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Gender Role reinforcement vs. deviation

Here's a little news story about an ad featuring a boy with pink painted toenails:

http://news.yahoo.com/s/yblog_thelookout/20110413/ts_yblog_thelookout/hot-pink-toenailed-boy-in-j-crew-ad-sparks-controversy

"The images in question fall under pages titled "Saturday with Jenna" -- featuring products personally favored by J. Crew president and creative director Jenna Lyons and her family. This particular Saturday for Jenna includes painting her five-year-old son Beckett's toenails pink. The caption reads, "Lucky for me I ended up with a boy whose favorite color is pink. Toenail painting is way more fun in neon."

To add to the fun, my favourite "news" source (always so fair and balanced) has chimed in...

"Yeah, well, it may be fun and games now, Jenna, but at least put some money aside for psychotherapy for the kid—and maybe a little for others who'll be affected by your 'innocent' pleasure," Dr. Keith Ablow wrote in a Fox News op-ed. "If you have no problem with the J. Crew ad, how about one in which a little boy models a sundress? What could possibly be the problem with that?"

I know that We've had a few threads about gender roles, drag culture, etc., and folks like baypuppy have had some very informed and helpful input... but I wanted to share this news article and open up a discussion about gender roles, how Y'all feel about the inherent reinforcement of such roles that exist in U.S. culture (and in other places), and maybe some anecdotes/personal experiences regarding the reinforcement or deviation from these gender roles.

DISCUSS.

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I know that We've had a few threads about gender roles, drag culture, etc., and folks like baypuppy have had some very informed and helpful input... but I wanted to share this news article and open up a discussion about gender roles, how Y'all feel about the inherent reinforcement of such roles that exist in U.S. culture (and in other places), and maybe some anecdotes/personal experiences regarding the reinforcement or deviation from these gender roles.

DISCUSS.

I think... that any culture who has a problem with boys liking pink, but thinks it's just effing FINE that I got impressed (in the military vs appreciative sense) into fucking 'home economics' vs far-more-interesting-and-useful 'wood shop' classes in junior high, to study such vitally crucial topics as the difference between a 'topcoat' of fingernail polish and a 'base coat' (sadly, I am not making this up!) without so much as a by-your-leave... well. THAT culture can just go STRAIGHT to time-out, abruptly followed by bed without dinner, as far as i'm concerned! <fluffs fur out haughtily like an affronted cat>

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I don't think that it should matter at all what a boys fav color is. I LOVE PINK! As well as almost all soft pastel spring colors. And yes i am straight. As far as painting the toenails goes if he doesn't care or have a problem with it, why should i

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Gender, like so many other traits, isn't really a constant. It's more fluid. You can be more stereotypically female on Monday than on Wednesday. One act does not define this boy's gender.

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Gender, like so many other traits, isn't really a constant. It's more fluid. You can be more stereotypically female on Monday than on Wednesday. One act does not define this boy's gender.

YES.

Gender is defined and expressed in many, many ways, and it all varies by individual.
I'm not a huge fan of makeup, nail polish, hair products, etc....but I understand that a lot of people use them for body modification/"improvement" purposes (as well as just plain fun)regardless of their gender identity. Since becoming involved with REPO!, I've discovered that I really enjoy cosplay (as the kids these days call it) and basically playing dress-up on occasion....So now I have a better appreciation for why people like to spend money on these products and use them on a regular or even everyday basis.

Heck, clothing is one of many ways We adorn Our bodies--for protection from the elements, for decoration, for attracting a potential mate, etc.--and it just so happens that certain types of clothing are associated with one specific gender. Same goes for jewelry....

And on that note, does anyone remember a time when big, gaudy diamond earrings were acceptable on females only (specifically rich old ladies)?? ...then, sometime around 2002/03, I saw a few guys in my high school--very masculine "jocks," mind You--wearing one or even (gasp!) TWO big diamonds in their earlobes. Not sure when it became a trend in the rest of the country, because Iowa is always like 4 years behind everywhere else, but I still see lots of males with these big ol' diamond-looking things in their ears...
I still can't help associating those with rich old grannies, but I also don't care if a guy wants to wear such sparkly jewelry, regardless of the rest of his attire.

And that's the point that I think everyone so far has made:  We should. not. care. If a little girl can wear a sundress, why couldn't a little boy wear one, too? If You take away all these bullshit notions of "psychological damage" and the need for therapy, what exactly IS the problem with someone wearing clothing that makes them feel good about themselves and is totally acceptable on another person with different genitals?

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If a little girl can wear a sundress, why couldn't a little boy wear one, too? If You take away all these bullshit notions of "psychological damage" and the need for therapy, what exactly IS the problem with someone wearing clothing that makes them feel good about themselves and is totally acceptable on another person with different genitals?

Hey CW, have you seen this Smithsonian article?

When Did Girls Start Wearing Pink?

I'm going to have a hard time logistically rationalizing not dressing my future children, regardless of sex, in dresses during infancy.

Dresses are SOOOO much easier to deal with when it comes to diaper changes and dressing in general.

In college, I wrote an essay about my childhood hair. Length of hair, to be exact. When I was young, I'd go through phases where I'd want my hair "too short" or "too long". I think I still kinda do. But what I realized during one of my college gender studies classes was I was playing with gender roles as well. In my preschool graduation picture, I couldn't find myself, I asked my dad to point me out... I was in a 'too short' stage in that life, apparently, and my FAVORITE piece of clothing was this button up Hawaiian shirt. I had mistaken myself for a boy..... I could go on about how I was "confused"  at earlier ages too.... like I used to shave my face with dad every morning or tried to pee standing up.....

These are parts of early childhood development, where children up to age 6 (socially it is generally accepted to some degree up to 6, I'd say realistically it is 8 or 10) or so, gender roles remain somewhat fluid, and it is normal for both sexes to explore them and try them on for size, figure out why girls peeing standing up may not be such a good idea, etc, FOR THEMSELVES. It creates a sense of empathy in children as well, because as adults they will still have a basic understanding to the 'other side' from these formative years.

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This is what I love about socially created boundaries, such as dresses, hair length, color preference, etc. These outlines have nothing to do with gender on a biological level, and frankly, they really have nothing to do with gender on a sociological level. We just like to pretend they do. I don't know if these outward signs make things easier for us, so we can easily recognize someone as a gender (but as Courth stated, there are issues with this on/off view of gender). Sometimes I think that these people want these easy to recognize signs, or else they might accidentally be attracted to someone of their own sex. OH NOES!!!!! Hell has a special space for those people!

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This is an aside re: dresses in infancy

I actually hate putting dresses on my daughter. Maybe they're slightly easier for diaper changes, but it isn't worth it. When she was a newborn lump who just sat there, it was ok (actually, she was an itty bitty newborn in the hottest months of the year so she usually wore just a diaper back then). But as soon as she was attempting to crawl (5 months), they were terribly inhibiting for movement (her knees kept getting caught up in the material). So I never put them on her from about 5 months until she walked. Now she'll occasionally wear one, but the dress still can get in the way when quickly going from sitting on the floor to a standing position (and toddlers do this alot). So no, I don't think the old way is better, for either sex.

Her favorite color, BTW is blue and has been since before she was a year old. She wears almost no pink because I let her help me choose her clothing, and she always goes for the blue. My husband's favorite color is pink. He even has a pink shirt he wears proudly to work. Nothing to do with their gender or sexual orientation in the slightest.  

And agree with all the previous comments.

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I don't think that it should matter at all what a boys fav color is. I LOVE PINK! As well as almost all soft pastel spring colors. And yes i am straight. As far as painting the toenails goes if he doesn't care or have a problem with it, why should i

The fact that you felt the need to include this caveat makes me sad. I understand what you're trying to say here, but in the attempt to curtail one stereotype, you have definitively reinforced another. In which case, it seems to me that perhaps...well...you kind of missed the point?

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Wow, I find that article about the pink and blue colors so fascinating -- especially the part about how pink was initially a "boy's" color!

I think that when I have kids someday I'll dress them in a gender-neutral way; I find the traditional baby clothes somewhat boring.

And yeah, of course I also agree with the idea that there's nothing wrong with a boy behaving in a 'feminine' way, or vice versa. I was once talking with some family members, and my aunt mentioned that she had a neighbor once who clothed her very young son in dresses; ugh, the immediate reaction from the rest of my family was so appalling. They all started shaking their heads and talking about how she was horrible for submitting him to such teasing... stuff about how "it's necessary for people to conform to society".

Why can't society be open to different ideas? Why do we just ACCEPT the system the way it is, as if there is no potential for change? Yes, "kids will be kids", I know, I know... but if children really do naturally tease people who are different, maybe leaving uncertain gender roles on the fringe of society is not the best response. Just like eating meat to please your acquaintances does not help to make being a vegetarian or vegan easier, perhaps we should be more courageous about acting in a way which is not the "norm" when it's something that we do not believe society should ridicule or simply disregard.

Letting your son know he can choose between pants and a dress? NOT a capital offense IMO. :P

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I can't believe some people have nothing better to do than get all worked up about painting a kid's toenails pink.  (Btw, would it have been ok if they used blue nail polish?)  I'm sure Dr. Keith Ablow did something "girly" at some point in his childhood as well...maybe not nail polish, but he probably played with a doll, or drew a picture of a flower, or watched Cinderella, or something.  Did he need therapy for it?  I have 2 brothers and we used to all play together...sometimes we played house or dress-up, sometimes we played dinosaurs or Ninja Turtles.  None of us were traumatized in the least.  So the kid has pink toenails.  I doubt it'll have any significant impact on his life...and it's especially not going to push him to the point that he'll need therapy.  Way to blow it out of proportion, Fox News.

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I don't think that it should matter at all what a boys fav color is. I LOVE PINK! As well as almost all soft pastel spring colors. And yes i am straight. As far as painting the toenails goes if he doesn't care or have a problem with it, why should i

The fact that you felt the need to include this caveat makes me sad. I understand what you're trying to say here, but in the attempt to curtail one stereotype, you have definitively reinforced another. In which case, it seems to me that perhaps...well...you kind of missed the point?

Yeah, I agree.
I appreciate Your input, dprince, but justifying Your appreciation for pastels with "I am straight" is one of those automatic responses that comes from the same stereotypes We're discussing.
I'm not saying that You're a bad person or that You must have something against gay people, but that statement is exactly the kind of thing that shouldn't even be an issue worth mentioning.

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Thanks for the input, everybody. I like this discussion so far..... and if anyone who sees this has a differing opinion than what's been posted so far, I'll be glad to talk about that, too!

I'm bookmarking that article for later, hanashi.... (I've got some other work to do, and I'll read it/give my response soon-ish)

And as for my own possible-future-children:  I will almost definitely dress a baby boy in a dress-type thing for ease of diaper-changing. That sort of attire was common for boys, even in the early 20th century, and it makes no real sense why parents should be so afraid to continue the practice today.
...and when s/he starts crawling, I'll switch to something like shorts, diaper-covering underwear + short dresses, or just let the little critter run around in nothing but a diaper, depending on weather/location.

Y'know, I'll bet that Our kid/s will wear a lot of purple and green (Our respective favourite colours) until they have an opinion of their own to voice. Purple is "gay," and some will say that We're going to end up with a gay child....and We'll just have to say, "Sounds great! Hopefully by the time s/he's figured out her/his sexual preference/gender identity, society won't think it's such a psychologically damaging thing to encourage!"

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I was thinking about this more last night, and I think that kid is much less likely to need therapy than if his parents told him to "man up" and wear blue and play football.  They're letting him be who he is, and that's what good parents do.  He's a lucky kid for having parents who will love and accept him no matter what.

Also, I really hate the mindset that you can turn a kid gay by exposing him to too much girly stuff.  People don't "turn gay", they are gay, or they're straight, or maybe they're a little bit of both.  You're not going to turn a straight boy gay by painting his toenails pink any more than you can turn a gay boy straight by making him wear blue.  (My son's room is purple.  Maybe he'll turn gay and prove me wrong ::)).

Regarding the article that hanashi linked, I remember when I was shopping for baby stuff before I had my son.  I didn't know whether I was having a boy or a girl, and even if I did, I wanted to have mostly neutral stuff so I could use it for any future kids as well.  And I was so disappointed at the limited selection of gender-neutral things.  There would be tons of pink stuff with flowers or butterflies or rainbows, and tons of blue stuff with dinosaurs or trucks or cartoony monsters, and the neutral stuff was either yellow with farm animals or plain white.  Is it really too much to ask to have more than one gender-neutral design to choose from?  I would have been happy with something as simple as stripes or polka dots in non-gender-specific colors.

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The psychologically damaging part is the ridicule and/or disapproval they face for trying to be themselves.

I'm no fan of gender roles. It really irritates me. Like men not having their "man card" because they do dishes or show that they are human who have feelings, too! Ugh. My husband has been called gay because of the music he has on his phone. My young son came home and told me that some girl picked on him for coloring with a purple crayon. "It's a girl's color!"

When my kids ask me if there are girl colors I tell them no. When they ask me if men can wear make up I tell them that they can if they want to.

My youngest son used to LOVE Littlest Pet Shop. We bought him several for xmas and his birthday. He has chosen a My Little Pony over the alternative which would be considered a "boy's toy." He enjoys watching princess movies. Many parents would find this strange, but I see no problem whatsoever with it.

In a society that is hellbent on pink for girls and blue for boys it is difficult to teach my boys otherwise. This crap is everywhere we turn. As a result I DO recognize what is geared toward each gender (as I pointed out a couple of times above), but I don't subscribe to this nonsense.

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CW, that's why whenever 'baby shopping' for friends, I always go with the PARENT's favorite colors. They're going to be the ones looking at the kid all the time, it may as well be in a color they like!!

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The psychologically damaging part is the ridicule and/or disapproval they face for trying to be themselves.

In a society that is hellbent on pink for girls and blue for boys it is difficult to teach my boys otherwise. This crap is everywhere we turn. As a result I DO recognize what is geared toward each gender (as I pointed out a couple of times above), but I don't subscribe to this nonsense.

Yeah, I see what You mean... Unfortunately, even if children wear the "right" things for their respective gender/sex, they'll still end up getting ridiculed for who they are--whatever norm-deviating behaviours they engage in otherwise will probably lead to bullying/ridicule, as long as society continues to reinforce the stereotypical gender roles.
Some folks say that wearing the "wrong" colours or playing with the "wrong" toys (dolls, toy cars, etc.) is damaging because it encourages the child to be "wrong," and that they'll need some kind of correction if it goes on too long. My sister's ex/the father of her kids said this very thing a few years ago....

My nephew was playing with his sister's barbie dolls (ugh, don't even get me started on her) one time, and Asshole Dad actually yelled at his son and snatched the doll away. Then he shoved a toy gun that he'd given him that previous Christmas into his hands, telling him that he shouldn't play with "girl's toys." >:(  I asked him why the hell he did that, and he firmly explained that he didn't want his son to have to go to therapy for becoming a faggot (his words). I tried my best to give him a logical explanation as to why that didn't make sense, and why his actions could be even more detrimental to my nephew, but Asshole Dad then yelled back at me for being out of line and telling him how to do his job.
....this was even before Asshole Dad was divorced from my sister, and I knew then that he was a terrible person (for many, many other reasons) and a bad father. Too bad that shithead has full custody now... *sigh*

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Yeah, I see what You mean... Unfortunately, even if children wear the "right" things for their respective gender/sex, they'll still end up getting ridiculed for who they are--whatever norm-deviating behaviours they engage in otherwise will probably lead to bullying/ridicule, as long as society continues to reinforce the stereotypical gender roles.

It's very unfortunate.

And I agree. What an asshole. I wish people would stop fearing the possibility of their child being gay. Like someone said earlier in this thread, you don't "turn gay." If one is going to be gay then it doesn't matter what he/she plays with (or wears) as a kid.

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And I was so disappointed at the limited selection of gender-neutral things.  There would be tons of pink stuff with flowers or butterflies or rainbows, and tons of blue stuff with dinosaurs or trucks or cartoony monsters, and the neutral stuff was either yellow with farm animals or plain white.  Is it really too much to ask to have more than one gender-neutral design to choose from?  I would have been happy with something as simple as stripes or polka dots in non-gender-specific colors.

^This!  Luckily, most of the things I have found were better than your options.  And most everything has a smattering of accent colors that would generally be assigned as either boy or girl colors, but in general everything has a neutral base color.  I've purchased things for my child that I like.  I hate that everything I look at for "boys" has sports and such on it.  I'd rather my son be able to grow up and choose whatever he wants to wear versus what has been drilled into his head as acceptable by society.

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I hate gender roles.

Having a Y chromosome does not make you good at fixing cars, tough, dominant, etc.

Having two X chromosomes does not make you good at cooking and cleaning, gentle, submissive, etc.

As for boys painting their nails, Wendy Williams mentioned it in her show.  She asked the audience what they thought about it and the vast majority of them felt that boys shouldn't be allowed to paint their nails, a few said they were okay with it.  Wendy Williams then went on to say "I don't think boys should paint their nails, not under my roof.  While they live under my roof they need to follow my rules, no nail painting, tattoos, etc.  Not until they turn 18 and move out."  Not the exact words, but you catch my drift.

I was so fucking pissed.  How dare a parent who is supposed to love their child unconditionally make such stupid rules as no nail painting?  What are you afraid of?  God forbid your child express itself creatively.  And nail painting is hardly on the same level of getting a tattoo.  I'm all for tattoos, but a tattoo is permanent, draws blood, has health risks, and is illegal in some states for minors

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