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Posts Tagged ‘gender funnelling’

I was lucky enough to see this amazing film last week and to hear from the filmmaker, Debra Chasnoff. The subtitle for the film, “How gender’s got us all tied up,” speaks volumes. As do the voices of the youth in the film.

It’s heartbreaking to hear from boys who acknowledge that how they often act is sexist, chauvenist, and disrespectful of girls/women. And then acknowledge that they will probably return to school and continue to act that way. Because it is so engrained in who they are and how they move through the world. Literally, gender norms have bound them and are a stronger force in determining their behavior than any of their thoughtful self-reflections.

Chasnoff explained that she made the film out of a desire to shed light on the homophobia that is latent throughout society and that so powerfully shapes many of the gendered norms that many of us take for granted. I appreciated her pointing the finger at homophobia as a root source here. The connection is so clear, yet I think it often goes unspoken.

This film is winging its way around the country. See it. Bring friends. I think that it can play a huge role in loosening the grip that gendered norms have on all of us.

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It’s so easy to get away with making closed-minded statements about folks who don’t conform to gender norms. Or to sexuality norms. It remains so very easy. I don’t think that it’s the LAST acceptable stereotype or prejudice, but it remains an acceptable one.

This weekend I was part of a discussion on a different blog involving stereotypes of Native Americans. It’s amazing how many people failed to see the way that power and privilege play into how we think about, talk about, and portray Native People. Coming from the perspective of a white person, “playing Indian” propogates stereotypes, is probably based on stereotypes, and only belittles and demeans the multi-layered community of Native People. Yet it remains fine to have football teams named things like the Redskins. Or, still, for kids to play “cowboys and Indians.” Certainly, there are some who are uncomfortable with these things but don’t quite know how to voice that discomfort. I definitely understand that stance.

I think the same is true with gendered norms. There are plenty of folks who are uncomfortable with the blatantly pink and blue aisles at Toys ‘R Us. But they don’t know how to address that discomfort. Or they don’t know what to say when a relative describes a nephew as “all boy.” Or how to react when a friend titters at a transgender individual who might struggle to “pass” more than others.

But just because we’re uncomfortable doesn’t mean we need to suppress ourselves. Sure, we might stumble over our words. Or feel embarrassed. Or have to laugh at our own spoken missteps. But speaking out, even simply in the form of a question, calls into question the assumptions and stereotypes that we all walk around with. “What do you mean by that?” It’s a simple question. But one that can so easily begin to break down the strong walls that have been silently built up around us — walls that constrain how we express who we are, as men and women, boys and girls.

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There's still a long road ahead...

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Today Obama signed into law the Hate Crimes Bill. Inclusive of gender identity. Groundbreaking stuff, I tell you. And not an easy path. I have yet to hit the airwaves, so to speak, to here from those who decry this action. And yet I can’t help but honor those who have given their blood (literally), sweat, and tears in the fight to bring this bill to fruition. For that deep courage, thank you.

 

My own little guy’s fight against stereotypes, while certainly not as monumental, has definitely hit some bumps of late. Hence the many questions I’ve posed here. It’s been wonderful hearing from you. Those of you just stopping by for the first time (thanks NY Times parenting blog commenter for the mention!), welcome, and please do join in the conversation!

Q is in first grade, and the gendered pressures are definitely hitting him in a new way. While in kindergarten he wrote for his first writing assignment that something he likes about himself is that he breaks stereotypes, he’s now hitting some bumps in that road. Recently, his pink and purple bandanas have garnered him some teasing. And as he grows his hair out, he’s VERY choosy about what he’ll use to hold it back out of his eyes. Whereas headbands used to be de rigour last year, they are off the table as an option for school. He’s also making certain choices, explaining that they work “only on the weekends.” Partly, this breaks my heart, as he encounters the reality of society (albeit in his generally lovely and accepting, sheltered school environment). Yet he’s also been able to take this opportunity to grow his strength. To tell other kids that he can wear pink “because I like it!”

He has a new conviction behind his choices, and I so love that about this boy. He’s learning a bit more about what it means to stay true to his own likes and beliefs, and that will surely serve him well in life, whether it’s about what he wears, who he hangs out with, what he does for fun, or what he does for work.

And, this journey does take courage on his part. And brings some sadness and frustration on his part (and mine/ours). But I’m thinking that today’s signing of the Hate Crime Bill is a fine example of where these little acts of courage can get us. And I know that my boy’s courage will get us far, too.

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All it takes is love as the lens!

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"girly" pink legos

Phew! Now that legos come in pink, Q will play with them. Just what I’ve been waiting for. Because you know, since he loves pink so much, he hasn’t been willing to play with them before, given the color choices.

Kidding. Totally kidding.

Frankly, I’m disgusted. Pink legos. And the pink legos are to make a house/dollhouse, replete with flowers. That definitely has to be pink. To attract the girls. All the warships/spaceships/star wars stuff — that’s fine in black and grey because it’s for boys. Just another insipient message to our kids about what they should like or what they should play with depending on their color preferences. Or, vice versa, what kinds of colors they should like, depending on their play preferences. Can’t we just let these poor small beings be? Choose what they want? Like what they like? Jeez.

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