Category Archives: culture

Lock up your daughters!

Tomorrow’s Valentines Day! What better way to celebrate than with this t-shirt for your little boy!

OMFG Target. Are you kidding me with this?

This, my dear friends, is not cool. It’s not cool because it portrays boys as predators. Because it sends the message that it is okay for boys to act in a sexually aggressive manner, and that it’s even cute. It’s not okay because it suggests that girls need to be locked up to keep them safe from the uncontrollable urges that boys find themselves awash in.  It’s not okay because it says that it’s all damn normal. Isn’t it cute to normalize predatory sexual innuendo? FOR CHILDREN. (That t-shirt is a size 18mos. I found it in the toddler section at Target.)  (I’m pretty sure this was a tactic of the Taliban. Keeping women inside to ‘protect’ them from men who couldn’t control their sexual urges. This is an adorable philosophy to emulate, Target!)

And also? My son is not a predator. My son is not a rapist.

Wait. Rape? Who said anything about rape? Well, that shirt does. It says, “Keep your daughters away from me, because otherwise I might do something I can’t control, and can’t be held accountable for!” and because it’s cute-ified (is that a word?) on a t-shirt, we can all sit back and laugh about it. “Oh..haha…it’s cuuuuute.”

I bombed Twitter with this picture Saturday after I took it because I was so pissed about it, and one of my followers posted on Target’s Facebook page,

Very disappointed to see shirts that say “Lock up your daughters!” being sold at Target. Way to further perpetrate rape culture on Valentines Day just to make a buck.

The responses in the comments?

I just cannot handle anymore people being so overly sensitive!! Why is everyone always offended about everything??? How in the world is a little boys shirt “perpetrating rape culture”???

How does that sound remotely close to rape? Geez! I’m going to lock up my daughters from people like YOU.

I’ve read a lot of stupid posts on this page but this just takes the cake. I cannot understand how in the world anyone could be offended by that shirt!!

These are being sold in the boys dept? Aw, if I saw a little guy wearing one, I’d probably chuckle. If I saw a grown man wearing one, I’d think yeah right, dummy… now rape would never enter my mind. Especially on a little boy, geez.

Maybe you should analyze yourself and find out why you think a harmless little boys’ shirt is promoting rape. And this has nothing to do with defending Target. More like defending rationalism and common sense.

it seems people will find anything to complain about. I’ve seen that little boys shirt and there is nothing wrong with it!

Not surprisingly, the t-shirt is harmless and she’s (an I’m) too sensitive and over reacting. Yay! Rape culture and silencing all in one place!

I get it, I do. It’s just a t-shirt  but that t-shirt, combined with the idea that the message it’s sending is okay, partnered with all the other sex and gender messages that kids are fed combine to create an environment where men feel emboldened to commit acts of sexual violence because they’ve been told all their lives that it’s okay. Not too long ago I read something that said one of the reasons that sexually aggressive behavior is so common among  early-twenties men is because when they’re all sitting around in a group talking about sex, and women, and the talk takes an aggressive turn, no one speaks up. No one says, “Oh, shit, you had sex with her while she was passed out? Dude, you’re a fucking rapist.” Instead they all sit there uncomfortably and smirk at one another. No one wants to be THAT guy, so the behavior goes unchecked. And the more often men observe other men’s behavior going unchecked the more their own behavior is emboldened.

So, when I see shit like this, I check it. This is me checking the behavior. I’m that guy. And I’m okay with it.

The Mamafesto has a post up today that talks about kids clothing and gender messages too, you should check it out. (We didn’t even coordinate!)

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Filed under culture, I get pissed, Uncategorized

How many sexist slurs can you name?

I believe, fervently, that the language we choose to use has great implications for the things we find important, and hold valuable. I do not believe that sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me. Words are used to convey hatred, and disrespect. They are used to hurt, and demean people. They are not harmless.

I’m really sick of seeing these words used to describe women.

wordle2

Have any to add?

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Filed under culture

This girl kicks ass.

I freakin’ LOVE this girl. I dare you not to cheer.

(She reminds me a bit of myself when I was that age. Awww…the amazingness of youth.)

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Filed under culture, feminism

Not that gender neutral nonsense again.

Gender neutral parenting. It’s a big buzz word these days. Parents who want to give their children the freedom to explore gender constructs on their own terms and without shame. Shocking!

It gets a bad rap sometimes. It seems a great number of parents are perfectly  happy telling their sons that pink, and dolls are for girls, and teaching their daughters that firefighting costumes, and trucks are for boys. I can’t blame them exactly, consciously counteracting the prevailing social norms is exhausting, and confusing, and often leads to alcohol consumption to combat the never-ending feelings of frustration with the world. Walk into any major toy store (and even an independent one) and you’ll be assaulted with the “toy section” and the “pink section.” It’s nearly impossible (nearly? It might BE impossible) to avoid the influence that gender stereotypes have on our children.

I’m gonna wade in with two of my own experiences, one that’s cute and satisfies me perversely, and the other that makes my little feminist heart sing.

Kidlet wears a ponytail. For the last month or so, nearly every morning he says, “Mama, put mah hair in ponytail!” We sit down on the floor together while I comb his hair, and he holds the rubber band. Then he spends the rest of the day checking to make sure it’s still there. Apparently ponytails are the major gender indicator for toddlers, as everywhere we go, people refer to him as “she.” He’s often dressed in clothes from the boy section, though I try very consciously to not buy him clothes that have construction equipment or sports motifs on it, and I know he has a penis, so to ME he looks like a boy. But I guess because of the ponytail, people assume he’s a girl. I’m cool with that. Doesn’t bother me in the slightest. But, HOOO WHEEE does it bother other people. I don’t bother to correct people unless I’m asked a direct question like, “How old is she?” then I’ll reply, “He’s…” Here it is – boys don’t have to have short hair, and girls don’t have to have long hair. It’s really that simple. So, my piece of performing masculinity subversion, acted out through my son. Yeah, yeah, I’m using my kid to further my own agenda. Know what? I’m ok with it.

The second piece is significantly more important to me. This toy is pretty popular in our house these days:

Kidlet calls this toy his FIREFIGHTER. YES!!! A thousand yesses! Instead of calling it a fireman, my kid has picked up on the efforts of his dad and I to speak in gender neutral terms whenever we are given the opportunity and now speaks in them too! I love this. This is so important to me because so many professions represented to children are represented as male, which winds up creating a subliminal understanding that boys have certain opportunities that girls don’t. I think the language we choose to speak in, with it’s ageist, sexist, ableist, homophobic, and violent  roots teaches our children VOLUMES more than we think it does. So, to hear his little 2year old mouth speaking to me in gender neutral terms…well, it just makes my day.

How do you support your children in their gender exploration?

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Filed under culture, feminism, O, parenting

More thoughts on harassment and silencing

As soon as I published last week’s post on my experience with harassment, I was flooded with doubt. I worried I was telling a story that didn’t have enough “oomph.” Here we are, in the middle of a convergence of stories about big cases of assault, and rape, and harassment, and I chime in with my story. My experience was so very minor compared to some of the truly horrifying experiences other people have faced in their lives, that I wondered if sharing my story would look like I was hoping for a seat on the bandwagon of victimization.

The doubt quickly passed. My experience was minor when compared with the experiences of other people, but I think it’s the perfect story to use when illustrating how systemic, and ingrained this expectation of silence is. I was intimidated, and told to deal with it. The bully/intimidator/asshole who was perpetrating the behavior was given a pass. Par for the course.

I know I’m not alone in these experiences. From the comments on the post:

Rachel said, “I was just starting 8th grade and there was this guy in my grade who would regularly try to hold my hand, wink at me in the halls, and other types of unwelcome behavior. I was really uncomfortable but I really didn’t know what to do…”

Ashleyvanessa added, “I was sexually harassed in high school…I told my friends. I was too embarrassed to tell my parents or any authority figure. It led to months of self harming…”

It’s been my experience that if you talk to 10 women, you will hear 10 slightly different, but essentially the same stories (my experience with this conversation, as is related to sexual harassment, is limited to women, but I suspect men and trans people will share some variation of the same story). As mistressofboogie (side note – if you all aren’t reading her blog Adventures in Boogieville you should be. Her cultural commentaries make me jump up in agreement) points out,

“It’s just awful, isn’t it? This thing we all go through?…that we all go through it only makes each individual experience more important, more worthy of note. I don’t know about you, but this was sold to me – and every other girl I grew up with – as just what boys do! You know, and it means they like you and that’s good because whatever they do to you it is not as bad as what they’ll do if they don’t ‘like’ you.”

And she’s so.fucking.right. We are sold this bullshit. As girls, we are told that this attention: the comments, the gestures, the touching, these things are how boys behave. (Actually, we start getting sold on the “boys will be boys” trope when they come out of the womb. I’ve been hearing it applied to my son for a hundred different things since he was a 2 day old infant.) Which, of course, serves to normalize the bullshit. So when we are uncomfortable with the bullshit, and we ask for the bullshit to stop, either directly to the perpetrator, or to an ostensibly protective authority figure we slam straight into this cultural conditioning. If we dislike being touched in the hallway, we are reminded that our bodies are not ours to define, “He’s just trying to be friendly!” or “You know you like it when I do that.” If we dislike a sexual gesture made across a room we’re told that our discomfort is OUR problem, “He’s just being stupid, ignore him.” If we ask for someone to help us feel safe, we’re admonished to protect ourselves because, “You could have walked a different route.” All of these responses, all of these excuses, serve one purpose. To teach and remind women that we are NOT ENTITLED TO FEEL SAFE. Fuck that noise.

I don’t think of this experience I wrote about as being particularly large in my life. It’s stuck with me for 20 years because it’s such a clear case of silencing. But Jay commented, “You referred to this incident in a comment at my blog over a year ago,” which gave me pause. (I’m about to start digging through her archives to see what I said.) For a week I’ve been wondering why it’s the story I bring up whenever I talk about bullying, or silencing, or harassment. And I think it’s what I use to remind me, and anyone who is listening, that the stories we read about in the paper, or hear about on the news, are the big stories. But the big stories don’t do justice to the whole picture. Harassment can, and does, happen to nearly everyone. It’s not isolated to certain areas of the country, or specific socio-economic classes, or some schools but not others. It is EVERYWHERE.

And I hope to Maude that I can create an environment of safety and respect for my son so that he never has a story to tell, and so that if he witnesses his friends engaging in bullying behavior he will have the confidence to stand up and ask for it to stop.

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Filed under culture, feminism, I get pissed, parenting, politics