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Posts Tagged ‘gender roles’

I’ve been away from this space for too long and very much am looking forward to a return. Things have “heated up” in the domain of identity, at least in my mind, and so I’m definitely looking “out there” for support.

More on that in my next post.

I came here right now to reflect on the dynamics of summer. This is the second, if not third, year in a row when Q, in the summer, moves much further towards the feminine. Last summer was the beginning of the pony tail. This summer has been all about barrettes, nail polish, other hair accessories, tight shirts, etc. I definitely think that he feels a freedom during the summer without the subtle gaze of peers that occurs each day in school. He did some camp, and a swim team, but the day in day out experience of school was just not there.

And I think this has him let down his guard a bit. I find it intriguing to see what emerges during these times. And, looking ahead to the start of school in 10 days or so, I do think about the effect of being back in that peer group, now with even older kiddos……

For now, though, a snapshot from tonight. My hair was unruly due to pre-hurricane humidity, so I requested a barrette loan. Q donned one too and requested a photo.

Hence, barrette twins:

barrette twins

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nail polish is on. Ponytail is in.

Intriguing, eh? Thoughts, anyone?

he's so proud to have reached pony tail length!

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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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With a bit of publicity of late, this blog has had a sharp rise in visitors. I like that! It’s also brought with it some folks who rightfully question why I write this blog. In particular, there are questions about whether I’m somehow pigeon-holing Q and/or whether my appreciating things like his love for purple and pink are somehow pushing him further in that direction.

So, why do I write this blog? Yes, there’s a little tab at the top of that page that you can peruse, but here are some further thoughts. I am not happy with society. There are many reasons why. I don’t like that today is Sunday and, across the country, in millions of households, men will sit down to watch football and women will serve them food. Without thanks. Often without thought that this is a warped expectation and what these entrenched gender roles mean. Please, please, please, know, though, that I don’t by any means think that any and every time this happens it’s a negative. I just used that as a generalization to draw light to my point.

On a more personal note, I don’t like that my marriage to my wife is not recognized in the majority of states in this country. Again, I think that too many people don’t truly think about the ramifications of their actions when they vote against me, never once considering that no one ever had to actually vote FOR their marriages.

And I don’t like it that my son gets teased for wearing pink. Or purple. Or bandanas. Yes, I know that there are plenty of other boys who like those colors. Or sport long hair. Or wear bandanas. Or like glitter. And probably some of them get teased too. If you’re a parent, I’m sure you know the feel of the sword to your heart when something hurts your child — be it physically or emotionally. So that’s the simplest reason why I write this blog. There are things that happen to my kiddo because of his choices, and things that COULD happen because of his choices, that I think no child should have to endure. Yes, I know all kids get teased, but that doesn’t mean it’s right. And getting teased merely for what you like — for liking a color or a particular shirt — it’s outrageous. So I write this blog with the intent of opening minds. Just a bit. So that instead of commenting on the pink shirt, people perhaps think twice. Or think twice when they tell their son that a particular shirt is “just for girls.” It’s really not just about my son, but about many boys, girls, men, and women out there.

I write this blog to open minds a bit, to change minds a bit, to “trouble” the norms that we have ALL become so comfortable with. And having my particular son has opened my eyes in a particular way to this particular area of norms and social expectations. So I use him as a bit of an example, I use his experiences as a jumping off point. Does it mean that I know what the future holds for him? Absolutely not! But do I want that future to be wide open? For him to be able to choose what it’ll be like? Absolutely! Really, this blog doesn’t exist just to report on him. It exists to make us all fidget a bit in our seats, to reconsider our expectations around gender….to make a bit of change.

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This morning, Q was looking through a catalog, pointing out things to me that he was interested in. The list included a take-apart model of the human body, a model of a solar house, a robotic arm, and many marble runs.

He’s really interested in how things work — looking carefully, taking things apart, etc. Out there in the wider world, one might say these are typical “boy” things that he’s interested in. Having only one kiddo, I don’t have a good point of comparison. I know, clearly, that there are both boys and girls interested in these things. For those who have boys similar to Q/who have pink boys, what are your boys interested in? There are plenty of fairies, etc in our house (of course!), but I always am intrigued when Q gravitates towards something more “traditionally boyish,” to follow stereotypes. I think my intrigue comes from seeing what natural likes and dislikes kids have when they are hemmed in less by gendered constraints.

I’d love to hear how this plays out for others.

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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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So, to follow up on my post about gender segregation among kiddos in play, as well as the amazing responses that folks offered on the various things we think are at the root of this, I ask for your thoughts again.

How do we start to disrupt these patterns? One “I only ‘comment’ in person” commenter suggested that we’re drawn to folks who share a similar energy to our own. So, following that line, what can we do during the early days of a young person’s life to feed that energy such that it is open and flexible, such that most boys don’t veer in one direction while most girls veer in the other?

Sure, there are the obvious things, like modeling, in our actions and our speaking ways that we can break out of the box of societal gender norms. But what else?

I’m looking forward, again, to hearing your wise voices…

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