boys, culture, feminism, gender, gender identity, girls, homosexuality, masculinism, media, society, why can't men where dresses
I am not, by the generally-accepted understanding of the term, a feminist.
I would love to be a stay at home wife and mother. I like it when my husband brings me flowers and opens doors for me. I don’t get angry and aerated by the fact that most executives are men, or spend much time ranting about the glass ceiling (not that I like the glass ceiling. It pisses me off, too. I just prefer to rant about grammar).
In short, I don’t get upset when women are not treated the same as men.
But the more time I spend with Perfect Husband, the more I spend thinking about men and feeling bad for them, because they aren’t treated the same as women.
Does that make me a masculinist? I guess not.
I don’t think PH actually likes men, much. All his friends are women. The ones who aren’t biologically women are transgender women, or married to his female friends. Or both.
PH thinks that women get a bum rap because feminine things are still not really being put forward as desirable or likeable.
The inherent sexism in our society is everywhere, and I hear a lot about it. Commercials like this one tick PH off to no end:
A basic summary of this commercial:
Man wants Klondike Bar. Man is willing to go through a difficult ordeal to get Klondike Bar. Man is told that he must listen to his wife for FIVE WHOLE SECONDS. He then makes an effort to focus on his WIFE (you know, his so ul mate, whom he committed to for life) for a matter of mere moments while she tries to talk to him about decorating the house (you know, because that’s all women talk about it and if men have to think about paint swatches, they’ll die). When the five second buzzer rings a party appears, thrown by several women who are much hotter than his wife. He starts dancing with them while the wife looks completely baffled.
PH is furious because he thinks those new Mint Klondike Bars look really tasty, but NOW HE CAN’T BUY THEM because all he can think about is how offensive the commercial is.
He can’t buy the new Dr Pepper, either, because apparently it’s “not for women” (seriously. That’s their tag line. WTF? Way to knock out half of your potential market there, geniuses).
The fact is that feminism has been so focused on getting the same rights as men, that we have made absolutely no headway in convincing men that being feminine is actually desirable. After all, men must wonder, if being a woman is so great, why do we want to leave the kids at home and come to work in pants, anyway?
Womanhood – so awful, even women don’t want it.
That’s a tagline worthy of Dr Pepper.
Women have spent years fighting for the right to be treated as equals to men, and that’s good. Thanks to them I can vote, I share equal ownership of my house and finances with my husband, and I can learn anything and be anything I want to be.
But no one has been fighting to give the men the same options.
Girls keep stealing the boy names, and then mothers of boys can’t effing use them.
Girls can be (and frequently are) named things like Carson, Taylor, or Ryan. Hell, I could probably name my daughter Gary or Fred and people would tell me “oh, I love that for a girl!” But when you are looking for a name for your son, do you consider Stacy, Leslie, or Shirley? (note: Anne of Green Gables named her son Shirley – have we gone backwards socially?)
It’s not fair.
As it is, even names like Alex, Cameron, Jamie, or Sam are considered borderline. Once the girls appropriate it, the boys can’t use it any more. Why?
A little girl can go dressed up as Batman for Hallowe’en, but why aren’t there more little boys dressed as Catwoman? I can go to work in pants and sensible shoes, but what if my husband showed up for work in heels?
That’s PH’s big beef.
Not that he wants to go to work in heels (after all, he takes an hour and a half of transit each way. That’s a lot of walking) but it strikes him as wrong that men CAN’T (by the same token, if someone said I couldn’t wear dresses I’d get ticked off, even though I hate the damn things).
Men are just as constricted by gender as women are, really.
Canada offers ‘parental leave’ to either parent, usually at a rate of 55% their regular pay. Some companies, like the one PH works for, will “top up” women’s maternity leave, providing the extra 45% so the woman gets full pay. It’s a benefit they offer, but they only offer it to the women. If PH had chosen to go on parental leave, not only would he have been under some serious scrutiny by his bosses, but he would not have been eligible for the top-up.
Of course that, in turn, limits women’s choices, because it meant that it basically wasn’t a financial option for us for PH to stay home. That was fine with me, but what if I had wanted to go right back to work?
Even with that in consideration, the fact is that I can wear men or women’s clothing, I can work or stay home, I can vote, and I can get elected to public office. I can call myself Ryan, I can do any and all things that men can do, AND I can bear children and breastfeed.
Men can’t wear dresses unless it’s Hallowe’en or unless they want to be the butt of a lot of jokes (PH once heard two coworkers joking about “she-males” and nearly ripped them new cloacas). Men can’t have feminine names. Men can’t stay home with their children without being penalized financially and socially more than women. Heck, the idea of a male childcare worker is so strange to us that it was the focus of an entire Friends episode.
Jason Alexander, in a recent apology for his joking that cricket is “gay”, asks us why accusing something (like sports) of being effeminate is still considered so offensive.
There’s no good answer, except the truth:
We still think that it’s bad to be effeminate. It’s associated with homosexuality, which is stupid – after all, most cross dressers are completely straight – and homosexuality is still considered bad, too.
“Gay” is an insult.
“Girly” is an insult.
My old boss used to tell dogs who weren’t tugging on their tug ropes hard enough that “that’s a little-girl tug!”
Men who can’t pitch are told that they throw like girls.
Bella Swan thinks you need a Y chromosome to understand how engines work.
This is the society that we are bringing Owl into, and it concerns us.
It doesn’t concern Owl, yet, though.
He so far hasn’t really figured out that he is male. When I call him a “little boy” he looks at me like I’m an idiot, points to himself and says clearly, “BA-BY!”
He knows he has a penis, but he isn’t too concerned by the fact that I don’t. He seems to think it’s tucked up in my belly button somewhere.
….And about twice a week, when I show up at daycare to pick him up, he’s in a dress.
Not just any dress. It’s a sparkly blue fairy princess dress. The boys wear the blue one, because blue is for boys, don’tcha know. The girls get a purple one.
I rarely see any other boy in the blue dress, though. It’s mostly Owl’s.
Apparently he drags Daycare Lady or her daughters to the place where the dresses are kept, insisting “dress, dress” until they put it on him. Sometimes he won’t take it off when it’s time to go home, so I just bring it back the next day.
The other day he spotted it on the shelf the morning after one of these comes-home-in-a-dress days and screeched until Perfect Husband put it back on him.
Then he walked around going “pwetty, pwetty.”
The neighbours say “is he in a fairy dress??” and we all have a good chuckle. I make it clear that he chose to be in it, so they don’t think that I’m one of those weird parents who try and de-gender their child. Gender isn’t bad.
The funny thing is, I would have been horrified if I had a girl and she had turned up in a princess dress. I’m afraid for a daughter – I wasn’t a girly girl and I don’t want my future daughter buying in to the look-pretty-for-the-men media crap.
But that dichotomy made me re-examine my own biases. Owl isn’t acting on any kind of media pressure, so neither would a little girl at this age.
This is purely about a small child liking something pretty, and not realizing that society has deemed it unfit for him.
I know that one day he’ll realize that he IS a little boy.
I know that one day he’ll understand that dresses are for girls.
I know that the day will come when he will reject all things feminine, and scorn them as he has been taught to do by his peers and by the media.
When that day comes, I will sigh and feel sad. But in the meantime I can pretend that we live in a better world, and my neighbours can continue to get a good laugh.
Jessica (@jessicaesquire) said:
I feel you. i worry less about the problems for boys and more about the stigma associated with feminine things, but yeah. I’m totally thrilled that G’s current favorite color is pink and that he loves kitties. I know preschool will “genderize” him and it makes me kind of sad.
Aw, his favourite colour is pink? Cute!
We have a similar fascination over here. What was Little Dude’s choice of a book from the bookstore the other day? A bubblegum pink, sparkly, princess book. He will sit and page through it quietly for 15-20 minutes. It’s an entertaining phenomenon.
Awesome. Did you get a picture? Blackmail material for the future.
Grace Goldragon said:
I think about this a lot. I don’t know that one gender has it worse than the other, or if it’s just two halves of the same problem. I feel like the perception is that what women’s equality means is fighting for the freedom for women to be more like men. I thought that’s what the point was, for many years. I only recently realized that what it’s really about is placing the same value on feminine qualities as masculine qualities.
I’ve tried very hard to allow my kids to be who they are going to be, to explore within the traditional aspects of both genders, and to not explain away their behaviour by pointing to their gender. The Girl’s favourite colour is pink. She loves My Little Pony, and dancing around in a pink, frilly tu-tu. She has multiple “babies” she takes care of. She also is not afraid to get elbow deep in dirt, to play with trucks or weapons, to have her hair cut super short, to have a messy room, or to watch the old Dungeons and Dragons cartoon.
The Boy is still half baby, so it’s hard to point to any particularly masculine qualities, unless you’re really reaching (liking “fun”, apparently). He idolizes his big sister, and wants to do everything she does. He LOVES to put on sparkly necklaces. The pleased look he gets on his face as he looks at the sparkly is precious. He’s very tidy, and obsessed with putting things “away” and shutting all doors. Some of the clothes he has are *gasp* pink hand-me-downs from the Girl. His only pair of shoes is a pair of purple Robeez with flowers on them, also a hand-me-down from the Girl, because I think it’s important for both of them to see that all colours are available to everyone. Plus, you know, they are expensive! I refuse to shell out $40+ dollars for a more societally comfortable pair, that he will wear a handful of times, and outgrow in a few months. He loves them. And one of my friends never fails to comment on it. “Nice shoes, Mom,” she’ll say. It bugs me.
I worry about sending them out into the world, too. I worry about what kinds of messages the Girl is going to get when she goes to big kids school, but I think I can deal with it. I worry more about the Boy’s safety going to school. My brother got beaten up on a regular basis for years because he played with Barbies with the girls when he was in grade one. It still haunts him, and I’m terrified that my sweet little boy might be subjected to that as well.
I hate that playing with dolls is a beatable offence. I wish I could wave my wand and turn femininity into a desirable trait.
I appreciate everything you have to say, but I just wanted to say that modern feminism (at least here in the U.S.) is VERY MUCH in favor of lifting the stigma from femininity. The goal is not for women to be like men, rather for people/customs/things/what have you to not be denigrated simply because people perceive them as feminine.
“But no one has been fighting to give the men the same options.”
“Men are just as constricted by gender as women are, really.”
Nail on head. Sexism hurts everyone, not just women. It renders men emotionally stunted and incapable of having meaningful relationships with others (particularly women) because they’re too busy maintaining society’s ridiculous standard of masculinity. (Don’t hug me, h*mo! Feelings are for chicks!) Men will have these same options the day they stop scoffing at them.
I think that men will stop scoffing at them the day we rise up and start showing them how desirable womanhood is.
I know that real feminists understand that it is about loving womanhood, rather than trying to achieve manhood, but the traditional idea of feminists, and some of the doings of radical feminists, still seems to be much more about women wanting to be men, rather than women loving to be women.
It makes me sad.
Hi, I'm Natalie said:
Steve’s last company offered six weeks of fully-paid leave after having a baby…
That’s a step in the right direction, but it’s not the year that women get
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Awww! Owl is so pretty. Those are great pictures I work in clothing at Sam’s Club and think a lot of the same things. I hate that we have more variety for little girls than little boys. That the girls’ stuff is so often frilly and pastel. That the boys’ stuff is generic and gritty or tough. Little kids are little kids, not omg must follow types and society creatures.
Dinosaurs and construction vehicles and fire trucks are kid things, not boy things. And dammit, I think men and boys who want to wear dresses and skirts and be pretty should be societally allowed. I love skirts. Everyone should get the opportunity to wear them.
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I always love Eddie Izzard’s take on clothing: he just says he has total clothing rights! He has several little skits about his own clothing. One of his lines is for when people ask why he’s wearing women’s clothing: “They’re not women’s clothes. They’re my clothes. I bought them.”
Love that guy