Tag Archives: gender

These are for boys and those are for girls

A few months ago I was standing in line at the craft store,  there was a short wait and the woman behind me was with her son, who was, predictably, grabbing all the stuff at toddler level and asking for it. “How old is your child?” I asked. “He’s almost 4,” the woman replied. Me, with a chuckle, “I have an almost 3 year old.” How nice, two women sharing the bond of parenthood.

Until the boy picked up a bright pink foam tiara and asked his mom to buy it for him while putting it on his head. “PUT THAT DOWN,” she hissed at him, reaching to take it out of his hand, “that’s for girls and you’re a boy.” He whined that he wanted it and she repeated, “PUT IT DOWN, you’re NOT a girl and that’s for girls.”

And my heart broke a little.

Kidlet’s favorite shoes are his “sparkly sneakers.” They have pink and blue glitter on them, and light up when he walks. He picked them out a few months ago and wears them all the time. Yesterday, outfitted in a t-shirt, shorts, a pair of baby legs with helicopters on them, purple socks, and his sparkly sneakers, we headed out to the park after I picked him up from school.

And it happened. One of the moments I’ve been dreading. Another child, a little boy, ran up to us and asked, “How old is she?” I said, “He just turned 3, how old are you?” And the boy said, “He? But he has girl shoes on!” And I died a little. Here it was – kidlet’s first direct challenge to his choice of footwear. I tried to find a smile and gentle tone as I replied, “They’re pink and blue sparkly shoes, they’re for anyone,” but my mind raced. Had kidlet heard this? Would he remember it some morning while getting dressed for school? Would I hear him refuse to put them on while explaining that they were “for girls”?

Shoes

We live in a binary world. I understand that. I understand that when I go shopping for my own clothes I shop in the “women’s” department. And I understand that 9 out of 10 times I buy kidlet’s clothes in the “boy’s” department. I participate in gendering him. But, as I said to Alison Piepmeier here, “If my penis-having child wants to wear a tiara WHY IN THE EVER LOVING HELL WOULD I STOP HIM?” If he presents me with something that HE WANTS, that doesn’t fit our culture’s gender binary, why would I refuse him?

I guess that’s a terrifically complicated answer. I mean, I wouldn’t refuse him. But I know parents that would, and I don’t fault them for it. We are taught to conform. And we’re punished, literally maybe, and socially often, when we don’t. We tease, or are teased, we laugh, or are laughed at, we use words and body language to directly or indirectly remind people that non-conformity is suspect and will not be tolerated, outside the safest of spaces.

So I want my kid to have a safe space. And I will do everything I can to provide him with a safe space, both in our home, and in the communities I choose to introduce him to. It’s a terrifically privileged position to have – that I have the ability to choose his communities – I recognize that. Not everyone has that option. Maybe the mom standing behind me at the craft store doesn’t have that privilege. Maybe she has a family or a community that would punish her for allowing her child to express himself how he wanted to. I don’t know.

I was blessed with 2 parents whose bedrock principle of life was non-conformity. They encouraged me, from birth basically, to question everything, to challenge the status quo, to demand an explanation when I was told that something was supposed to be a certain way. I was expected to form my own positions and opinions based on the answers to questions I asked. And I was supported. Which was the most important gift of all.

Yesterday the little boy who challenged kidlet’s shoes turned out to be a pretty nice kid. He and kidlet spent the next 20 minutes or so playing football, which mostly amounted to the older child letting kidlet chase him around and tackle him. It was really cute to see them playing. And while they were playing, another mom said to me, “It’s really great to see his creative expression” as she gestured to his clothes, “you don’t see a lot of parents who will let their kids do that.”

All the patterns

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I Get Around

Alison Piepmeier has a piece in the Charleston, SC City Paper today, and she was kind enough to include some of my thoughts. Go check out Spider Man isn’t just for little boys and let me know what you think!

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Women, Sports, Playing, Watching, and What We’re Exposed To

A month ago Fit and Feminist posted a blog about women watching sports. I word vomited in her comments and pledged to her on Twitter that I was going to write my own post about my feelings about it because, clearly, I haz some.

I have a hugely complicated relationship with watching sports. I grew up spending weekends and holidays at my Italian Catholic grandmother’s house – men in front of the tv, women cooking, or sitting at the table yelling at the men to turn it down, and pay attention to the kids. I hated it. HATED IT. I remember those dinners being dominated not by being with my family, but by yelling at my uncle (the stereotypical Italian son – late 20’s, early 30’s still living at home and having his dinner cooked by my entirely too indulgent, and wonderful grandmother) to turn the goddamn game off, and my uncle’s response that we were all making too much noise.

The game would end, or halftime would start, and my uncles, and 2 male cousins would head out to the front yard to throw a football around. And my dad would grab my sister and I and take us outside and insert us into the game. We weren’t met with hostility, but we weren’t included. I learned to play almost every sport I ever played from those dinners (I’m ridiculously proud that I can throw a pretty damn good spiral), but my dislike for televised athletics was cemented.  I swore I would *never* get involved with someone for whom rabid (yes, I call it rabid) sports watching was the norm.

Annnnnnd then I married my husband. Who is a HUGE fan of sports. And it was a big bone of contention early on in our relationship. I don’t have any desire to dedicate several hours of my day to watching football, or a Nascar race, or a baseball game, or a golf tournament. (Please note, there is approximately no time of the year when one of these events isn’t on over the weekend.) And his desire to do so meant that if we were going to spend time together over the weekend, we would need to consult some various sports schedule and plan accordingly.

We’ve talked about this a million times, and he watches less now than he did 4 years ago. Partly because we got rid of cable (Hallelujah!) and partly because we have a child. A boy child who I don’t want growing up with the sexist influence of the culture of male dominated sports.

I really enjoy playing sports, and watching sports, when I’m at a game. Not on TV. And the vast majority, I’d say close to 90% of all sports events that I have ever attended in my life, have been to watch women’s sporting events. Women’s college volleyball, women’s collage soccer, women’s professional soccer, women’s college basketball (it’s handy living near a college!). Men’s games? I don’t have a whole lot of interest in it (I make an exception for NCAA men’s basketball). And I will make every effort to take my son, and my husband with me to the women’s games that I go to. It’s really important to me that I expose him to women sweating, and running, and scoring. Everyone should see that. Because we’ve created this culture of “sports” in the US, that really means “men’s sports” and it gets on my last nerve.

The Olympics are happening right now, and I’ve seen a bunch of people commenting that they have no interest in them, “Yawn…sports,” but I love them. I LOVE THE OLYMPICS. I love them because it’s the only time of the year when turning on the TV yields an equal chance of seeing women competing as it does men. Women’s sports are valued in the Olympics. Last night a capacity filled stadium, along with millions of people at home (at least in the US), watched the US vs. US women’s beach volleyball gold medal match. Four women, two of whom I can’t ever get enough of and am so sad to see one retiring, jumping, swinging, digging, and killing it. Before that game there were women’s track and field events on. I mean, women’s track and field, how often is that on TV? (Yes, I know men’s track and field isn’t on TV a whole lot either, so underrepresented sports for the win!) For the past two weeks Twitter has been blowing up with Tweets about women’s gymnastics, track and field, soccer, even fencing. It’s inescapable during the Olympics, and I love it.

Women are, for the most part, erased from athleticism as it is popularly presented. But we are athletes. We run, we play in recreational leagues, we play in competitive leagues, we play in college, we have professional teams, we lift weights – we use our bodies in athletic endeavors all the time. Yet we don’t see it. (I have to interject and say we DO see representations of women’s athleticism in commercials selling us products to make us better athletes. So, as long as there’s a product to push, we exist.) We NEED to see it. Culturally, we NEED to see women performing athletically, and winning titles, and gold medals, and not winning, and falling, and healing, and hurting, and anguishing over a loss, and succeeding. Our children need to see that athletics and success can be achieved, by everyone.

Do you attend women’s sporting events? Do you watch men’s sports? Do you claim ‘athlete’ as a label for yourself?

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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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My son is a sponge

I have a vehement distaste (it might blend into disgust territory) for Princess Culture. And I am routinely surprised (really? I don’t know why anything surprises me any more…) at the conversations I have with my friends about Princess Culture being harmless. They were raised with tiaras and poufy dresses, and believe they have suffered no ill effects as adults. WHY AM I TRYING TO RUIN CHILDHOOD?!?!?

What does this have to do with my son? I think Princess Culture is damaging to both girls and boys. I think it creates and strictly enforces gender roles, and it does so in a very playful manner. It’s DISNEY! How bad can it be? Lighten up! But the more images children are presented with of things occurring a certain way, the more likely they are to subconsciously internalize those images as “right.” The more cultural reinforcement that pink is for girls, the worse off we all are.

It’s not just Princess Culture. It’s bromance, and chick flicks. It’s all -things-boy must by blue, and all-things-girl must be pink. (Right down to toothpaste and car seats.) It’s professional football players, and cheerleaders. It’s the intense pressure that exists in the United States to conform, and to perform gender appropriately.

I thought long and hard about this a few weeks ago, as I spent several hours on Amazon looking for books for my toddler son (he’s 21 months) that would offer him non-gendered, cultural, and racially diverse images. (I know this will come as a shock, but those books are surprisingly hard to find.)

My son is a sponge. He mimics what he sees his father and I do, and every day I watch him mimic other people’s behaviors EXACTLY. He is learning to compartmentalize his world, before he even knows that compartments exist. Because he’s seeing what happens around him and filing it away for that moment where he will synthesize all this knowledge he didn’t even know he had. And so I need to give him knowledge to store away. I need to show him boys in dresses, and girls on tractors. So that when he hears, “That’s not for …” he can have that nagging feeling that this isn’t exactly true, because he’s been exposed to “…” doing exactly what he was just told isn’t right.

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