Monthly Archives: June 2012

Apparently Pinterest had too many women on it.

Came across this lovely article on CNN Tech today entitled Pinterest not manly enough for you?  Try these sites, bro!

Manliness, metaphorically embodied these days by facial hair, grilling meat and building domestic “man caves,” is now carving its own space online.

In other words, men want to make sure that women know that when they fuss over their appearance, cook, and decorate their little rooms, they’re totally not doing exactly the same things women are doing.  You can tell because the words are different.  Also the colors.

See? It’s gray, not red. Gray. That means different.

There’s nothing actually different about the websites, except that one accidentally attracted mostly women and the other specifically excludes them.  The men who feel threatened by sites like Pinterest because they’re full of women now have their own place to go where they can use different words to describe the same things.  Their masculinity, in this case, defined by the exclusion of anything deemed feminine, can now remain fully asserted.  But they’re not, like, insecure or anything.

What I found most amusing was how the men claimed to be eschewing the more feminine pinterest because it’s all about decorating and cooking and stuff, but then…

The founders of Manteresting, Dartitup and Gentlemint were all quick to say that they don’t emphasize photos of women in bikinis or tolerate offensive content. Their most popular image subjects range from food to technology to sports to memes to bachelor pads, they said.

Emphasis mine.  Interesting how the use of the term “bachelor pad” seems to convince the men of Manteresting, Dartitup, and Gentlemint that they’re not in fact discussing decorating.  Same with substituting “cooking” for “food.”

Brandon Harris, co-founder of Dartitup, said that when he first played around with his fiancee’s Pinterest account, he appreciated the concept.

“I loved what it did and I loved the features, but I didn’t like the content,” he said. “The content is not geared towards a guy. I am not interested in cupcakes or puppies”

Oh dear.  Nobody tell Brandon that if you switch out “puppies” with “dogs” or “cupcakes” with “junk food” he’s suddenly doing the exact same thing his wife is.

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The confusing advertising of Science! It’s a Girl Thing!

Drawing out the feminist problems of this commercial has been done.  I personally prefer Sociological Images.  They’ve got some very interesting links where they point out that this sort of advertising is demonstrably counterproductive.

I read about it a lot before I saw it, and I only just saw it today.  Honestly, my first impression wasn’t just that this ad was harmful to girls or counterproductive, though it is, but that obviously the marketers here seem to be confused as to what they’re advertising.  I’ve taken more than one sales job in the past to get my family through some tough times, and I do know that gendered expectations can be powerful motivators when it comes to purchases, but you can’t just throw things together willy nilly.  When you want moms to buy things for their babies, you appeal shamelessly to their protective instincts, not their desire to look sexy.  Parties, sex appeal, pop music, and exploding makeup are things that make feminine people want to buy makeup and feminine clothes.  These images really only work to that specific purpose.  That’s why, when you see women-targeted ads for the military or schools, you don’t see a lot of exploding makeup and sultry looks from men.  Women don’t choose majors based on which ones will contain the most makeup just like men don’t choose majors based on which ones contain the most football and beer.

Like NACHOS? Consider DANCE!

The website just gets even funnier.  Cell phones!  Friends!  Pink Hearts!  Oh the feminist in me is outraged all right, but the former salesperson in me is laughing her god damn ass off.

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Teen Pregnancy, Installment 1: A personal story

For a long time, I’ve wanted to do a series on teen pregnancy, as in what works and what doesn’t, along with the various unintended implications of the lessons from a feminist perspective.  I have long believed that a great deal of the damage society does to women’s self-image, mothers, and parenting in general begins here.  I’ve decided to start this series by reading the book The Pregnancy Project: A Memoir by Gaby Rodriguez and Jenna Glatzer.  I’m about halfway through and I’m gathering my material to write about it.  This book, if you haven’t heard of it, follows a sixteen year old girl whose mother and sisters were teen mothers as she conducts a social experiment wherein she pretended to be pregnant to understand why pregnant teenagers so often drop out of school, as well as what sort of factors influence whether they choose abortion, adoption, or parenting the children themselves.  So far, she’s said some very interesting things about slut-shaming and stereotype threat and I think it’s an excellent read.  I’ll probably begin my analysis of it soon.  In the meantime, I’ll entertain you with a personal story from my own high school years.

As I was reading about Gaby’s encounters with some of her teachers, I was reminded of my own senior year in high school. I had a lot of extra credits from taking summer school voluntarily and being in band, but I was also a bus rider, so I didn’t have any reason to get out of school early as I’d be stuck hanging around and doing nothing until the last bell rang. I was in a unique position to take any classes I wanted after English and History, so I enrolled in Introduction to Psychology, Human Behavior, an extra French class, and Computer Science. I loved my Psychology, French, and Computer Science classes, but Human Behavior was a disaster. At the time, I was very interested in studying psychology and Human Behavior’s course description led me to believe the classes would be along those lines. Instead, all we learned about human behavior was how not to fuck up our lives. This class consisted primarily of remedial lectures on how not to get pregnant (don’t have sex!) or addicted to drugs (don’t do them). We had one project due at the end of the semester, which I turned in early for a grade of 110%.  The extra 10% was because I wrote two paragraphs on my presentation instead of one. I’m such an overachiever. It was a guaranteed and extremely easy A if I could manage to attend at least most of the classes. I slept through lecture after lecture on sexually transmitted diseases, alcoholism, teen parenting, and so on, but there were two that pissed me off enough to keep me awake through the whole hour.

The first lecturer was a family counselor. She spoke at length about how many kids she knew that spent too much time on relationships and so forth while they were in high school and how terrible this would be for their future. She then had one boy and one girl from the class come to the front and gave them each a construction paper heart. She told a story about how they just met and fell in love in high school and then had sex. She had them each tear a piece of their construction paper hearts off and give it to the other. Then, they “broke up.”  The boy went back to his seat while the girl remained at the front of the room.  She brought another boy from the class to the front of the room and gave him a new construction paper heart. They, too, “had sex” and tore another piece of the hearts off for each other. Finally, a third boy came to the front of the room and received a new heart. This time, things worked out for the girl and the two got married. At the wedding, the lecturer explained, they should each give their whole hearts to each other. The boy handed his complete construction paper heart to the girl and she handed her mangled, third of a heart to him. “She should have her whole heart to give him, but look at the miserable piece that’s left,” the lecturer said. My eyes narrowed to slits, but I said nothing. The class nodded solemnly. Finally, the bell rang.

Some time went by before I was again mad enough to stay awake through a lecture. This time, the lecturer was a woman from a crisis pregnancy center. I don’t remember what her name was, but she had brown curly hair and periwinkle suit with a ladybug broche. She started off her lecture with the exact same construction paper heart exercise, but this time, when she made the grand finish “Look at the miserable piece that’s left!” I raised my hand.

I did not wait for her to call on me.  “Do you think it’s reasonable or responsible to tell every young woman in this class that has had sex or will have sex before she marries, that she will be less of a person for it and unworthy of a future husband?”

The lecturer, very confident in her superiority over this scruffy 17 year old girl in the front row, snarled at me and said “I think it would be irresponsible to let them think otherwise” and nodded to my teacher before continuing on with her lecture. Among other gems, she was sure to include a bunch of stories of young women who were caught having sex by their parents. One of these stories went way off the rails and she said the parents brought her and her older boyfriend to court for “taking her virginity.”

“Can you show me the law that says taking somebody’s virginity is a crime?” I interjected angrily before the teacher warned me not to speak again.

“Even though his penis never entered her vagina,” she continued, “the judge ruled that the moment any part of his body passed through her labia, her virginity was lost.” The class fell silent. “Are there any questions?” I raised my hand. “Does it pertain to the lecture?” I nodded.

I looked her dead in the eye. “I think I lost my virginity to my gynecologist” I announced at the top of my voice.

“That’s different.” She protested as the class erupted in laughter.

“I did too!” came calls from the girls in the back of the class. “I don’t think I can lose my virginity” called the groom from earlier.

“What kind of settlement do you think I can get in court?” I continued.

“This isn’t funny!” the lecturer shouted. “This morning, I had to tell a thirteen year old girl that she was pregnant and HIV positive. This isn’t funny!

When we settled down, my teacher went around the room and passed out review pages for us to fill out and show that we learned something from the lecture. I usually filled these out with “The props s/he brought were really interesting and I particularly liked the student participation portion of the demonstration” which earned me full credit each time. This time, I actually put some effort into it. I wrote that I agreed that young girls were getting pregnant and contracting serious STDs and that this was something that obviously needed to be addressed, but the message was watered down with fiction and fantasy. The lecturer lost all credibility with the class because she assumed we were incapable of knowing the difference.

I was the last to leave the class, and when I did, two of my classmates were there to tell me that I was extremely rude and they were embarrassed to be sitting near me. My face turned pink. The next day, my teacher pulled me aside and told me if I did that again she’d dock my grade. I slept through the rest of the lectures.

Thirteen years later, I can remember how awful I felt that there were thirteen year old girls learning these things about their futures.  Whether her story was true or not was irrelevant.  Surely it happened somewhere, to someone, and this was what she was legitimately trying to prevent.  But what did she teach all the young women in the class that day?  How much of it did they completely ignore because it was hyperbolic and unbelievable, and how much of it did they believe?  I know now that there were a lot more problems with that lecture than my seventeen year old self could see.  Since then, I’ve wondered a lot whether this was something a lot of young women were taught in school or if it was just something my especially terrible Human Behavior class allowed to happen.  The Pregnancy Project is shedding some light on that.  I can’t wait to get started on this series.

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The Centre For Inquiry and the question of straight, cis people at pride parades

Yesterday, the Centre For Inquiry Ontario made quite a faux pas.  They invited their members to attend the local pride parade in drag in acknowledgement of unequal treatment of transgender people.  If you’re LGBTQ you probably already know what happened.  If not, stay a while.  Trans activists, including notable freethought blogger Natalie Reed, assigned themselves to the case, patiently and persistently pleading with representatives of CFI not to engage in this ignorant, offensive exercise.  Predictably, the straight cis people in charge did not like this much.  For full documentation of the entire series of events up to about 2 a.m. June 22 EST, see Zinnia Jones’ article here.  A brief rundown is as follows:

CFI posts the invitation with original wording, emphasis theirs:

This year we’re going to have a bit of fun- and show our support for the trans community BY DRESSING IN DRAG. Transphobia is an insidious and often overlooked problem which effects thousands of Canadians. Step out of your comfort zone for a few hours and into a pair of pumps- or sport a handsome handlebar mustache!

CFI amends their invitation thusly:

This year we’re going to have a bit of fun BY DRESSING IN DRAG. Step out of your comfort zone for a few hours and into a pair of pumps- or sport a handsome handlebar mustache!

Note the removal of any discussion of transphobia.

Jaimy Warner, apparent spokesperson for CFI then issues this explanation, quite unabashedly appealing to her own authority.  Emphasis mine.

In another environment I can certainly see how ‘dressing in drag’ could quickly degrade into mockery- but this is not a frat house kegger nor are we a collection of close minded bigots. We’re a science educational charity marching in a Gay Pride Parade (with a professional drag queen helping us prepare, I should add) demonstrating we’re open minded and accepting.

Finally, Jaimy Warner issues an apology and says that CFI will not march in drag, adding that some LGBT people had signed off on it so it totally wasn’t their fault.

You’re right. My initial response was not an apology but a selfish attempt to explain the stance of my organization and our perspective. At the start of the planning phase for this event I spoke to a number of people in the LGBT community who thought this was a good idea-I thought it was a good idea- so it was easy for me to disregard the first negative responses I received here today.

This morning, CFI has their PR guy, who also hilariously happens to be a Mens Rights Activist (where do they GET these people?) issue a longer statement.  In the statement, he toots CFI’s horn repeatedly about how awesome they are about LGBT people, why they even hired the son of a homophobe to speak for us!  How could we possibly disagree with that?

 As a vital component of the latter we have a long history of support of both the LGBTQ and transgender communities. (Heather’s note: Hey guys!  Transgender is separate from LGBTQ did you know?)  This is not just talk, but tangible. It includes for example our history of vocal support for Bill C279 and Bill 33, the federal and provincial legislation to amend our Human Rights laws with respect to gender identity and gender expression…  Perhaps most interestingly, we also hired Nate Phelps, the estranged son of the notorious patriarch of the vehemently homophobic Westboro Baptist Church, to run our Calgary branch. Nate speaks for both CFI issues and LGBTQ issues.

I don’t even…

CFI Ontario’s major mistake was that they forgot that straight, cis people attending pride parades should be there in a strictly supportive capacity.  Pride parades are neither for nor about straight, cis people.  They’re our show.  This is the difference between a church, business, or political group that shows up with a bunch of their LGBT members and employees riding on their float and the group who shows up in drag, or starts handing out pamphlets about the virtues of their organization.  CFI Ontario assumed that, because they’re on our side politically, that the pride parade was about them as well.  They assert that this faux pas is excusable because they’re in support of the right bills, they’re a science organization (whatever THAT has to do with anything), and they employed Nate Phelps (Again…), but they forgot to acknowledge that pride isn’t about them at all.  You see, it doesn’t matter how many friends you have that are queer, or how many bills you support, or how you vote when it comes to pride day, because we’re not there to celebrate you.  We’re there for ourselves.  We’re there for no other reason than to celebrate how far we’ve come and how awesome it is to assert ourselves in spite of you.  And maybe for beads from the Smirnoff float.

Does that offend you?  Were you hoping there was going to be a public event honoring you, the person who voted in favor of queer people being people?   Well, I’ll tell you what.  The day those bills pass is the day you get your cookies, but not on pride.  That’s ours.  And you will earn no sympathy from us when you try to make it about what awesome allies you are.  Oh, and atheist groups?  You especially won’t earn our sympathy when you’re there to win the hearts and minds of LGBT people in your self-asserted war against religion.  Being a gender/sexual minority has nothing to do with your agenda.  Leave your fucking pamphlets at home.  However tempting it may be to pit LGBT people against religion, you must resist.  We are not pawns in your game.  Same goes for you, Marin Foundation and your “we’re sorry” bullshit.  Apologies for the actions of others are ineffective and disingenuous and will not reconcile LGBT people with Christianity in general to the express financial benefit of your church.  So if you intended to go to pride to yank LGBT people a few inches to your side in your bullshit game of religion v. atheist tug of war, get fucked.  Stay home.  Don’t come.

If you’ve got a paternalistic feeling and you’re certain you know what’s best for queer people and how best the future of queer politics will play out, you are demeaning us.  It’s dehumanizing.  It’s wrong.  If you were intending to show up at pride parades to tell us how best to continue our fight, be that in the arena of fighting religion or fighting for progress in whatever religious organization you’re a part of, then that’s you.  Make no mistake of it.  You are assuming a position of leadership rather than support; you’re not qualified, and you’re not welcome.

“But Heather,” you may be thinking, “I don’t want to do any of that, I just want to show up.  How can I be sure that I won’t accidentally wear something that will offend you?  It seems like that’s all CFI Ontario was doing!”

CFI Ontario messed up when they made their half-assed self-promoting apologies.  They asserted that they’re truly our allies and they know this because they know what constitutes an ally, regardless of whatever we may tell them.  But if you want a tip on dress code, I’m happy to help.

Rainbows are fine.  A shirt that says “I totally dig gay people” is fine.  It’s silly, and you’ll get stared at, but it’s fine.  If you find yourself wondering what the hell to wear and you’re not 100% sure if it’s offensive, come in a your (clean) underwear and buy clothes from the booths at the parade.  Don’t worry.  Lots of people will be in their underwear (or less depending on local statutes!).  They also usually have face painting, jewelry, flags, ribbons, capes, tutus, and all sorts of really fun stuff to wear.  Don’t dress in drag.  Drag is a complicated thing and the question of what constitutes offensive and inoffensive is currently in a state of flux.  If you are cis and straight and not a regular drag performer, there is almost no chance you have any idea what you’re doing.  So don’t.

Otherwise, come!  Buy flags.  Get free HRC  or “Straight but not narrow” stickers to put on your car.  Get beads.  Get drunk.  Have a great time.  Don’t try to lead us.  Support us.

 

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Is Feminism About Choice? (Originally published as a guest on www.zinniajones.com on June, 2012)


Recently, as I was procrastinating something important or another, I came across a picture on somebody’s Tumblr. It was a silly graphic of a woman shaving her legs, and it said, “To me, feminism means choice. I can choose to shave my legs, and I can choose not to. There is no right answer, one option does not make me any more or less of a feminist than the other. I can shave or not shave. Whatever the hell I want to because it’s my choice!” This was reblogged hundreds of times and posted on Reddit and various other places online. It received quite a lot of support.

I find this disturbing. It’s as though somebody took the entire lexicon of feminist theory, feminist literature, history of feminism, and women’s studies, and then crossed out billions and billions of words and circled the one that justified literally anything they wanted. Feminism is not about choice. Feminism is about equality of the sexes.

Does the word “choice” sometimes occur in arguments and discussion about women’s equality? Absolutely. We want choices. We want our choices to be sexy, be parents, or be feminine to necessitate sacrifice no greater or lesser than those of our male counterparts. We want to be attractive and have sex without being reduced to a sex class, where every inch of skin, pound of fat, and follicle of hair on our bodies are monitored for youthfulness and open to all for comment. We want to choose to be parents without having to choose between putting brand new babies in expensive daycare ten hours a day, or lose our careers entirely. Those are the choices we want. Those are the choices we don’t have.

When a woman chooses to shave her legs, she is making a choice that has absolutely no negative consequences, real or imagined. For feminism was never about not shaving legs. It was never about being sexually unappealing, not having children, or not sleeping with men. In fact, when a woman “chooses” to shave her legs, she is choosing a course of action that will earn her approval from men and women alike. When a woman chooses not to shave her legs or underarms, she is making a choice that will earn her almost universal disapproval. Her femininity and heterosexuality (if she is heterosexual) will both be called into question. Her politics will be assumed radical and man-hating. Her decision will be considered an aggressive rejection of men, sex, and femininity. She will have broken the barriers of her class, assigned by her sex, and for that she will be rejected and punished. The choices to wear makeup to work and parties, or not, follow the same lines of consequences, as do the choices to battle wrinkles and gray hair or not, eat daintily or not.

Nonetheless, a choice either way on any of those questions does not determine whether a person is feminist or not. The defining choice that determines whether or not a person is feminist is whether they’re going to be satisfied with the unequal set of choices they have. It is the choice between being complacent with a society that teaches us that we must put financial independence and ourselves second to men and babies, or wanting a better reality that gives us the options to have both, as men have had since the beginning of time. The future of feminism is in breaking the glass ceiling, unraveling the sex classing of women, and equalizing the sacrifices of parenting and careers between the sexes. It has nothing to do with the state of your legs.

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Sex-Positive Feminism Vs. Anti-Pornography Feminism (Originally posted as guest on www.zinniajones.com on December 2011)

Sex positive feminism is a relatively new movement in feminism which originated in the 1990s. It arose as a reactionary movement in direct opposition both to millennia-long patriarchal and usually religious movements against specifically women having sex, and opposition to second-wave feminists’ anti-pornography viewpoints. It is the idea that a woman’s sexual liberation is central to women’s liberation as a whole; that a woman’s freedom must include the freedom to have sex whenever, however, and with whomever she likes. Parallel goals include recognizing different kinds of beauty, and celebrating various sexualized expressions of beauty, masculine, feminine, and everywhere in between, including pornography and sex work.

Opponents of sex positive feminism, sometimes derisively referred to as “sex-negative feminists,” argue that pornography objectifies women, sex work keeps women second-class and in a great deal of danger, and that the sex positive movement is not actually feminist but a disguised extension of male privilege – a movement which overwhelmingly makes colorful excuses for the objectification of women and favors men’s dicks. Sex positive feminists are sometimes derisively referred to as “fun-feminists.”

For the sake of simplicity, I’ll refer to those on the feminist side of the opposition to the sex positive movement as anti-pornography. The division of feminism into sex-positive and anti-pornography feminism began in the 1990s and persists through today, and like any radical movement in its adolescence, sex positive feminism has brought enthusiastic and idealistic attention to some important issues – and has some glaring blemishes on its face.

Sex positive feminism has been a positive force in the acceptance of queer sexuality. The movement places heavy focus on the acceptance and inclusion of different sexual orientations and gender identities, which was long, long overdue. It is also inarguably important that women be able to enjoy the freedom of having sex with whomever they want and whenever they want to do it. For too long over too many thousands of years, women’s sexuality has been institutionally controlled. Only recently has western culture stopped actually killing or shunning women for having extramarital sex, and there are still exceptions. Some eastern cultures still mutilate women’s genitals to keep their sexual expression in check. There is definitely a place for sex positive discussion in the gender equality movement.

At the core of the rift between sex positive and anti-pornography feminism is their interpretations of what constitutes empowerment and oppression in the larger arena of female sexuality, from high heels and lipstick to submissives in sub/dom relationships to sex workers. Simply put, while anti-pornography feminists tend to view socialized aspects of female sexuality as coercion until proven innocent, sex-positive feminists see most of it as consent until proven guilty.

The anti-pornography crowd, for example, will often argue that high heels, miniskirts, and makeup are uncomfortable, expensive, and in some cases near-crippling, and that to call them empowering expressions of femininity is disingenuous and insulting. Sex positive feminists might argue that high heels are hot and if women choose to wear them, then they ought not be shamed either by agents of the patriarchy wishing to devalue them due to their visible desire for sex, or by their sisters in feminism who would take something as benign as an article of clothing and claim that it was oppressing women. After all, heels make their calves look good.

The same goes with things such as pornography and sex work, where anti-pornography feminists claim that a monetary contract for sex is oppressive and dangerous to women (and men, but disproportionately women), sex positive feminists claim that women can consent to these things as much as they can consent to sex without pay, or as much as they can consent to any other sort of work that pays them, and the only difference between getting paid to be a secretary and getting paid to be a sex worker is that sex outside of marriage is considered by the patriarchy to be improper and debasing for women.

While sex positive feminists certainly have a point by saying that women should be considered able to consent to sex in all contexts and can even consent to wearing things traditionally labeled sexy, and while they definitely have an argument that women should not be shamed or devalued because they look sexy or have sex for work, there are significant problems with these arguments.

Full gender equality does not yet exist, and many of us are hesitant to join in enthusiastically on current ideals of sexiness in the contexts of interpersonal relationships, feminine presentation, and especially commerce. While sex positive feminists claim to be challenging those ideals, they are only doing so inasmuch as they intend to add to them with things not previously considered sexy (for example, fat acceptance). While there is certainly a place for that, there is also a pervasive and purposeful push for acceptance of the current ideals if that’s your preference. The idea that any sexual preference whatsoever is legitimate and natural, and is probably only considered bad because patriarchy, is to deny how overwhelmingly the current ideals benefit heterosexual men at the expense of the rest of us. How awkward and out of place would it be to hear a heterosexual man say that he was not in fact oppressed or anything, but simply wanted to burn his hair with styling tools, then put on those crippling shoes, revealing short shorts, and daily face paint because he thinks it’s sexy and therefore women think it’s sexy, and he likes women and sex? No one would mistake such an individual for empowered. If it seems absurd to expect from men, then it ought to seem absurd to expect from women.

Further to the point, this focus on expanding the ideals of beauty and sexiness so that everyone can have a slice to further empowerment for women is doing exactly the opposite of what feminists have been working toward for decades, and not for nothing. It keeps us locked in this asinine prison of a value system that teaches women they must be aesthetically pleasing to be sexually desirable and sexually desirable to be whole. Again, how awkward would it seem to base a movement on reassuring men that they’re all handsome? Or, to use a stereotype more often associated with men’s desirability, to assure them that no matter how little money they have, they’re rich so long as they’re confident?

However, the biggest and most shameful crime of the sex positive movement is the cherrypicking of testimonials from sex workers of all sorts – from nude models to actors in pornography to exotic dancers to escorts – as though middle-class, healthy, educated agents of gender equality made up a significant portion of the industry’s representatives. The stories of hundreds of thousands of women who worked in the sex industry and experienced emotionally painful objectification, dehumanizing treatment, addictions, and abuse should not be dismissed as problems that can be erased by simply erasing pimps, and cannot be replaced with the assertion that sex workers are adults and therefore have agency and consent freely or that porn is healthy. Safe working environments and emotionally healthy consent simply are not components of most sex workers’ realities. Sex workers are overwhelmingly female and overwhelmingly unsafe. Scrawling the word “empowerment” over the sex industry is by far the sex positive movement’s largest insult toward women.

But, it’s still a baby. Maybe it will grow up someday.

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Oppressive Girl Toys: A Short Analysis of the Discourse (Originally published May, 2011)

I spend a lot of time talking about girls’ toys. I’ve had quite a bit to say about the princesses as role models, toys that involve chores, and toys that seem to be preparing little girls for a life of childrearing and servitude. I’m far from the only one talking about these things. It’s very 101. Today, I thought I’d address the nature of the rebuttals I get on the subject.

Most of the people who want to tell me that I’m wrong about these things being oppressive are moms. Actually, so far, all of them have been moms. Sometimes they want to tell me that they don’t buy dolls/kitchens or they ask their relatives not to buy dolls/kitchens unless and until they ask for them, which they inevitably do. Most commonly, I hear that their boys play with them too. Therefore, it’s okay! Whatever the rebuttal, they’re all moms. I just thought my audience was 100% moms, but as the testosterone rich comments on my Kansas paternity bill post proved, that’s far from the case. So why is it only moms who want to defend the Oppressive Girl Toys? I think the answer is twofold.
First, moms are the only ones who think I’m talking to them. Men haven’t been taught that it is their responsibility to monitor every purchase in the household for total educational value, not to mention political correctness, environmentalism, and overall potential impact on psychological health. Men don’t get together in groups on a regular basis and shake their fingers at each other in debates about their diapers’ biodegradability. They don’t label each other lazy or tell each other they’re giving their kids diabetes when formula or McDonald’s enters the house. They don’t critique each other’s children’s car seats and rate each other by probability that their child will die in that thing. Of course I’m not just talking to moms (today I am but not usually) but I might as well be talking about tampons and diva cups for all the fathers think this applies to them. I don’t care if the father of your children changes exactly 50% of the diapers and wakes up for exactly 50% of the night wakings and gets the children dressed exactly 50% of the time and does exactly 50% of the chores. The simple fact is that he has not internalized even 10% of the responsibility for the outcome of your childrearing venture. This is probably half because his childhood was not spent carrying baby dolls around and trying to one-up his friends on fake parenting and half because everybody in the free world claps a guy on the back just for knowing his children’s birthdays. But I digress.
Second, I get the sense that there’s a bit of defensiveness involved here, as in denial “I played with these things as a kid and I am not oppressed!” and anger “I am not oppressing my daughter! I can’t screen fucking everything for good gender politics!” Well, you’re right, you can’t screen everything for good gender politics, nor should you. Constantly limiting your daughters’ toy selection to politically uncontaminated playthings would take more time than you have, socially cripple your daughter, and probably piss her right off in the process. Like the stigma surrounding formula feeding, this sort of too-high expectation that women and society place on mothers leads to a lot of transparent excuses: the fiction (“I never buy gendered toys”), the fantasy (“my boys play with them equally!”), and the outright false (“these toys do not have a psychological impact on my children”). They’re meaningless excuses and you shouldn’t have to make them. You didn’t start this and you won’t be able to end it single-handedly. As a parent, it’s your job to take care of the kids and raise them as well as you can, not to create a perfect soldier for the impending gender revolution. You haven’t thwarted the feminist movement if your daughter has a Rose Petal Cottage. You don’t have that power. In fact you could go to extremes and refuse to tell anyone your child’s gender and you still won’t gain the power to solve gender inequality. It’s okay. Really.
So, moms, what should you do for your daughters? I don’t know. Maybe there isn’t a lot you can do. Work on liberating yourself instead. She might be the future but you are the present. You exist here and now. You’re the one living with the results of your upbringing. You’re the one who feels like the whole world is attacking you whenever something about children’s toys or nutrition is discussed. You’re the one who has to fight for your children’s father to stop offering formula when you’re crying because your baby wants to breastfeed every fifteen minutes. You’re the one arguing with me on the internet cause I said girls play chores and referenced a toy you bought for your daughter while the father of your children is… well, I don’t know what he’s doing. Not arguing with me, anyway, unless I’ve recently mentioned paternity tests. We talk about these things because it’s important to understand the roots of our problems, not because it’s important for women to be perfect moms. That’s not empowerment, it’s another set of shackles. So: free yourself. You know whatever you have, your daughter will want more.

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