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Posts Tagged ‘social boundaries’

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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Not sure how many of you have been following the saga of the South African runner who has been subjected to “gender testing.” She is a breakout star, without the typical “feminine” look that often accompanies successful female athletes.You can have a look here.

While I can’t imagine that pain that she must be going through, having her identity questioned (no matter her biology, mind you), now her testing has brought with it an image makeover. Yes, this runner has been glammed up for the media. Have a look at her new look.

Shame on the folks who thought that a new look would quell “worries” about her identity or worries over the test. Of course a more femmy look will make everyone forget about the testing to which she’s been subjected.

For me, this issue highlights many things. First off, it really points to the boundaries put around women who excel in athletics. Beauty and glamour are a must in order to make it big as a female athlete. Somehow, it’s important to always emphasize one’s femininity — the more of a super star you are, the more important it is to make that emphasis. I don’t for a second think that the athletes are the ones pushing this, but rather it’s the agents, publicists, the sports media, etc.

Most profoundly, though, this athlete makeover is yet another blatant example of how society expects women to look and how terribly unacceptable it is to look any way that jogs outside of those boundaries. To me, that is utterly shameful.

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Of the car variety, that is. Have you ever noticed that phenomenon? Someone mentions they love VW beetles, and suddenly you see them all over? Or you see a witty bumper sticker for the first time, and the next thing you know, it seems that everyone at Whole Foods is sporting the same sticker? Well, it’s been like that for me since starting this blog. Sometimes in very small ways, and sometimes in profound ways.

On the subject of bumper stickers, yesterday I encountered one that said simply “Support tenderness in men,” or something perhaps a bit more elegant than my own butchered rephrasing. I thought to myself, “tenderness:” we’ve always known that our boy was tender in many ways. And I think that we’ve tried to nurture that tenderness, knowing that the world can use more gentle and tender men. More men who are in touch with their emotions and able to show them. And even though this sometimes means big crying fits for Q, it also means that he loves the simple beauty of a tender rose or the wonder of a butterfly’s precious wings. So it’s nice to know that there’s at least a few others out there vocalizing their support for tenderness in men (and boys).

And then there’s our dear friend X, who loves Q like no other can. And who, as you may have read in his comment, also struggles with the idea of Q wearing dresses on occasion, although he knows that deep down this is a learning opportunity for all of us (boy is it!). I know he’s been thinking hard about this whole concept of Q in dresses, Q and his identity, and how Q’s identity pushes at social boundaries at times. He related to us that he recently visited friends who have a boy near to Q’s age. Who also likes to wear dresses. So it’s not an isolated phenomenon, realized X. And he felt less alone, I think. And a bit more at peace, I think. And I think that’s why I write this too, to reach out to find out that I’m not alone, to open my eyes to other boundary-pushing instances, which are popping up all around me, and to let others out there who have kiddos like Q or hope to raise kiddos like Q know that they are not alone.

So lately, in seeing things like other boys at Q’s school outwardly embracing the fact that they love pink, visiting a classroom there and learning that it’s the boys who most love to play with the dolls and that the teacher embraces this, and seeing another boy or two pushing the gender envelope with his clothing, I don’t feel so much alone. I think it’s that beetle phenomenon. I’ve been thinking so much about Q and his unique identity. And then made the leap to share that journey publicly. And now, that journey begins to cross paths with others who may be along similar pathways. I like the eye-opening that is happening here.

painted nails climbing trees

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