Tag Archives: gender issues

Clothes Don't Make the Man, er, Boy

Can you guess which of my children this is?  Can you?

If you guessed Emily, you would be wrong.  It’s my little Andrew.  Wearing one of his sister’s outgrown pajamas.  One of her pink outgrown pajamas.

This type of dress isn’t unusual in our house, the most probable culprit being laundry holdups.  (I know, if Ben did the laundry a little bit more in between his two jobs we totally wouldn’t have this problem.  Sheesh.)

Anyway, the reason I showed you this picture is that I don’t care if my little boy wears pink.  Nor do I care if he wears frilly pants.  This might sound strange, but I highly doubt he is born favoring the colors blue and yellow.  I know what you are thinking, “This is crazy talk” but hold on to your gender stereotypes a little longer and let me explain.

A peculiar parenting idea Ben and I have embraced is to recognize just how much we socialize our kids to prefer certain things, like colors, over other things.  For example, Emily loves to wear dresses.  Often, I have to put her in some type of dress at night to avoid unsavory tantrums.  I made her this way.  Almost from birth did I place her in pretty, pink dresses.  I wanted people to know she was a girl so I dressed her accordingly.  I made this conscious choice while simultaneously understanding that one day she might only prefer dresses.  And I was okay with that.

With Andrew, I’ve always dressed him in blue and yellow.  Again, I wanted people to know he was my adorable little boy and felt very comfortable using typical boy colors.  Yet, when he started closing in on a year and was rapidly outgrowing his pants (you know, his 3-6 month pants) I decided to pull girl pants from my store of baby clothes.  I chose pants that were neutral enough, only a little frills, so nobody would know he was wearing girl pants.   After doing this a few times, I stopped masking even that and started including Emily’s old pajamas in his attire.   Hey, when you run out of clothes you use what you have, y’know?

Andrew now has plenty of boy pajamas so we don’t have to use his sister’s anymore.   But, when he’s older, I’ll make sure to show him this picture so he knows that it’s okay to like, and even wear, pink.  Because, frankly, color preference doesn’t make the man–it’s treating others with respect and compassion that make a man (or woman).

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I Blame My Dad

It started with Jurassic Park.  I watched, heart pounding, as the Velociraptors chased the characters from scene to scene, mouths turned into ugly, hungry grimaces.

A few years later, we were back.  This time to watch Practical Magic.  The scenes flitted from curses of magic, to death and grief,  on to abuse, and murder, and back to magic again. Though romance weaved in and out of the story, the fantasy element twisted it into an atypical romance and brought the true theme back to the forefront: Sisters.  I watched, spellbound, as Sandra Bullock’s character tried to save her sister.  After that, my interests changed dramatically.

I was addicted.  GodzillaThe MummyThe Lord of the Rings trilogy.  (After I read the books numerous times, of course.) I wouldn’t, no couldn’t, watch my mother’s boring love stories anymore.  I preferred accompanying my dad to his action movies.

His influence also extended to books–he introduced me to John Grisham, Mary Higgins Clark, Michael Crichton, Terry Brooks, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Louis L’Amour.  My world was turned upside down.  Rather than play out my own boring life, I preferred to live vicariously through the characters in these books.  We were partners in crime–or at least in reading criminal novels.   He suggested all sorts of books, never shying away from those which had controversial themes (To Kill a Mockingbird, for instance) because he wanted me to think for myself.

A dangerous thing for a girl like me whose thoughts never seem to stop.

So, is it any wonder that I can’t read/watch romantic themed movies and books?  With a mind as imaginative as mine, those are too slow and cumbersome for my tastes.  I crave the suspense of Let Me Call You Sweetheart, the injustices of A Time to Kill, and the post-apocalyptic themes of The Wishsong of Shannara.  These are fast-paced books that make me think–long after I finished reading.

Thus, under my father’s tutelage, I developed an aversion to all things categorized under romantic.

Thanks, Dad.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Practically Speaking

Writing is a good way for me to search deep inside and figure out exactly who I am.

I thought that in writing about my non-womanly likes (and dislikes) would help me to stop comparing myself to other women who do enjoy crafts, baking, and romantic stuff.  Honestly, I compare myself to these highly talented women quite frequently.  It’s time that I recognize that though I have different interests, I am not less girly.

It worked.

In connection with this, writing out my thoughts also forced me to look at the logical side behind my words.   Since I am a very practical person, there usually is one.

For instance, my aversion to baking isn’t necessarily that baking isn’t fun, it’s that baking requires too many dishes and too much of my attention.  With little ones running around my feet (or hanging on my pants screaming), I can’t devote that much time to one item.  Also, as the resident dishwasher (literally we have no dishwasher), thinking about washing those dishes later in the evening is quite undesirable.  Especially if I want to make an edible dinner for my kids at some point before bedtime.

As for crafts?  They probably are fun, but my hands are so dry–no matter how much lotion I rub on them–that the very thought of touching paper screams paper cuts.  Cringe.  Even sewing and painting require me to be near textures that make my hands shrivel up in fear (and dryness).

(Romance is a topic of an entirely different post.  Though I will say this, it’s all my father’s fault.)

Just goes to show, you learn something new about yourself when you take the time to investigate.

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Man! I Don't Feel Like a Woman

Do you ever feel less than womanly?  I’m not talking about when you stay in your pajamas all day, I’m talking about your interests or non-interests.  I know I do.  Here are a few examples.

I do not like crafts. Let me rephrase that, I appreciate crafts, but I do not enjoy the art of crafting.  Sewing, making cards, scrapbooking– whatever requires creativity.  I have detested this since I was in grade school, when I’d have to make things like Valentine’s boxes, posters, and little things during art period and would inevitably feel sub par when I compared my stuff to my peer’s stuff.   Crafts do not interest me.  I hope my kids won’t pick up on this because we definitely do not have craft time around here.  They are lucky if I pull out a piece of paper and encourage them to color.

I can’t bake. This is kind of a lie.  I am sure I can bake, but I prefer not to bake.  Baked goods are rarely seen in our kitchen.  If you do find some, they were probably store bought.  Unless they look horribly mottled, then they might have been something I tried to make.   There is a good side to this: We don’t have a problem with junk food at our house.  Unless you include chocolate candy bars–which I don’t.  Survival, people, survival.

I prefer action over romance. I don’t mean romantic evenings with my husband, I am referring to romantic themes in movies, books, and TV shows.  When Ben and I married, I forbade him to ever bring chick flicks homes.  In my mind I think, how many different ways can a girl/guy get their love interest?  We are on a strict action/adventure, espionage, and crime show diet.  I believe we have been chick flick free for over 5 months now.  Thankfully, Ben is cool with this arrangement.  Though he doesn’t like that I boo/laugh at romantic scenes in the movies or television shows we watch.

While I don’t prefer chick lit, I will read it occasionally.  Especially if it is well written.  (I have some awesome blog friends (Melanie and Aidan) who write chick lit, and I’d read their stuff any day.  Well…at least those days that I’m not involved in my crime books. )

While my interests don’t always align with my girl friends’ interests, I don’t necessarily feel like an outsider.  Only sometimes do we clash–like when they want to have a craft, chick flick, or baking party.  Shudder.

Please tell me I’m not the only one.

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And Maybe The Issue Isn’t Strictly About Women

After our delicious Easter dinner, there was an inordinate amount of dishes.  I blame the sleepy side effect of the turkey’s tryptophan for inhibiting our usual sense of cleanliness and forcing us into bed.  Early.  Of course, Ben’s all-nighter due to homework and my all-nighter due to Andrew the previous night could have had some compelling force as well.  Descriptions aside, I have been fighting dishes and laundry since Sunday.

As of this early evening, I finally overcame the dish monster.  The laundry demon, though, is putting up quite a battle.  I can’t be too sad about this, it allows me watch hours of mindless television.  You know, on my computer.

Unfortunately, what I thought would be mindless has turned out to be a source of constant philosophizing about gender issues;  specifically,  negative gender stereotypes.  Mostly about men.

What surprises me the most about this show is how progressive it purports to be.  Underneath their neat script, they are perpetuating gender stereotypes that I was sure were on their way out.  I am sad to say I thought wrong.

This TV series has the typical cast of characters.  It has the brilliant, thin, and super attractive women, and the intelligent, athletic, and handsome men. This show, like most shows, does an excellent job of portraying the women as very successful.  Kudos to them.  But, also like most shows, they portray the men as horribly crude and sexually impetuous.

I find it disturbing that in one episode they proved that women are equally knowledgeable when it comes to traditional male interests, like motorcycle racing, yet managed to include the long standing stereotype of males being incapable of rational thought when they are sexually aroused.   My husband refers to this as the “dumb men controlled by their testicles” stereotype.

In light of how much the image of women has changed over the years, going from “being in the kitchen” to running for president, I am appalled that the image of men as purely sexual beings has remained almost unchanged.

I am wondering,  is this stereotype any different from the women of the fifties who were metaphorically tied to their kitchens because of society’s definition of a good woman?

Sure you might be able to name a few men who allow their sexuality to control much of their impulsive behavior, but you could also name off an equal number of  women.

I am most disheartened by the image this sends to the younger generation:  men allow their genitalia to overwhelm any sagacious thought.  Men are capable of being rational beings, beings that do not allow their appetites to control their minds.  It is a myth that is wrongly advanced by the media and carried around in our minds–one that I find awfully degrading to men.

In my own home, I am trying to combat these myths.  I hope to raise my boys to respect all people.  I hope to raise them to be just like their father.

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