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Sep 09

Subverting gender roles

I’ve never been femme. For a not-so-brief period in my life I was definitely anti femme. I would speak out of one side of my mouth that girls could do anything they chose to do while the other half of my mouth criticized at every turn the overtly femme choices that many girls chose to make.

I was wrong. I thought I was showing how equal girls could be in this world. Instead, I was merely reinforcing the male default status. Perhaps it took me having children to see how wrong I was. Took having both a boy child and a girl child to see that as a mom I was more comfortable with my girl choosing dirt and worms, than with my son choosing a purse.

I am not that ideal parent who made sure to subvert gender roles at every opportunity. I bought son clothes from boys section and girl clothes from the girl section. It was easy and I was a bit too busy loving my children in other ways. Even though I hated pink before I had my daughter, her first come home outfit chosen by me was pink (and Eeyore, and just adorable). Son had mostly dinosaurs and action figures for early toys, and daughter had mostly dolls and plastic pets. There is not a lot of difference between the substance of the toys. The toys, while gender marked, were often played with in similar ways. My son was never one to have violent fantasies with his toys, and my daughter was not super mothering to hers. They played pretend. They crossed their gendered toy so that littlest pet shop animals rode on cars, while dinosaurs drank at tea parties. They played with what they had in all the ways their imaginations would take them and for my part, those other ways I spoke of loving my children, was all about letting them just be children.

At some point, a marked shift began to occur in toy isles. Maybe it began with Lego Friends. My daughter was at high femme when Lego Friends came out and had only rarely expressed an interest in son’s Legos. I thought that having more realistic people and pet characters would hopefully excite her more about building with Legos. I was wrong, every time I showed them to her she was wholly uninterested. Her first Lego set was actually Sponge Bob which she loved a great deal. My son however did express an interest in Lego Friends (he still doesn’t have any, only because other sets he liked a little bit better). This was the first time my son had really been highly interested in a toy marketed to girls.

And everyone criticized Lego for the “pinkification” of their brand.

It wasn’t my son’s last foray into girl toys. When Nerf came out with Rebel line, my daughter requested the bow. It immediately became something my son and daughter both played with regularly. Something they loved enough they checked out the toy isles for the newest Rebel designs. It was one of the coolest toys they had ever played with and it was marked “for girls.”

And everyone criticized Nerf for the “pinkification” of their brand.

I praised them for it. I had grown stop hating pink. I had grown to realize that make up is valuable. I had grown to respect the choices of high femme as much as I respected the choice of butch. I was grateful to the toy companies for making toys marketed to girls that were likewise appealing to boys. In each toy lesson, came a life lesson to both my children. Knowing that girl things have value and that the color doesn’t decrease their value is important. It helped when my adolescent son saw a purse as a thing of value. It helped when my daughter asked for makeup and for me not to cringe at whether she would become a person who wouldn’t leave the house without it. It helped when my son chose flip flops for comfort rather than gender. It helped when my daughter early love of animals led to her dissecting a frog in hopes to understand anatomy better.

Learning the value in all things femme is a life long process. Culture routinely devalues that which is assigned to girl to the point that male attachment to any of those things means they have to be renamed. Murse, Manscaping, Bromance are all examples of valuable things typically assigned to women, that men feel they can only reclaim if they change the gender. For me, this is the battlefield that gender is to be subverted on. Not only that women can access and value things assigned to men, but more importantly that men can and should value those things assigned to women.

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  1. 1
    The Reading List, 9/13/2015

    […] “I thought that having more realistic people and pet characters would hopefully excite her more about building with Legos. I was wrong, every time I showed them to her she was wholly uninterested. Her first Lego set was actually Sponge Bob which she loved a great deal. My son however did express an interest in Lego Friends (he still doesn’t have any, only because other sets he liked a little bit better). This was the first time my son had really been highly interested in a toy marketed to girls.” Read more. […]

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