and gay friends and some in between. His right-hand man, whom he hired, is a former U.S. Marine dismissed under Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Chris doesn't care about what anyone save for his lady thinks of him because he truly believes that all people deserve to be treated with dignity. I think that if we're going to survive as a species, we need more folks like him.

We need to get to a point where we stop seeing pretty things and kind people as being weak. In our age, we still categorize everything as masculine or feminine, with the latter thought of as inferior. A girl born today can do "boy" things in many families without being kicked out of the house or beaten for it, with exceptions given to those raised in religious patriarchies. However, a boy in almost any family will be scolded or worse for even glancing toward that Barbie doll or cookset with fun in his eyes. And speaking of the cookset, have you noticed that the play kitchenettes we had as kids weren't pink? Try finding one today that isn't pink or mauve and you'll be taking far longer on your trip than you expected.

This gender policing comes into effect early, and kids do absorb it. From my nephew saying "I can't be a nurse, silly. Boys are doctors." to Larry King having his brains blown out for wearing a skirt, sexism is beyond alive and well. Girls are sweet, pretty, helpful, and less than boys, who are to be tough, bright,  active, and eventually insecure and cruel.

How is this fair?

This is not an attack on boys-quite to the contrary-but an indictment of our society which forces them to conform to unrealistic so-called norms. Your boy isn't weak for wanting to be an interior designer or hairdresser, but may just have stronger will  than the meanest linebacker. If your son-in-law wants to hang around with his kids and respects your daughter, he's not a wimp or undriven. Hanging out in the garage with dad isn't going to make your little princess into a homo. When we stop portraying our insecurities onto our children and those of others, we will have well-balanced future adults.

I mean, do boys and girls really need separate inhalers?

Thank you to Save On Foods in Victoria, BC for selling such a ridiculous product.


Enjoy yourself, it's later than you think