Wednesday, June 27

Yet Another Gender Post

In the spirit of getting myself writing again, I figured that whipping myself into a frenzy would be the best motivation, so here is yet another rant on gender issues:

First of all, it should be known that I am a scrapbooker. I loves me the scrapbooking. But one thing that I do not like about my hobby is its gender politics. For some reason, scrapbooking is considered "women's work"--that keeping the family history is the job of the woman-folk. That, however, does not keep me from doing it, nor is it the main theme of this post. It does mean, though, that I read a lot of scrapbooking magazines and that while reading such magazines I see a lot of layouts that glorify the "proper" gender identity of children. I am not going to post images of such pages here, though, because it is against the scrapbooking code to snark on other people's pages--let's just say that there are a lot of pages and products out there that announce "100% GIRL" or "All Boy" or "Girlie Girl." These titles are inevitably accompanied by photos of young boys and girls performing activities appropriate to their stereotypical gender roles: girls having tea parties in princess outfits or boys pushing toy trucks through get the idea.

This really pushes my buttons.

Especially the ones that read "100% girl" or "100% boy." What does this mean? Thank goodness my child is not a hermaphrodite? I'm so glad that Sally never grew a testicle--she's 100% GIRL! No breasts on little Billy--he's 100% BOY! And I know what these pages are supposed to mean, but really, the underlying implication is, I'm so glad my kid isn't queer.

Just once I'd like to see a page that says "Girlie Boy" or "Not-All Girl" or maybe even "75% Girl, 25% ?" I guess what I'm pointing out is that if Hillary Clinton represents one aspect of our society's deeply-rooted sexism, then parental expectations represent another. Most people want their children to follow strictly maintained gender roles, and when they do, it's a cause for celebration. When they don't, it's a cause for silence. Sons should never want to cruise the "pink aisle" at Target, and daughters should not enjoy the, er, "black aisle?" (I'm not sure what to call the aisle dedicated to Legos, Hot Wheels, and action figures--the "Action Aisle?")

And I know that there are those of you out there (Mom) who will say, "What's the big deal? A kid's gonna like what a kid's gonna can't control that." But my point is this: by setting up these standards of what constitutes "All Boy" or "100% Girl," we also set up a framework for deviancy. A boy who wants a pink fairy Barbie is deviant, as is a girl who'd rather have a Millenium Falcon Lego set (Mmmmm...Millenium Falcon Lego set...drool!) We don't tell the children they are deviant, but we show them they are by celebrating those children who are not. So kids are not just "liking what they are going to like"; they are struggling with what they should like.

Of course, I'm the big hypocrite here because if M. decided to like Barbies, I would say, "Too Barbies in my house." So I guess I am encouraging her to reject her stereotypical gender role as much as another mother might be encouraging her daughter to accept it. I feel I have to do this, though, not only as a mother, but as a woman. Because it's only a short step from this "Girlie Girl"...

To this one...

click on picture for larger view


Aliki2006 said...

Thanks for stopping by my blog!

I was thinking about this very topic this a.m. when I heard a report on NPR about women in Afghanistan crying in the delivery room because they had given birth to daughters and not sons. I thought about how far back, historically, these gender stereotypes go and about how far they still reach today.

BellWookie said...

You know this irks me as well. :) well put on all counts. And as the mom of a boy, I will say here we come dance lessons!

BRW said...

You might want to check the source of your Housekeeping Monthly article. It is nice to think we are much more advanced than they were in the 1950s, though.