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The Everyday Sexism Project
February 20, 2013 7:43 AM   Subscribe

The Everyday Sexism Project collects user-submitted reports from women to document their day-to-day experiences with normalized sexism, including sexual harassment and job discrimination. Entries can be submitted at the site, in an email to founder Laura Bates or to their twitter account.

Further Reading
The founder, Laura Bates, contributes to the Huffington Post and the Women Under Siege Project. She also writes editorials for the Independent: Everyday Sexism: What’s the big deal?, Next generation of social media 'exposing girls to sexual abuse and Everyday Sexism: It isn’t restricted to adults – even young girls in school uniform share their experiences
* BBC interview (audio): Project logs shocking 'everyday' sexism women encounter
* PolicyMic: Everyday Sexism Project: Women Worldwide Turn to Twitter to Combat Misogyny
"If the collective voice created by these stories teaches us anything it must surely be the realisation that it is not a young voice or an attractive voice, not provocatively dressed or just in the wrong place at the wrong time. It is the voice of a woman – every woman – old and young, married and single; anywhere, anytime. For as long as we continue to perpetuate the assumption that sexism affects a particular ‘type’ of woman, we will continue to focus on the victims rather than the problem. And the sheer range of women who have testified through our project proves that sexism is far too ubiquitous to be ‘asked for’ or ‘attracted’ by some women and not others. Sexism is neither selective, nor deserved. It affects us all."
posted by zarq (200 comments total) 55 users marked this as a favorite

 
"Everyday sexism in full force by birth - cant find a new baby card that doesn’t specify boy/girl"

My card company, Inclusiveness and Shit Greetings, tries to avoid even the widest definitions of sexism. But we stopped producing our "Congrats of Your Intersex Bundle of Joy" card because it sold terribly.
posted by Mayor Curley at 7:59 AM on February 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


I've actually had "It's a Baby!" cards custom-made. I just don't feel like the baby's presumed gender ought to be more important than the fact that hey, y'all popped out a baby, good job you.
posted by asperity at 8:04 AM on February 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


Mayor Curley: I know you're kidding, but what's wrong with a card that just says "congratulations on your new baby" and stopping the sentence there?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:05 AM on February 20, 2013 [24 favorites]


But we stopped producing our "Congrats of Your Intersex Bundle of Joy" card because it sold terribly.

Still a big fan of your "You Pooped Out A Screamer!" product line.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:12 AM on February 20, 2013 [39 favorites]


I went to a Catholic elementary school. For awhile we had a nun as a principal which confused a few of the kids who thought "only men can be principals." One little boy, having done God knows what kind of mental gymnastics, called her Mister Sister Mary.

I miss my old school. We had proper sex ed in grade six which covered everything including condom use. Apparently the school district has become much more conservative since I left.
posted by ODiV at 8:17 AM on February 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


Mister Sister Mary

Sexism is its most insidious when it's fucking adorable.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 8:21 AM on February 20, 2013 [33 favorites]


Where do modern romance languages stand with the noun genders?
posted by Smedleyman at 8:23 AM on February 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


[If y'all could just like make a basic effort to (a) not immediately shit up the thread with quippy AH BUT REVERSE SEXISM jibes and (b) not respond directly to stuff that seems like it's derail bait, that would be grand.]
posted by cortex at 8:25 AM on February 20, 2013 [40 favorites]


Thank you, Cortex.
posted by zarq at 8:27 AM on February 20, 2013


I went to Target, and they had totally separate sections for boys and girls' clothes!

On edit, less snarkily, which gendered things are OK and which are not? It would be good to know. And focusing on stuff like commercial greeting cards makes the effort look trivial.
posted by mrgrimm at 8:27 AM on February 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Telegraph says England rugby captain belittled as girlfriend says he hoovers.

Can someone parse this?
posted by Brocktoon at 8:29 AM on February 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


I already can't tell whether certain conservatives have managed to sneak parodic entries past the site's moderators.
posted by Infinity_8 at 8:30 AM on February 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Brocktoon: "Hoovers" = "vacuums". So I'm assuming that it means that the rugby captain's girlfriend said he helps with the vacuuming and his teammates are giving him shit for it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:30 AM on February 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


A Hoover is a vacuum cleaner.
posted by ODiV at 8:30 AM on February 20, 2013


I went to Target, and they had totally separate sections for boys and girls' clothes!

On edit, less snarkily, which gendered things are OK and which are not?



See how many t-shirts you find in the boys section that are hot pink and glitter bedazzled that have "I'm a princess!" blasted on them, and how many t-shirts you find in the girls section that are camo print with a tank and skull motif on them.

OK.

Now see how many solid-colored non-embellished t-shirts you are able to find in either section.
posted by phunniemee at 8:32 AM on February 20, 2013 [52 favorites]


On edit, less snarkily, which gendered things are OK and which are not? It would be good to know. And focusing on stuff like commercial greeting cards makes the effort look trivial.

The greeting card post was about how it's a little creepy how products for babies reinforce gender roles (pink princess stuff for girls, blue trucks for boys!) literally from birth. The whole point of the site is to show the sheer volume of 'trivial' sexism out there.
posted by sonmi at 8:33 AM on February 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


Telegraph says England rugby captain belittled as girlfriend says he hoovers.

Can someone parse this?


Here's the Telegraph story in question:
Chris Robshaw is the hero of English rugby, but his girlfriend's revelation hasn't done his manly reputation any good

Domestic bliss: England captain Chris Robshaw and his girlfriend Camilla Kerslake, who has revealed that he is happy to do the hoovering at home
[...]
Of course, Kerslake is not the first woman to carry out a public castration of her other half in the mistaken belief that it will make their relationship appear to us more equal.
posted by Catseye at 8:35 AM on February 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


UK tabloids are just terrible.
posted by smackfu at 8:36 AM on February 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


“Problem with @EverydaySexism is that for me to add to it would take all day. Could do a timeline from birth – now!”

I mean, that's the problem, right? In my daughter's Thomas the Tank Engine book (ground score), all the workers on the train tracks are men. All the drivers are men. In 99% of children's books and movies/TV shows (Cars, Toy Story, Blah Blah Blah), there's a subtle-to-overt reinforcement of traditional gender roles.

In even the most progressive books, like Free to Be You and Me, there's still inherent sexism. It's OK for William to want a doll because he might want to be a father someday. What if he just wants to play with a doll?

If I sound frustrated, it's because I have two young girls and it's frustrating.

The whole point of the site is to show the sheer volume of 'trivial' sexism out there.

Which is impossible, which is why I guess I feel it fails. As Infinity_8 said, I'm already confused which are the parodies. (Griefers will obviously be the other huge drawback here.)
posted by mrgrimm at 8:37 AM on February 20, 2013 [9 favorites]


Domestic bliss: England captain Chris Robshaw and his girlfriend Camilla Kerslake, who has revealed that he is happy to do the hoovering at home
[...]
Of course, Kerslake is not the first woman to carry out a public castration of her other half in the mistaken belief that it will make their relationship appear to us more equal.


My head asplode reading that article.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 8:38 AM on February 20, 2013 [11 favorites]


I'm in a surgery waiting room. I've heard the phrase 'lady-doctor' 3 times in ten minutes...

I'm not trying to be dense, but I thought "lady-doctor" was euphemism for OBGYN or something like that. Like, the doctor that specifically takes care of lady parts (could be a man or a woman).
posted by King Bee at 8:38 AM on February 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


See how many t-shirts you find in the boys section that are hot pink and glitter bedazzled that have "I'm a princess!" blasted on them, and how many t-shirts you find in the girls section that are camo print with a tank and skull motif on them.

The last time I was in Target they had a rack of shirts that had girl oriented sports slogans on them, something like "Nice girls don't win games" or something. I hate t-shirts for kids with sassy/bratty/in your face slogans on them, but it was nice that some parent who doesn't mind their kid's shirts mouthing off at people could pick from a broader range.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:39 AM on February 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


One of the worst things about sexism is the cumulative effect of all the things that are "trivial." Of course it seems silly to complain about greeting cards, absent any other context. Sexism - most -isms, for that matter - isn't just the weightless idiocy of one small dumb incident. It's a zillion goddamn things throughout your life, ranging from the pink baby t-shirt with "I'm a princess!" on it to "Girls aren't good at computers" to "She acted like she didn't like it but she really did so I kept fucking her" to...well, I could keep going, but I've got work I need to do and don't have the rest of the year to keep listing stuff.
posted by rtha at 8:40 AM on February 20, 2013 [108 favorites]


Now see how many solid-colored non-embellished t-shirts you are able to find in either section.

Why Target won't get my business. Is it so fucking hard? Regular clothes?
posted by From Bklyn at 8:41 AM on February 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, we had to go to the boy section to get my daughter a onesie that says Captain Awesome.
posted by ODiV at 8:44 AM on February 20, 2013 [18 favorites]


To build on what phunniemee and sonmi have said: Parents of boys, and little boys themselves, are given an obvious option to present their children and themselves as a person first (e.g., someone dressed in a solid red t-shirt) with no gender identification and no association with highly-gendered roles or characteristics because clothes for little boys often come without gender roles printed on them. Parents of little girls and little girls are offered fewer of those non-gendered options. Of course, they can buy clothes in the boy's department. But that is awkward for people, in part because it draws unnecessary focus to the question "is that a little boy or a little girl" and its attendant, unexpressed, question "what social value am I supposed to attach to this small person?"

Dividing things into "boys clothes" and "girls clothes" is not casual sexism. But placing all the clothing options that don't herald "This is a BOY!" or "This is a GIRL!" into the boy's department is casual sexism. It says that even before a child has a role in society that is informed by her gender, you must value her first by her gender.

That is simply wrong. It damages girls long before they are women. It also doesn't make it any easier for little boys to grow up with healthy attitudes about women.
posted by crush-onastick at 8:45 AM on February 20, 2013 [95 favorites]


I took a picture of the "kids' room decor" aisle at Target. One side was pink and purple, one side was navy blue and orange. I bought gender-neutral clothing for my daughter as long as I could find it; after about two, though, there simply isn't an option. There is no reason why a 7 year old child needs highly gendered clothes.

And there is no reason why a 2-year old boy needs every item in his wardrobe to be RAAR TOUGH SPORTS TRUCKS DINOSAURS! I am constantly on the lookout for brightly-colored, cute, gentle clothing for boys, because my son is not a "tough guy" and I don't want to surround him with the expectation that he should be one.

All kids like pink. All kids like glittery shit. All kids like dinosaurs, and mud puddles, and toy cars and baby dolls and play kitchens. To varying degrees, yes, but by personality, not by gender. It is tough and insidious, and as the mother of a girl and a boy both, I'm finding it easier to fight the girl stuff -- it's easier to defend my daughter's right to be tough than it is to defend my son's right to be gentle. And that sucks too.

to be fair tho there are solid-color unadorned girls' t-shirts at Target. I got 5 of them the last time I was there.
posted by KathrynT at 8:47 AM on February 20, 2013 [48 favorites]


From Zarq: A “man in [a] passing car shouted ‘hey sexy’ and blew kisses at me.”

It stuns me that anyone does this. There has to be some sort of self-destructive self-assertion taking place. I don't know how some of these guys don't catch a beating. Not that you could catch a guy driving by in a car.

My head asplode reading that article.
Yeah, the hell? It's like it's from the 50s. Oh, guy doing vacuuming! Washing dishes! When did not being useful get equated with being manly?
posted by Smedleyman at 8:48 AM on February 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


UK tabloids are just terrible.

Undoubtedly. But what makes this even more depressing is that The Telegraph is actually a broadsheet.
posted by inire at 8:49 AM on February 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


The bros in town hoot and holler out of vehicle windows at my partner even when she's dressed in five layers for -20C winter conditions. Only the merest suggestion that there might be breasts on a pedestrian and that is all it takes. YOOOOWIEEEE!!
posted by seanmpuckett at 8:55 AM on February 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


A few years ago, I studied abroad in Madrid. Street harassment is common there. Men shout pick-up lines to show their masculinity. One of my classmates asked her professor, a middle-aged woman, how to react to these. The professor told her to take it as a compliment.

And that was the most depressing thing I heard in Spain.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 8:56 AM on February 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


I'm not trying to be dense, but I thought "lady-doctor" was euphemism for OBGYN or something like that.

OK, so here's a terrible anecdote: You know that "brainteaser" where a father and son are in a car accident, and the boy gets taken to a hospital for surgery, but the doctor assigned to him says, "I cannot operate on him--he's my son!" and it ends with asking the listener how it can be? I had a friend, a woman who was in med school at the time, admit to me that it took her embarrassingly long to figure out that the doctor was the boy's mother. It's so ingrained in much of our culture that doctors, pilots, police, etc., are by default men that phrases like "lady doctor" are so common.

What you're thinking of is a ladyparts doctor. Subtle distinction.
posted by psoas at 8:56 AM on February 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


What you're thinking of is a ladyparts doctor. Subtle distinction.

I have also heard "ladyparts doctor" be referred to as "lady doctor". The anecdote is indeed a gray area.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:59 AM on February 20, 2013


It stuns me that anyone does this. There has to be some sort of self-destructive self-assertion taking place. I don't know how some of these guys don't catch a beating. Not that you could catch a guy driving by in a car.

It stuns me that this, er, stuns you... it may be cliche, but cliches exist for a reason. It's not a self-destructive self-assertion thing, it's more like a 'look what a shithead I can be to you because of a cultural power imbalance' thing. Yes, the car helps avoid catching a beating from the target and/or any non-asshole onlookers, so I guess there's some element of cowardice involved. Which is kind of strange.
posted by axiom at 9:00 AM on February 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


It stuns me that anyone does this. There has to be some sort of self-destructive self-assertion taking place. I don't know how some of these guys don't catch a beating.

Self-destructive, hell. They do it because there are no consequences for doing it.

I remember one time last year- I was walking down the street in my neighborhood and some older guy, walking past me, said "nice tits." (I was wearing a t-shirt at the time.) The way he said it... it's really hard for me to understand or explain. It was like he sort of hissed it. He sounded angry, and dismissive at the same time. Like I'd done something to HIM and he was trying to take me down a peg and show me I wasn't all that.

And you know, it worked, because I felt suddenly very helpless and unsafe. I was kind of stunned and didn't say anything, just stopped in my tracks, and he walked on ahead and I realized he was saying it to EVERY WOMAN HE PASSED ON THE SIDEWALK. "Nice tits." "Nice tits." "Hey, nice tits." Old, young, fat, thin, it didn't matter. If he saw a woman she was going to hear it.

I can't say I fully understand why he was doing it, but it was weirdly disturbing. I think about this whenever someone tries to tell me street harassment is a 'compliment'.
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:01 AM on February 20, 2013 [43 favorites]


It stuns me that this, er, stuns you

In a previous MeFi discussion on this topic, another member said that he had trouble believing that catcalling happens endemically, because he lives in a neighborhood (and here he named the neighborhood) where it literally never happens at all. And then I was like "Dude, I was catcalled in that very neighborhood TWO DAYS AGO."

Men and women often have a very different experience of public life.
posted by KathrynT at 9:04 AM on February 20, 2013 [51 favorites]


"It stuns me that anyone does this. There has to be some sort of self-destructive self-assertion taking place. I don't know how some of these guys don't catch a beating. Not that you could catch a guy driving by in a car."

It is an inherently cowardly act. Men who do this seem to be aware small number violently inclined 'hero' types and adjust their catcalling strategies accordingly, opportunistically finding risk free ways to harass women, which incidentally has the effect of convincing men who don't do this that it doesn't happen.
posted by Blasdelb at 9:06 AM on February 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


What you're thinking of is a ladyparts doctor. Subtle distinction.

Hmm. I'm almost sure I've had girlfriends tell me they had an appointment with the "lady doctor" from time to time when they had an OBGYN visit. Of course, they could have meant they have a doctor's appointment and the doctor is a lady, and that is a seemingly important fact, but it's really for these damned bunions or whatever.

Like I said, I'm not trying to be dense. And I also don't want to go around saying things like "lady doctor" if it can be heard as an offensive term when I really don't mean it to be.

The anecdote from the site being a gray area notwithstanding, I just wanted people to weigh on that term.
posted by King Bee at 9:07 AM on February 20, 2013


It stuns me that anyone does this. There has to be some sort of self-destructive self-assertion taking place. I don't know how some of these guys don't catch a beating.

Who'd give them that beating? Whenever we women mention this happens, instead of "how dare they do that" outrage, what we get is guys saying "no, you can't be serious, are you sure it happens, maybe it's just a compliment, lighten up, boys will be boys, etc., etc, etc...."

And thus the reason guys do that is because no one believes they really do do that.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:10 AM on February 20, 2013 [39 favorites]


The anecdote from the site being a gray area notwithstanding, I just wanted people to weigh on that term.

A lot of the submissions to the site are from the UK, and here in the UK I've never heard 'lady doctor' used to mean 'gynaecologist'. (Different medical systems here; you would be unlikely to see a gynaecologist on a regular basis as a matter of course, so they'd probably just be called gynaecologists if you were describing one to somebody.)

I have heard 'lady doctor' used to mean 'doctor who is a lady', though, by the older generation. Also 'lady scientist'.
posted by Catseye at 9:10 AM on February 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


And focusing on stuff like commercial greeting cards makes the effort look trivial.

Everyday sexism is trivial. It's the stuff that saturates the world around us, and, individually, it may seem like its not much, but, collectively, it can really add up.

Individually, these things may seem insignificant. But, then, so is a paper cut, and I wouldn't want a million of them every single day.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 9:11 AM on February 20, 2013 [8 favorites]


As the father of two young boys, I must say that although I wanted a daughter, I also feel like I dodged a bullet in regards to the tremendous pressure girls and young women are under these days.

Having myself matured during a pretty "progressive era" - "feminism" was not a dirty word at all when I went to university - I wonder what the hell happened, that everything for my friends' daughters now (the same Third Wave Feminism friends who wore buttons that proclaimed "No Means No") is all pink and princesses and little tiaras. Like, is this an Alex B. Keaton kind of reactionary backlash? But how can five-year-old girls be reactionary?

It's all so confusing.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:11 AM on February 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


I don't know how some of these guys don't catch a beating.

I live in kind of a rough neighborhood where I am clearly the odd one out based on a number of factors (single white chick living alone), and when I first moved here I got catcalled a lot (no more than anywhere else I've lived in Chicago, but it was the first time I was living by myself in a new neighborhood so it felt different). I'd get it from cars, I'd get it from dudes biking by, I'd get it from random folks on the sidewalk.

So one day I decided that I was going to be all psycho angry person at the next several people who catcalled me. And I did. I ran up to guys in cars (the ones who were at stoplights and such) and berated them. I got right up in the faces of people on the sidewalk and told them to fuck right off. I told some 15 year old kid that he sounded like a fool and needed to shape up because he couldn't talk to women like that. I asked guys how they'd like it if someone were talking to their sisters or daughters like that. I pass a lot of the same people every day, and some dudes got told off twice. If I saw someone catcalling another chick in my vicinity, I went berserk on her behalf.

I spent about two weeks being the psycho angry person. I don't get catcalled in my neighborhood anymore.

And sometimes now, and this is what's really weird, people just say hi to me. Or good morning. Or good afternoon. Like I'm a regular old human or something. It's nice.
posted by phunniemee at 9:12 AM on February 20, 2013 [118 favorites]


mrgrimm: "In my daughter's Thomas the Tank Engine book (ground score), all the workers on the train tracks are men. All the drivers are men."

This is not super-surprising to me since TTT started off in 194whatever. There's also a lot of weirdo classism in the original books, too.
posted by boo_radley at 9:12 AM on February 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have also heard "ladyparts doctor" be referred to as "lady doctor". The anecdote is indeed a gray area.

Fair enough. But in terms of sexism, I can see the offense arising much more easily from the speaker feeling the need to qualify "that doctor is a woman" than "that doctor is an OB/GYN."
posted by psoas at 9:13 AM on February 20, 2013


phunniemee: " If I saw someone catcalling another chick in my vicinity, I went berserk on her behalf."

This is intriguing from a mechanical/ procedural perspective. Did you talk with the catcallee after the fact?
posted by boo_radley at 9:13 AM on February 20, 2013


KathrynT: " Men and women often have a very different experience of public life."

I think it's good to emphasize here that's very much the point of the "Everyday Sexism" project. Very often what are described are "small" indignities which can pass invisibly by those not affected by them. But they add up. And taken in the abstract give us a clear picture of gender imbalance and oppression.
posted by zarq at 9:21 AM on February 20, 2013 [8 favorites]


I've actually had "It's a Baby!" cards custom-made.

I used to make people cards that said "HAVE A NICE BABY!" with the iconic yellow smiley face, but sadly no one seemed to find it as amusing as I did.

("Daddy, where to babies come from?" "Wal-Mart.")
posted by straight at 9:35 AM on February 20, 2013 [9 favorites]


We didn't share the sex of our baby before he was born, mostly in an effort to avoid Severely Gendered Products. My wife's family, helpfully, said that that was fine with them, but they'd like to throw a shower after he was born so that they'd know the sex and thus what to get him.

Thanks, family!
posted by shakespeherian at 9:35 AM on February 20, 2013 [13 favorites]


Telegraph says England rugby captain belittled as girlfriend says he hoovers.

Here I was thinking that was slang for, "He sucks."
posted by straight at 9:38 AM on February 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


but they'd like to throw a shower after he was born so that they'd know the sex and thus what to get him.

That's awesome.
posted by phunniemee at 9:38 AM on February 20, 2013


I've always liked this quote:

"We hear about the birth of a child and ask questions like, ‘What did she have? How much did it weigh?’ and ‘Does it have any hair?’ The Athabaskan Indian hear of a birth and ask, ‘Who came?’ From the beginning, there is a respect for the newborn as a full person." - Lisa Delpit, Other People’s Children: Cultural Conflict in the Classroom)
posted by zarq at 9:42 AM on February 20, 2013 [22 favorites]


There's also a lot of weirdo classism in the original books, too.

The Hidden Sub-Text Of Thomas The Tank Engine
Essentially the steam engines represent the middle class who are subservient to the upper class as represented by the fat controller (who is corpulent, representing wealth and luxury). Their only purpose is to serve him and be loved by him. If not, they are potential scrap. The trucks represent the Proletariat or the working class who have to be kept under control in case of some kind of Marxist insurrection, in which the ‘natural’ order of the island would be disturbed.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:43 AM on February 20, 2013 [10 favorites]


I wonder what the hell happened, that everything for my friends' daughters now (the same Third Wave Feminism friends who wore buttons that proclaimed "No Means No") is all pink and princesses and little tiaras.

*waves* I could be your friends, really. I have a daughter, and she's ten now. When she was born, I had an assortment of clothes--all kinds of colors, from both departments. I was determined to raise her to be as free-thinking about gender and sexuality as I could. No Barbies, no goddamn Disney movies, none of that.

And I managed it ok for about three years. When she was three, I started working outside the home again--prior to that, I'd been freelancing and going to classes as a remote student, so she was always with me. And then at three, she hit daycare. The first few days were ok, and then she started, suddenly, expressing desire for things she'd never cared about or really even been aware of before. Barbies. Princess things.

And for about a year, we pretty much waited it out. She had lots of other toys, and was still mostly with me, and...you know, I thought it would pass. But she got more verbal, and it became increasingly clear to me that no matter how much she liked dolls that weren't Barbies and movies that weren't Disney and clothing that wasn't pink, she was being mocked for it. She was being excluded from games because she didn't know who the fucking Disney princesses were. She was being teased because she was wearing a "boy's color" when she wore her favorite blue shirt, and when she wore her Thomas the Tank Engine shirt, she was mocked for liking a "boy's show".

So I caved. The Christmas that she was four, I told people that, ok, fine, they could get her Barbies. I bought a copy of The Little Mermaid and let her watch it. Because my choices were either allow her to experience a culture that I felt was fundamentally damaging, or watch her be ostracized and bullied, which is also pretty damaging. Mine was the path of the least resistance, and the path where I felt that I had the most ability to mitigate the damage done.

I can sit and watch princess movies with her, and talk about why I think that X and Y are problematic, and how we have friends who are really tall and really fat and really skinny and really dark and really pale, and we love all our friends, not just the ones who look like princesses. I can talk about how it's important to have friends who love you for who you are, not just what you look like. But I couldn't explain to a five year old, and struggle now to explain to a ten year old, why kids will be mean to another kid because they're wearing the wrong color clothing, or why those other kids won't let her play with them because she hasn't seen whatever television show or movie they're fixated on. Because watching her dip her toes into a fucked up, misogynistic, and sexist culture was ultimately less horrifying for me than watching her get smacked down over and over because I didn't want her doing "normal kid" things.

This isn't something that I'm really at peace with. She still plays with the Disney Princess Polly Pocket sets all the time, and it makes me squirmingly uncomfortably. She's certainly internalized some of this stuff--the other day, she asked me if I thought that people would like her more if she lost some weight. She's 5'1" and a hundred pounds. She's certainly picked up on things that I never wanted her to pick up on. But I don't know what else I could have done, and if I were to have another girlchild, I don't know that I'd be able to do it differently.
posted by MeghanC at 9:43 AM on February 20, 2013 [116 favorites]


Speaking of OB/GYN, there is a local such practice near here to which I once had to take my mother. The waiting room was horrifying--the decor reminded me of a Victorian brothel. The place was claustrophobic with lace and flowers. I actually found it offensive in its over-the-top effort to be "girly-girl," and would never set foot there willingly myself regardless of medical need. Appalling.
posted by kinnakeet at 9:44 AM on February 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Watching kids' house league baseball last summer, one father said about the formidable opposing pitcher "Wow, she throws like a guy!" I turned to him dumbfounded and said "No, actually she throws like a girl."
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 9:45 AM on February 20, 2013 [19 favorites]


The key to getting my son to play with (his one, tiny) baby doll was, as his father discovered, giving it a horrible Scottish accent and an insatiable desire to conquer the world. Scottish Baby is a regular villain in their games. I don't know if that subverts anything, or if it simply gives him a warped view of the Scots in place of an avoidance of baby dolls.
posted by emjaybee at 9:51 AM on February 20, 2013 [23 favorites]


As a single father to a currently very young daughter, I really wonder how this is going to work out for us. I feel like I'm a lot less likely to avoid exposing her to "masculine" things, and at the same time I am less likely to expose her to "feminine" things. Also, having no firsthand experience with this stuff I will probably have a different perspective and advice than her mother might have had. I do not take into account my experience of being whistled at on the street, because it has never happened to me, so I'm going to be more likely to tell he, "Sure, you can walk home from school by yourself, I did."

Will this help? Will it hurt? I don't know.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 9:55 AM on February 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


I chose to go with Dora-themed stuff as a gift for my niece this Christmas; as in, Dora the Explorer, the little girl who has a pet monkey and goes out on adventures in the woods and the mountains and the ocean looking for cool shit and who uses her map and her brains to figure stuff out.

Guess how much Dora merchandising recasts Dora as a princess or a mermaid or a ballerina, and emphasizes how pretty Dora looks and how you can brush her hair and put her in pretty dresses and necklaces.

I was able to find a Dora backpack and a Dora binoculars and compass set, but it was pretty grumble-inducing.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:56 AM on February 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yeah, the kids' clothing business is really insidious. My son is two, and he likes glittery, pretty things, as two-year-olds will. He also has androgynous, scruffly hair, because baby hair is adorable and he doesn't want to cut it. And depending on whether or not he's decided to wear (one! teeny tiny!) clip in his hair on any given day, it's assumed that he's either a boy or a girl based (I assume) on that fact alone, and the difference in the attitudes of strangers toward him is completely different. With hair clip = pretty/sweetheart/so well behaved. Without = handsome/lady-killer/such a serious young man.
posted by libraritarian at 9:57 AM on February 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


Oh wow, ThatCanadianGirl, that literally just reminded me of something that happened to me when I was about 11. A bunch of families in my dad's graduate program went on a camping trip together. Most of the children were girls, but I don't know how relevant that is.

The dads were fixing lines to innertubes to hitch to the power boat to go tubing and I was helping my dad. I overheard one of the dads say something to my dad along the lines of "Guess you're getting a jock for that one, instead of a training bra" and I was absolutely mortified. Horrified that an adult male would make a comment about my secondary sex characteristics. Horrified that I was not my father's daughter because I was handy with a boat knot. And also horrified that maybe I was just confused by what he meant. Also horrified because I wasn't sure if I was supposed to have heard it.

In my hearing, my dad just ignored the remark. Although a few minutes later, he praised my knots, corrected one I had not done properly, and then thanked me for my help.

At any rate, I stopped helping after dad said thanks and stopped helping generally with anything but cooking on that camping trip. In fact, although I sometimes went fishing with my dad on charter boats in college, that was the very last time I helped Dad with his boat until I was 30-some-odd years old, and his boat was moored next to a beautiful sailboat, whose best sailor--everyone knew--was the wife.
posted by crush-onastick at 9:57 AM on February 20, 2013 [49 favorites]


There's this whole recurring trope one sees across threads over time here in which the extraordinary everyday differences between the sexes is retold only to shock and reshock us fellows and I sometimes wonder if there wasn't room for a hidden cam/mike compilation by lots of women to be made into a doco. Or maybe it has been and I'm not aware. I also wonder if I had been able to experience these differences as a teenager, even if only via film, whether I might have tuned into, and developed recognition/empathy for, these parallel worlds earlier in life.
posted by peacay at 10:03 AM on February 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


At any rate, I stopped helping after dad said thanks and stopped helping generally with anything but cooking on that camping trip.

et voila: the damage sexism does. It's why we can't just ignore it because our kids won't.
posted by emjaybee at 10:04 AM on February 20, 2013 [40 favorites]


On one hand the focus of commercial product segments feels like a weird blame shifting. Shops/products are stats/sales/market driven. The finger should at the least also be on the consumer who encourage this segmentation.
posted by asra at 10:12 AM on February 20, 2013


Tiny offhand bullshit comments can snowball immensely. Why it's critical to never let one slide.
posted by seanmpuckett at 10:12 AM on February 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


The finger should at the least also be on the consumer who encourage this segmentation.

Um, what? It's my fault that I can't get gender neutral clothing for my daughter, because I buy the pink crap that's available so she doesn't have to go naked?
posted by KathrynT at 10:14 AM on February 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


The finger should at the least also be on the consumer who encourage this segmentation.

Why should the consumer be blamed for choosing a given option when it often is the only option they have to choose from?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:14 AM on February 20, 2013


On one hand the focus of commercial product segments feels like a weird blame shifting. Shops/products are stats/sales/market driven. The finger should at the least also be on the consumer who encourage this segmentation.

To be fair, Metafilter is mainly populated by a certain demographic. A demographic that probably isn't the target market for 3T sweatpants with Juicy on them.
posted by madajb at 10:17 AM on February 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


MeghanC: " This isn't something that I'm really at peace with. She still plays with the Disney Princess Polly Pocket sets all the time, and it makes me squirmingly uncomfortably. She's certainly internalized some of this stuff--the other day, she asked me if I thought that people would like her more if she lost some weight. She's 5'1" and a hundred pounds. She's certainly picked up on things that I never wanted her to pick up on. But I don't know what else I could have done, and if I were to have another girlchild, I don't know that I'd be able to do it differently."

My wife and I made similar plans for our daughter. Absolutely no princesses or barbies. No gendered stuff for girls that was demeaning or contained destructive body imagery. And above all, no pink. So of course, as soon as she could talk she started demanding pink-everything.

But more than that, it is very hard to avoid this stuff if your daughter has friends. Our culture is saturated with princess stuff for girls. A friend gave her a Barbie doll and I hit the roof. My wife took it away from her. But when your child is three years old, it's impossible to explain why Barbie is bad. So eventually we caved. We now spend a lot of time talking to our kids about the things they can do and are capable of. Empowering them beyond Western stereotypes. Showing them tv shows and movies that feature girls who are equal to men. Only time will tell how successful we are.

But I'm a little hopeful for another reason. A couple of months ago, my daughter was standing in a group of older girls. The subject of princesses came up, and someone asked her what she a princess should have:
My daughter: "A crown. A tiara."
Group: "Yes, very good. What else?"
My daughter: "A horse!"
Group: "Yes, okay. Right. What else?"
My daughter: "A magic wand!"
Group: *laughing* "Yay! What else?"
My daughter: "A prince!"
Group: "No WAY. You don't need a prince if you're a princess."

Eyebrows McGee recommended Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture to me in chat a few months ago. It's a good read.
posted by zarq at 10:23 AM on February 20, 2013 [9 favorites]


There's this whole recurring trope one sees across threads over time here in which the extraordinary everyday differences between the sexes is retold only to shock and reshock us fellows and I sometimes wonder if there wasn't room for a hidden cam/mike compilation by lots of women to be made into a doco.

These threads are always a bit confusing to me.
On the one hand, I don't doubt the veracity of any of the anecdotes given. Honestly, who would make this stuff up?

But on the other hand, my wife, who is a perfectly normal, attractive woman, could probably count on one hand the number of times anything along these lines has happened to her. So much so that the one time she was catcalled in our driveway is one of her favorite stories.

Is she completely oblivious? Does it just not affect her? Are other women just too sensitive? Are they somehow getting my wife's share of harassment?

So, yeah, some sort of "life cam" recording would be so fascinating to me.
posted by madajb at 10:26 AM on February 20, 2013


On the one hand, I don't doubt the veracity of any of the anecdotes given. Honestly, who would make this stuff up?

But on the other hand, my wife, who is a perfectly normal, attractive woman, could probably count on one hand the number of times anything along these lines has happened to her. So much so that the one time she was catcalled in our driveway is one of her favorite stories.

Is she completely oblivious? Does it just not affect her? Are other women just too sensitive? Are they somehow getting my wife's share of harassment?


I have a theory about this. How does the affluence level of the places your wife has lived compare to that of the people posting these anecdotes? And I'm not even implying that rich people are less sexist, just that they're less likely to shout from the windows of cars.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 10:31 AM on February 20, 2013 [9 favorites]


asra: "On one hand the focus of commercial product segments feels like a weird blame shifting. Shops/products are stats/sales/market driven. The finger should at the least also be on the consumer who encourage this segmentation."

Eh, I don't really buy this. A bunch of people have already spoken up here about how they'd like to make different choices for their kids, searching stores fruitlessly for more options. At some point, the realm of possible choice is limited by the people putting those choices on the table.
posted by lookoutbelow at 10:31 AM on February 20, 2013


Sexist, classist, whatever. Thomas the Tank Engine is awesome purely on the basis of the body count that those freewheeling engines of death cause on an average episode.

Ignore a stop signal and plow into a siding? At worst, Sir Toppham Fat Controller will become cross, denoted by his mouth forming a small "o".
posted by dr_dank at 10:32 AM on February 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


There's this whole recurring trope one sees across threads over time here in which the extraordinary everyday differences between the sexes is retold only to shock and reshock us fellows and I sometimes wonder if there wasn't room for a hidden cam/mike compilation by lots of women to be made into a doco.

I wouldn't be surprised if the Kickstarter for that project got swamped under "NAH THAT COULDN'T BE."
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 10:32 AM on February 20, 2013


a hidden cam/mike compilation by lots of women to be made into a doco. Or maybe it has been and I'm not aware.

It has been done. It was FPP'd on MeFi in August last year. "Sofie Peeters's account of everyday sexist insults women face triggers debate about inaction over universal problem".
posted by fraula at 10:35 AM on February 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


MeghanC's story reminded me of an incident last summer when I took my two sons to the local wading pool. Another boy holding two water guns approached my four year old and offered one to him, wanting to play. We have no toy weapons in our house, and my son actually did not know how to hold the water gun properly, and I had a split-second decision to make: hold fast to the "no guns" rule or let my kid play with another kid at the pool. So I showed him how to hold the water gun, fill it up, and spray it. With some misgivings. I remember all too well how the need to fit in with the peer group is so intensely felt, and how not fun it is to be the weird kid whose parent has crazy rules. Allowing boys to be gentle is a challenge too.
posted by ambrosia at 10:38 AM on February 20, 2013 [8 favorites]


I have a theory about this. How does the affluence level of the places your wife has lived compare to that of the people posting these anecdotes? And I'm not even implying that rich people are less sexist, just that they're less likely to shout from the windows of cars.

Fairly middle-classy around here. And it's a pretty liberal area we live in now, in general.
Mainly, she's lived in relatively suburban/small urban areas. No real time in large cities.

On the other hand, she works in a very male-dominated field, so you'd think she have some good stories about lecherous professors or something.
posted by madajb at 10:42 AM on February 20, 2013


Just because sexism is rampant doesn't mean every woman is subjected to it equally of course and for some it might be easier to ignore it or come to an accommodation with it. Some women might be just as clueless as most men are about this stuff.
posted by MartinWisse at 10:46 AM on February 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Merci fraula! Shame the links are now dead. I presume that was the film of one woman's problematic encounters? I think the impact would be orders of magnitude greater if a documentary included the negative events experienced by many different women in many different places and situations.
posted by peacay at 10:48 AM on February 20, 2013


Catcalling is definitely neighborhood-specific and it's also pedestrian-specific -- not that you'll never get catcalled if you drive, but it happens much less, I think.

Last year I moved a mere six blocks -- less than a mile -- from a quite poor neighborhood to a slightly more affluent (but still very working-class) one. The catcalling dropped off very suddenly and dramatically, though not to zero.
posted by Jeanne at 10:52 AM on February 20, 2013


How does the affluence level of the places your wife has lived compare to that of the people posting these anecdotes? And I'm not even implying that rich people are less sexist, just that they're less likely to shout from the windows of cars.

I grew up in upper middle class southern suburbia (suburbia that existed without the help of a nearby actual city), and didn't encounter a single instance of catcalling (either toward myself or others) until I moved to Chicago.

What I did experience, nearly constantly, was the girls-are-pretty, girls-are-dainty, girls-need-men-to-do-hard-things-for-them variety of sexism, the kind that tends to get justified as a guy being overly chivalrous, and something that if you're raised in an environment where everyone does it all the time, it's seen as the baseline normal.

I get much, much less of that kind of infantilizing sexism up here.
posted by phunniemee at 10:54 AM on February 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


I presume that was the film of one woman's problematic encounters?

Yes. The FPP got bogged down in critique about the film and observations that women could "think about what signals they send out" and such, if memory serves.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:55 AM on February 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


I have nothing to say about the site itself, because it is both unsurprising and infuriating, but chiming in on the "responding aggressively to street harassment" tales. I used to ignore it because I was afraid (and, to be frank, rightly so.) Then I got so angry that I wasn't afraid any more and started responding to it with some measure of logic. And that was even scarier because it went, in literally less than ten seconds, from "woooo give us a kiss honey" at a red light to "suck a dick and die, bitch!" and death threats just because I yelled, "Don't harass women!"

So now it's give no quarter. If they are nuts, I go more nuts. I will scream, I will yell, I will flip you off, I will tell you to suck my dick, asshole, I will come after you. I have on occasion screamed, "I WILL FUCK YOU UP" and sprinted after someone's car (knowing I wasn't going to catch it). And you know what? They shut up and leave, but more importantly, I have made a shitton of split-second spur-of-the-moment street friends, mostly women but some men too. Women waiting at stop lights who didn't say one word to me before tell me, "Oh wow, you are awesome," after I tell someone to go fuck themselves. And that makes me feel a little better.

It's definitely not for everybody. I hate that I have to be so aggressive just to be left alone as I walk down the street because not everybody's comfortable doing that and that's not a skill every female-bodied person should have to develop just to pay the rage-rent that's required for not being harassed. But damn do I feel better than when I just kept my head down.
posted by WidgetAlley at 10:56 AM on February 20, 2013 [50 favorites]


There's this whole recurring trope one sees across threads over time here in which the extraordinary everyday differences between the sexes is retold only to shock and reshock us fellows and I sometimes wonder if there wasn't room for a hidden cam/mike compilation by lots of women to be made into a doco. Or maybe it has been and I'm not aware.

Here ya go! We can start in Belgium of all places: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/video/2012/aug/03/femme-de-la-rue-sexism-brussels-video

posted by cairdeas at 10:57 AM on February 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


"But on the other hand, my wife, who is a perfectly normal, attractive woman, could probably count on one hand the number of times anything along these lines has happened to her. So much so that the one time she was catcalled in our driveway is one of her favorite stories.

Is she completely oblivious? Does it just not affect her? Are other women just too sensitive? Are they somehow getting my wife's share of harassment?
"
Even setting aside other factors that could influence one's likelihood of being catcalled, one would imagine that those factors would only distort the probability of encountering a catcaller in any fixed interval of time, which should otherwise logically fall into a Poisson distribution. This would already statistically explain both the large number of women who have experienced little to no catcalling, the large number of women who have experienced a lot of catcalling, and the many women who experience constant catcalling - and this is just considering the collision dynamics absent things like geography, class, and perceived toughness that would only further explain the wide range in experienced catcalls.
posted by Blasdelb at 10:59 AM on February 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


And then at three, she hit daycare. The first few days were ok, and then she started, suddenly, expressing desire for things she'd never cared about or really even been aware of before. Barbies. Princess things.

On the flipside, in Canada at least, hockey is the equivalent of pink and princess tiaras. I hate hockey and think it is a cancerous growth (or, at the very least, a stinking stain) plaguing Canadian society, but, at any rate, my eldest son picked up a passion for it at school, so much so that I've shelled out hundreds of dollars in league fees and purchasing equipment... just for ball hockey.

Things like being able to talk about hockey provide boys with valuable social currency that lets them integrate with their peers. I don't know what benefits dressing in pink does for a girl - fitting in, I suppose.

Still, I wonder what brought it all on. The people designing and marketing the princess crap must all be part of the Gen X cohort. Is it resentment about the somewhat priggish, asexual social milieu of university campuses twenty years ago?

I don't think so, because the business majors who run Mattel now were all having fun back then. This princess stuff is a real mystery to me as a parent.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:04 AM on February 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


madajb said: Is she completely oblivious? Does it just not affect her? Are other women just too sensitive? Are they somehow getting my wife's share of harassment?

tylerkaraszewski replied: I have a theory about this. How does the affluence level of the places your wife has lived compare to that of the people posting these anecdotes? And I'm not even implying that rich people are less sexist, just that they're less likely to shout from the windows of cars.

I think tylerk has it here. If I were to plot the instances of catcalling in my life on a chart, they would reveal almost nothing about me--how old I was, what I was wearing, whether or not I'm attractive--but they would show you a lot about where I was standing. In a rich neighborhood in Chicago? No catcalls. In a high school? Moderate catcalls. Walking down a busy street in a working class neighborhood? Some catcalls. Walking down a largely empty street in a working class or depressed neighborhood? A whole lot of catcalls. Near the federal courthouse? only from the homeless guys on the corner. Near the criminal courthouse? So much that usually a deputy will say something.

Like showbiz_liz said above, catcalls are primarily angry and dismissive. "Like I'd done something to HIM and he was trying to take me down a peg and show me I wasn't all that." You don't run into a lot of that in expensive neighborhoods or on suburban street corners.

I think partly because the elements of social order which come out in catcalling are based on more than just gender. Men at the very bottom of the social order--who don't have social power because they are too young (high school students) or because they are too poor or too much the wrong race--claim power by diminishing women through catcalls. You'd notice that the type and amount of vitriol thrown in a catcall varies greatly not only by neighborhood, but also by target. A woman who looks like she belongs in the neighborhood hears much uglier stuff than a woman who looks like she doesn't. Because the woman who doesn't belong, she can just leave or, if she calls the police, they'll respond. Or the "man whose duty it is to protect her" will step up and it's likely he's above the catcaller in the social order and the catcaller is taking a risk catcalling her that he's not taking catcalling someone else.

It's really complicated.

It's nothing like the sexism dynamic of working in a male dominated profession. I lost track of the number of times a male attorney would interrupt me to address the court on a motion which I had filed. Or the number of times a male judge would ignore me, even though I was the only woman in front of him and the motion was CLEARLY filed by a person with a woman's name. These men would never say "nice tits" or wolfwhistle at me or anything else so obviously sexist and inappropriate. But they will absolutely talk over me because I am a woman or refuse to take my counsel when I'm the only one in the meeting with the sense and expertise to say the client is going to lose hard if we take this dumbass argument to court. Catcalls are easy to identify as sexism; mistreatment at work is harder to quantify as sexist.
posted by crush-onastick at 11:07 AM on February 20, 2013 [62 favorites]


Speaking of sexism dressed up in chivalry's clothes, the response to the first letter here is spectacular.
posted by shiu mai baby at 11:09 AM on February 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


This site does make me wonder about the distinction between "sexist" and "gendered". A lot of the things described are very much gendered, but don't necessarily imply that one gender is less capable. Even the boys and girls clothes discussion: if so-called girls' clothes depict horses, and boys clothes have dinosaurs, I could see the argument that horses are draft animals and dinosaurs are powerful. But if girls clothes are pink and boys clothes are blue, so what? If an OB/GYN's office has a decor that one woman finds oppressively Victorian (but other women like), is that enforcing the subjugation of women, or merely expressing the female doctor's aesthetic preferences?
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 11:12 AM on February 20, 2013


To parents seeking gender-neutral tees, etc: Michael's arts and crafts stores have plain shirts of all colors for $3. This is not to say the store is free of princess-vs-baseball themes in its toys and other items. But they also have iron-on letters. designs, and patches, so you and your kids can do DIY embellished shirts for less than the price of the gender stereotyped versions in stores.
posted by juniper at 11:16 AM on February 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


A lot of the things described are very much gendered, but don't necessarily imply that one gender is less capable. Even the boys and girls clothes discussion: if so-called girls' clothes depict horses, and boys clothes have dinosaurs, I could see the argument that horses are draft animals and dinosaurs are powerful. But if girls clothes are pink and boys clothes are blue, so what?

Well, the stunning lack of things that are equal (standard embellishment-free clothing for all kids, toys intended for all kids) primes kids from the second they're born that girls [blank] like this and boys [blank] like that.

If all you see right from the start is that boys and girls are fundamentally in some way different, the real sexist stuff is set to absorb even faster, because you've already learned that that's just the way it is.
posted by phunniemee at 11:22 AM on February 20, 2013 [16 favorites]


If an OB/GYN's office has a decor that one woman finds oppressively Victorian (but other women like), is that enforcing the subjugation of women, or merely expressing the female doctor's aesthetic preferences?

I wonder, if the doctor were female but a urologist rather than an OB/GYN, would she still decorate all Victorian-lace-doily-and-flowers even if those were her preferred aesthetic? I'm betting no.

Some gendered things look "just" gendered and not "sexist" until you encounter one of the many people who will remark on your son wearing a pink shirt with a rainbow horse on it reminds you that very little is "just" gendered when it comes to kid stuff.
posted by rtha at 11:25 AM on February 20, 2013


if so-called girls' clothes depict horses, and boys clothes have dinosaurs, I could see the argument that horses are draft animals and dinosaurs are powerful.

But in the first place, "horses are draft animals" isn't the existing cultural shorthand in place for horses being on girl's clothing. Having to try to own it with a new cultural definition smacks of Humpty Dumpty saying "a word means what I say it means," and having to explain to everyone that your own definition for horse is different and what's wrong with you all that you don't mean it the same way?

In the second place - what if you're a girl who doesn't like horses?

If an OB/GYN's office has a decor that one woman finds oppressively Victorian (but other women like), is that enforcing the subjugation of women, or merely expressing the female doctor's aesthetic preferences?

There is a good point to this - in that a doctor should be able to design their office however the hell they want. (I'm thinking of the dentist who designed his office like the USS ENTERPRISE.)

But it's a gray area in this case, I think, because this may also be a way of giving into the impulse medicine has of twee-ing up and infantilizing women's health. You're correct that the doctor may indeed have legitimately liked Victoriana, but...being a woman and seeing the cultural baggage that surrounds discussions of women's health, I'd wager that there's some other factors at play here.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:27 AM on February 20, 2013


ThatFuzzyBastard, it goes far beyond just "girls clothes are pink and boys clothes are blue". Girl's clothes say "I'm too pretty to do my homework", or "I'm too pretty to do math". Girl baby toys are diamond rings. Girl's video-games are about babysitting, not science. Gwen Sharp's blog at Sociological Images is a fantastic resources for all sorts of subtled gendered advertising, in a way that the female gender is always portrayed to be nurturing and sweet and the male gender is portrayed as powerful. (See also that Bic for Her nonsense.)

If you grow up around this, you internalize messages: that society's definition of femininity comes before your individuality. That girls aren't good at STEM things. That girls need to be sweet and loving above any other trait. That beauty is the beginning and end of your self-worth. That boys should lead. That boys aren't allowed to be sensitive, or show feelings. And that's incredibly pernicious. (Not to mention: what about girls who don't like pink or the boys who do? What happens when they get ostracized because they're not conforming enough?)

Furthermore, so much of this "X for girls" bullshit reinforces that the default gender is male. That something is meant for boys/men, until someone comes along and makes a version that women can safely consume, often at a mark-up. (Marked-up every-day items for a population that gets paid much less than its male counterpart? Of course! No social disadvantage there at all.)
posted by Phire at 11:31 AM on February 20, 2013 [36 favorites]


A lot of the things described are very much gendered, but don't necessarily imply that one gender is less capable.

Plenty of people already responding to this but I can't help adding my impression, something that took me a good part of my adult life to realize. The cumulative effect of countless little things—simple and seemingly inconsequential things like "gendered" clothing—is much more sinister than the mere colour of a t-shirt. It's a reinforcement of the mind-bogglingly insidious and pervasive idea that women can't possibly have the same richness of inner life and quality of intelligence that men have simply by virtue of being men. Despite a progressive upbringing full of strong women and the feminist ideals instilled in me by my three moms, it's something I still catch colouring my everday thoughts. Why do I think like that? I'm familiar enough with the whole "choose your choice" line of reasoning that says, for example, if someone wants Victorian decor in their office they are well within their rights. The issue here though is not choice, but lack of choice.
posted by Lorin at 11:38 AM on February 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


As I was sitting at my desk reading this thread, one of my coworkers was heading out the door with a guest he'd just come back from lunch with.

Coworker: "I've got to go pick up my keys at the restaurant. I dropped them."
His guest: "Like a girl."

*sigh*
posted by duien at 11:44 AM on February 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


This might be a little off the rails in terms of relevancy to the over-all thrust of this thread, but man reading these comments sort of forced out memories of when I was a kid. Basically it just made me remember how frustrating it was as a kid to have your preferences disregarded (over and over and over again) because of your sex. I don't envy you parents, because even if you try to give your kid freedom everyone around you is trying to shove them in a box.

I was sort of inherently on a 'fuck you gender roles' kick as a kid and didn't and like 'girly stuff' and I was very vocal about it. Mom and Dad were really good about it and didn't really seem to care; they'd get me the things I asked for. But every goddamn birthday and Christmas, despite me (and my mom especially) telling my relatives point blank that I under no circumstances wanted Barbies or baby dolls or pink shit, I got it from all sides. People lovingly made dresses for me that I was forced to wear out of a sense of gratitude and then I'd just be pissed off and bitter about it. The idea of getting things I actually wanted for my birthday was pretty foreign, really. Mostly my brother and I just shared his toys.

When we redecorated my room and my aunt asked me what kind of lamp I wanted for it I said and I quote "anything BUT pink and/or flowers", and I got a pink flower lamp. I would brush this off as a simple mistake except it was not an isolated incident. Because that is what a lot of people hear when a little girl tells them what they want: they miss all of the words of substance and hear 'pink' and 'flowers'. Nothing else makes sense. We need to change that.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 11:49 AM on February 20, 2013 [16 favorites]


Girl's clothes say "I'm too pretty to do my homework", or "I'm too pretty to do math".

I...oh god. I didn't realize it had gotten this bad. It's like that awful Barbie doll.
posted by phunniemee at 12:09 PM on February 20, 2013


My first language is a gendered one, and I remember being very young and using the wrong gender to form sentences (ie, speaking as though I was a little boy not a little girl). My family corrected me constantly but I wanted to do everything my older brother did and I just couldn't understand WHY I had to speak differently than he did, even if there's not anything intrinsically wrong with it.
posted by Aubergine at 12:14 PM on February 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Zarq: But I'm a little hopeful for another reason. A couple of months ago, my daughter was standing in a group of older girls. The subject of princesses came up, and someone asked her what she a princess should have[...]

Score! And kids are clever--they pick up on stuff. I sincerely believe--or, at least, I allow myself to believe--that our daughters will grow up and remember that time that a bunch of people said they didn't need a prince, or the time that someone said it was silly that the princess had to get married, or whatever.

The flipside, of course, is that they pick up on stuff...even when we don't want them to. My daughter and I were coming home yesterday, and she looked at me and sighed. "You know," she said, "I really wish there were more girls in businesses." I asked her what she meant, because...wha? And she said, "Oh, you know. All these signs for things. There aren't ever any girls on them."

On one hand, I'm glad that she's able to look at it and recognize it as a deficiency; on the other hand, she's ten and has already identified that while girls may have jobs, boys are, as she says, in business.
posted by MeghanC at 12:14 PM on February 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


I've been following the feed for about 8 months now and sometimes it rolls off me, and some days I have to shut off the Twitter because I have had enough.

I can't imagine the person I'd be if I lived in a city with an active subway system. I think I'd never go out. When I worked in Hollywood, the walk from my car to my office was a nightmare on a daily basis. Today I work in a relatively wealthy area and live in suburbia. I hardly get catcalled at all anymore - I had been thinking that it was partly the fact that I'm over 40, but geographic socioeconomics certainly has a lot to do with it.
posted by Sophie1 at 12:18 PM on February 20, 2013


the default gender is male

I was on a plane and had to take my 3-year-old daughter to the bathroom. We got in there and she complained that this was "the boys room" -- she pointed to the diagram of the person putting trash in the proper receptacle, but of course the icon for "person" was exactly the same as the one that's also used for "men's room."
posted by straight at 12:32 PM on February 20, 2013 [14 favorites]


Yes, you have to speak up. You can't just put your head down and ignore it when people harass you on the street. I do and it feels good. It felt really good when a couple of low life scumbags ogled my 15 year old daughter and her friend on the streets of Miami. I turned around and said, "Shut up. Watch your mouth. Don't talk to them." They probably called me all sorts of names once we were out of earshot, but the important thing was communicating to a couple of 15 year old girls that NO ONE has the right to verbally assault them. So for those in the thread who rant and rail at the harassers: right on, sisters.

Oh, and to the couple of you singing the praises of Thomas the Tank Engine? Please. Most sexist kids show on TV. Have you ever seen a girl train on that show that wasn't vain, or stupid, or selfish? Get back to me on that.
posted by Kokopuff at 12:37 PM on February 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Smedleyman: Where do modern romance languages stand with the noun genders?

Interesting question. In French, this is a big debate. France tends to be more reserved than Québec in terms of the "feminization of names of professions" (French Wikipedia link). So, for example, a in France, a woman who is president of something would be "Madame le Président" and a woman who is a professor would be "Madame le Professeur" -- keeping the male form of the name of the profession.
Hélène Carrère d'Encausse, a historian of Russia and member of the prestigious Académie Française, is herself opposed to the feminization of professional titles -- she prefers to be "le Sécretaire perpetuel" (the Permanent Secretary) and not "la Sécretaire perpetuelle" of the Académie. Of course, to become a member of the Académie, one has to typically be rather conservative in regard to usage.

In Québec, meanwhile, you would be more likely to encounter "Madame la Présidente" and "Madame la Professeure."* This is complicated by the fact that historically "la Présidente" referred to the wife of a president; however, this usage is being replaced by "Première Dame" (First Lady) and "Premier Monsieur" (First Gentleman), following American precedent.

I think there can be arguments made on both sides on the value of having "feminine" versions of names of professions. On the one hand, it can be seen as breaking down the default supposition of male-ness involved by using a masculine noun as the default or all-encompassing term (the attitude embodied by the conservative William Safire, who, defending the use of "man" and "he" to mean humankind in general and an abstract individual, respectively, said that "the male embraces the female.") On the other hand, one could argue that having different versions institutes a distinction where one need not exist: think of the gender-role assumptions behind such terms as "lady trucker" and "male nurse."

In Spanish (and maybe Portuguese, too), some have tried to get around this by taking advantage of a happy accident of Spanish spelling. Nouns and adjectives that end in "o" are typically masculine (and thus, historically, default) and those that end in "a" are typically feminine. You will see things now addressed to, for example, "Latin@s," (PDF) subsuming both the "o" and the "a" into the at-sign.

One final tidbit: A (rather conservative) colleague of mine, who is a woman, referred to her mother as the "executrix" (feminine form of the Latin "executor") of her grandfather's estate.

*I always thought -- if one accepts this system -- that this should be "professeuse," like "masseur / masseuse", "danseur / danseuse", etc.
posted by dhens at 12:39 PM on February 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


KokuRyu: " Still, I wonder what brought it all on. The people designing and marketing the princess crap must all be part of the Gen X cohort. Is it resentment about the somewhat priggish, asexual social milieu of university campuses twenty years ago?

I don't think so, because the business majors who run Mattel now were all having fun back then. This princess stuff is a real mystery to me as a parent.
"

In part, money. They've hit upon a winning formula that parents buy into. Literally buy into. Hasbro and Disney are geniuses at this. Hasbro makes lots of characters centered in a single universe. Transformers, etc. Disney makes fewer characters, but tons of branded items based on them.

Not directly princess-related, but a different example: Take the Pixar Cars movies. There are Cars brand stickers/coloring books/beds/bedding/toys/appliances/board games/video games/handheld device games/leapfrog books/clothing/shoes, etc., etc of every imaginable variety. I know this because I have spent the equivalent of a small country's GDP on a bunch of it. My son was given a Cars Monopoly game for his birthday. I had no idea such a thing even existed. The characters are Disney. The game is by Hasbro. The lesson is insidious: Teach your kid to be a successful capitalist land owner so one day he too can buy DisBro branded stuff for his child.

The movies are only the first step. They're entrance drugs. The real money is in the stuff parents buy because they know their kids love Cars -- and if they're stupid enough to take the kid with them to the toy store (or Target, or Walmart, etc) all they'll hear is "LOOK DADDY IT'S MATER! I LOVE MATER! COULD YOU BUY ME MATER, DADDY? HE TALKS!" For a plastic car that's probably four times the price of a non-branded one.

They make the stuff because kids want it and their parents will buy it. Princess stuff is similarly branded. Disney does this for every one of their new movies. Pixar's getting the same treatment.

My daughter likes playing dress up. She loves making up and telling stories. She loves princesses. Princesses get to be in charge. They get to ride horses, shoot a bow and arrow, and brain the bad guy with a frying pan if he gets out of line. They sing cool songs and wear cool clothes. And they're girls. The appeal is obvious. But making sure she doesn't internalize the negative lessons has been interesting.
posted by zarq at 12:42 PM on February 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Every time I bring homemade goodies into work: "Oh, did your wife make these?"/"Thank your wife for us."/etc.
posted by ODiV at 12:46 PM on February 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


The only lesson I ever learned from Monopoly is that capitalism is boring as shit.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:48 PM on February 20, 2013 [10 favorites]


I was wrapping up a late-night tour of a museum, when a father (with a group of kids!) told me that it was okay if the sleepover room at the museum was hot, because he'd just sleep in his underwear. And then he kind of half-winked at me.

Dude, no. Just no. I can't imagine a single scenario where talking to a volunteer about your underwear choices is okay, and I just can't imagine why he said it to me, and not to my many male volunteer counterparts.
posted by jetlagaddict at 12:48 PM on February 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh, and to the couple of you singing the praises of Thomas the Tank Engine? Please. Most sexist kids show on TV. Have you ever seen a girl train on that show that wasn't vain, or stupid, or selfish? Get back to me on that.

I think the point of the show is that all of the characters, with the exception of the Fat Controller, are vain, stupid and selfish from time to time. I dislike the show, not only because of its simplistic morality plays, but mostly because the associated crap at the toystore is so over-priced.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:51 PM on February 20, 2013


One final tidbit: A (rather conservative) colleague of mine, who is a woman, referred to her mother as the "executrix" (feminine form of the Latin "executor") of her grandfather's estate.

Whatever rules we adopt must preserve executrix because it's one of the best words in the English language.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 12:56 PM on February 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


Every time I bring homemade goodies into work: "Oh, did your wife make these?"/"Thank your wife for us."/etc.

I stopped bringing cookies to work when I got called the "office mom" by a guy ten years older than me.
posted by subject_verb_remainder at 12:57 PM on February 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


And they're girls. The appeal is obvious. But making sure she doesn't internalize the negative lessons has been interesting.

I have a Daisy/Brownie Girl Scout troop, and as my peer group and I don't have any kids (or, at least none that aren't still babies), this is really the only time I interact with kids that age.

While we're waiting for all the girls to show up, I like to sit with them and do One Good One Bad to get them talking. Several meetings ago, every single one of them pulled out a Monster High doll to show it off and talk about how awesome it was, and I was horrified.

The dolls have impossible body shapes, are all makeupy-faced, and are wearing extremely revealing clothes. And the characters are supposed to be kids! And my girls are only 5-9 years old!

So I, getting all het up about positive body image and so forth, try to open a dialogue like a good feminist soldier, and ask them what they thought about how the dolls looked, and if they thought it was weird that they weren't shaped like real people, and a whole host of things like that to kind of gauge what kind of impact these dolls were having on these little girls.

And I swear to you, every single one of them thought I was crazy. One girl, a second grader, put her hand on mine and said, "you know they're not real, right? This one is named Ghoulia. She is a zombie."

I think those kids are gonna be just fine.
posted by phunniemee at 1:02 PM on February 20, 2013 [22 favorites]


In part, money. They've hit upon a winning formula that parents buy into. Literally buy into. Hasbro and Disney are geniuses at this. Hasbro makes lots of characters centered in a single universe. Transformers, etc. Disney makes fewer characters, but tons of branded items based on them.

We have the most basic of basic cable (Essentially the 3 networks, pbs, and random spanish channels) so we miss all of the Nick/Disney/Cartoon/etc shows and tie-ins.
It makes for an interesting clash of cultures when we visit people's houses and their preschooler wants to play "Dora" and mine has no idea who that is.

Also fascinating is a trip to the toy aisle, where the only things I recognize are the classic toys from my childhood, though they all seem to have grown huge eyes....

Even now though, when I think about it, even PBS, which you'd think would be a bastion of equality definitely skews towards male lead characters in their kid-oriented shows.
posted by madajb at 1:03 PM on February 20, 2013


I'm normally meh on the whole princess controversy, because I've got a 7-year-old daughter who means everything to me and who loves anything and everything to do with princesses and pink and sparkly. So glass-half-full type that I am, I tend to only see the sweetness in it.

But even at that, this cracked me up. From one of my daughter's Barbie books. Somebody had to actually write that.
posted by jbickers at 1:04 PM on February 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I chose to go with Dora-themed stuff as a gift for my niece this Christmas; as in, Dora the Explorer, the little girl who has a pet monkey and goes out on adventures in the woods and the mountains and the ocean looking for cool shit and who uses her map and her brains to figure stuff out.

Guess how much Dora merchandising recasts Dora as a princess or a mermaid or a ballerina, and emphasizes how pretty Dora looks and how you can brush her hair and put her in pretty dresses and necklaces.

I was able to find a Dora backpack and a Dora binoculars and compass set, but it was pretty grumble-inducing.


Despite these issues, Dora is actually a pretty interesting case. Boys and girls both like Dora, so much so that Diego got a spin-off that was supposed to appeal more to boys. From everything I've heard -- both of it, admittedly, anecdotally -- is that Diego hasn't proven to be the huge success it was expected to be and boys still prefer Dora.
posted by asnider at 1:12 PM on February 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


But even at that, this cracked me up. From one of my daughter's Barbie books. Somebody had to actually write that.

The Lion, the Witch, the Fashion Designer, and the Wardrobe.
posted by asnider at 1:13 PM on February 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


On the princess thing, I've just been reading Natasha Walter's Living Dolls: The Return of Sexism, and there's a great chapter on princessification and biological determinism. She describes taking her daughter to a friend's princess party:
My daughter didn't join in for a while. 'She's feeling a bit shy,' I explained to one or two other mothers, as she sat on my lap for a while, watching. 'I wish I had a girl,' said one. 'So quiet. Thomas is such a handful.' Later I heard the same mother in the kitchen, with Thomas clinging to her leg and refusing to speak. 'He's like his dad,' she was saying. 'Grunts rather than talks when he's fed up. Honestly, boys...'

At one point the party disintegrated into a fracas. One boy was slow to pass the parcel on. A girl, furious with him, stood up, her tiara askew, and punched him in the face. He screamed and ran from the room and refused to rejoin the game, so the hostess sat him at the tea table while she laid out the cakes. The parents in the circle passed judgements on why he wasn't in the circle. 'Boys aren't great at playing games at this age,' said one. 'They just can't sit still! It's so much harder for them, I think.' 'Boys are just so much younger than girls in many ways,' said another. At the end the children were handed their party bags, colour coded in pink and blue, with plastic bracelets and hair clips inside for the girls and bouncy balls and plastic spiders for the boys.

Pink girls, blue boys. Princesses, fighters. Shy girls, grunting boys. Good girls, aggressive boys. That's what we want to see, so that's what we see. Even if our children so often diverge from expectations, and the princess becomes the puncher or the fighter wants to chat, this hardly seems to dent the strength of the stereotypes. And the assumptions made by parents are often being backed up by stronger gender divisions in the marketing carried out by toy companies. So our children are now growing up to see that the toy cookers on sale at Marks and Spencer are labelled 'Mummy and Me', while the toy tools and drills are labelled 'Daddy and Me'.
I am glad I'm not currently a parent trying to negotiate my way through all this, because eesh.
posted by Catseye at 1:20 PM on February 20, 2013 [17 favorites]


A couple of excellent reads are Odd Girl Out, and The Curse of the Good Girl, both by Rachel Simmons. Her (persuasive) argument in both books is that girls are increasingly pressured NOT to express angry or aggressive feelings publicly -- be sweet, be nice, forgive, be a "chill girl," get along with everyone -- she's so nice, so pretty, so popular -- the horrible result of which is the twisting of these feelings into covert aggression. Gossiping, backstabbing, competition over boys, popularity contests, Facebook drive-bys, etc. I see every day how uncomfortable my girls feel even saying that they are angry or irritated by their friends' behavior -- and then how they explode over seemingly unrelated incidents days later. It sucks.
posted by jfwlucy at 1:30 PM on February 20, 2013 [9 favorites]


while the toy tools and drills are labelled 'Daddy and Me'.

My parents didn't bother to find out what I was going to be before I was born, but everyone told my mom I was carrying like a boy, so everyone just assumed I was a boy and I got mostly boy things at my baby shower.

My favorite baby picture of me is of my dad holding me up while I was coloring at just a few months old (two crayons in each fist, one crayon in the mouth for safekeeping). I'm wearing a blue pajama onesie with applique toolbelt that says "Daddy's Little Helper!" on it. Awesome.

And then this is one of my favorite pictures of my brother and me, ages 7 and 3. My parents did a lot of things wrong, but they were thankfully really great at letting us just act like kids, gender baggage free.
posted by phunniemee at 1:32 PM on February 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


Without comment.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:36 PM on February 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


EmpressCallipygos, I have no words for that video... it's not real? It can't be really?

And Swag can't be THAT mainstream outside of boring conferences, can it??
posted by Yowser at 1:42 PM on February 20, 2013


while the toy tools and drills are labelled 'Daddy and Me'.

I didn't realize when I bought this toolset for my daughter that it also comes in pink.

Which, on the one hand, tools aimed at girls? Awesome.
On the other hand, why can't they just use the same color?
On the gripping hand, my daughter uses her blue/yellow toolbox to fix her pink and purple princess castle, so maybe it all works out in the end.
posted by madajb at 1:45 PM on February 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm so glad that this project exists and so angry that it has to.
posted by immlass at 1:55 PM on February 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


I also can't help but notice that Daddy’s Money Secret Wedges have their logo on the shoes, thus negating the entire purpose of the shoes by their obviousness.

This can't be real.

No.

?
posted by Yowser at 1:56 PM on February 20, 2013


Total derail, but "executrix" is standard usage in many (all?) American courts.
posted by jhc at 2:03 PM on February 20, 2013


EmpressCallipygos: " Guess how much Dora merchandising recasts Dora as a princess or a mermaid or a ballerina, and emphasizes how pretty Dora looks and how you can brush her hair and put her in pretty dresses and necklaces.

I was able to find a Dora backpack and a Dora binoculars and compass set, but it was pretty grumble-inducing.
"

What's interesting about this is the backpack, map, binoculars and compass set came first. The original Dora series was just her and Boots the monkey having adventures. It focused on solving puzzles, very simple counting skills, sight identification, Spanish vocab and some other basic lessons. But in recent years, Nickelodeon has tried to capitalize on the princess craze by airing a few Dora specials where she is or becomes a princess, or perhaps frees a mermaid. They're also concentrating a lot more on collecting magical "stars."

It's still pretty tame compared to other princess stuff.

About brushing Dora's hair... every single Dora doll my kids ever owned was constructed with the cheapest hair imaginable. It tended to get knotted very easily and after being chewed on and tied up in hair bands, eventually turned into mini dreadlocks. Brushing it out was impossible. We nicknamed all the dolls "Creepy Dora."
posted by zarq at 2:06 PM on February 20, 2013


I didn't realize when I bought this toolset for my daughter that it also comes in pink.

Interesting that they think little kids are going to find it to learn to read than to differentiate unlabeled phillips and flathead screwdrivers. Or maybe they just want to teach them to read the word "phillips".


And the Daddy'$ Money shoes are $65 on Zappo's, so that makes them seem pretty real, but not really expensive enough to justify their name.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 2:06 PM on February 20, 2013


Building from Dora and the princess stuff, can we talk about Abby Cadabby? It's great that Sesame Street wanted to introduce a new major female character, but did they have to make her pink and sparkly?
posted by ambrosia at 2:14 PM on February 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have a twin sister. My mom didn't figure out that she was carrying twins until well after the shower gifts had been received, and most people (for whatever reason) assumed my mom was having a girl. Suddenly, there was another kid in the mix, and additional arrangements had to be made. Dad was sent out to buy the necessary extra, and returned home with blue everything.

So growing up, my sister always had pink and I always had blue (enforced by my mother, so that there would be no fighting). And both of us were jealous of the other, because each one had what the other could not have.

But I think all that pink had an effect on my sister over the years. Now, she refers to her third child, a girl with shirley temple blond curls, as being "pink afflicted" because everything the child owns has to be pink.
posted by LN at 2:34 PM on February 20, 2013


Building from Dora and the princess stuff, can we talk about Abby Cadabby? It's great that Sesame Street wanted to introduce a new major female character, but did they have to make her pink and sparkly?

Oh, man, Abby's Flying Fairy School is indicative of what's wrong with the current Sesame trends.

It focused on solving puzzles, very simple counting skills, sight identification, Spanish vocab and some other basic lessons.

And yelling. Lots of yelling.
posted by madajb at 2:37 PM on February 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


Yowser: "EmpressCallipygos, I have no words for that video... it's not real? It can't be really?

And Swag can't be THAT mainstream outside of boring conferences, can it??
"

This also reminds me of that "Science! It's a Girl Thing!" campaign that was FPP'd last year. Super awesome intentions, but all the girls in the promo video had blow-out hair and were wearing heels and lip gloss and ughhhhhhh.

(Though it should also be noted that telling conventionally pretty girls that they can also be smart is a huge deal. The "hot but dumb" trope is just as damaging as the "girls can't do science" thing, and there's so much resentment between traditionally "geeky" or "tomboy" girls and traditionally "pretty" girls. Internalized misogyny is a bi - er, jerk.)

Then again, there are fathers like these, which makes me happy.
posted by Phire at 3:21 PM on February 20, 2013 [9 favorites]


ThatFuzzyBastard, it goes far beyond just "girls clothes are pink and boys clothes are blue". Girl's clothes say "I'm too pretty to do my homework", or "I'm too pretty to do math". Girl baby toys are diamond rings. Girl's video-games are about babysitting, not science. Gwen Sharp's blog at Sociological Images is a fantastic resources for all sorts of subtled gendered advertising, in a way that the female gender is always portrayed to be nurturing and sweet and the male gender is portrayed as powerful. (See also that Bic for Her nonsense.)

Right, sure, and that stuff is obviously vile.

But I'm also seeing a lot of comments like this, where people seem upset that things marketed to girls are a different color than things marketed to boys, even if they're the same in every other regard. And at that point, it seems like you're railing against identification of gender difference, rather than discrimination based on gender, and are off in a very different realm.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 3:27 PM on February 20, 2013


(Though it should also be noted that telling conventionally pretty girls that they can also be smart is a huge deal. The "hot but dumb" trope is just as damaging as the "girls can't do science" thing, and there's so much resentment between traditionally "geeky" or "tomboy" girls and traditionally "pretty" girls. Internalized misogyny is a bi - er, jerk.)

It goes the other way - telling nerdy smart girls that it is OKAY TO BE PRETTY, and that things that are coded as feminine are -okay-. I get as many WTF looks when I talk to some of my friends who know me as loving comic books, video games and logic puzzles about loving to bake and owning 4 ballgowns (my niece is fascinated, b/c I have 'princess dresses! AND a cordless drill. She figures I drill things in the dresses, because in her opinion if you told a princess they couldn't drill something, they'd hit that person with a frying pan) as when I yelled at my dad over the phone for telling me I needed someone 'male' to help me put a bed together.
posted by FritoKAL at 3:28 PM on February 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


Oh, I am so, so, so tired of the everyday sexism. I am a landlord. I show apartments and I evict tenants and when I'm not doing that "high level" stuff, I do the "building super" stuff. I fix drippy faucets, doors that have been kicked in, furnaces that don't run, toilets that do not flush, drains that leak or are slow, water heaters that have blown elements or are leaking all over, ovens that don't heat up, walls that have been punched, windows that are broken, and so on and so forth. It is my job. The number of tenants I have (invariably older and male) who say things like "You're pretty handy... for a girl". Just... argh. I'm forty-three. "Girl" is but a distant memory for me these days. But, y'know, they're in their sixties or seventies and they don't know any better.

The ones that absolutely kill me are my family members. Take my younger brother. He is hopeless with tools, so he has me over to his place to fix a door issue. I am fixing the door issue while Brother is there on-looking while helpfully telling his wide-eyed and very, very clever 8 yr old daughter the following schpiel: "Now, daughter, see that Aunt Which-chick is there Using Tools to fix the problem with the door? Girls can Use Tools, too. It's OK for girls to Use Tools and Fix Things like Aunt Which-Chick is doing." I can hear the capital letters on his words when he talks. If it were actually OK for girls to Use Tools you would not have to make a point of telling Daughter this. Would you have said "Look, daughter, Male-Person-of-Color is Using Tools to fix the door. It's OK for Male-Persons-of-Color to Use Tools and Fix Things."? No, no you would not have said that because (a) it is bloody obvious and (b) it's offensive as hell to even CONSIDER thinking otherwise. But it sounded perfectly fine and worthwhile for you to say it about me, about women.

Or my dad, speaking of another man he knows. (My dad has two sons and me. He has passed the actual-landlord/super work portions of the family business -- the bulk of the day-to-day stuff -- on to me because neither of the two sons is particularly useful or skilled at those parts of the family business.) "Yeah, the poor man worked hard all his life and had nothing but daughters, so nobody to leave the business to." "Uh, dad? I'm a girl." "You don't count. I wasn't talking about you." Yes you were.

But, y'know, I can't go through life clubbing the people who offend me with a pipe wrench (even if that *is* Using Tools to Fix Things, which I am specifically allowed to do), so instead, I talk in italics where other people can't hear me.
posted by which_chick at 3:46 PM on February 20, 2013 [21 favorites]


"Now, daughter, see that Aunt Which-chick is there Using Tools to fix the problem with the door? Girls can Use Tools, too. It's OK for girls to Use Tools and Fix Things like Aunt Which-Chick is doing."

I don't understand, I thought this would be a good thing. Compare to crush-onastick's knot tying story.

I mean it sucks that he has to call it out but the kid is hearing otherwise most likely at school etc.

Am I misunderstanding?
posted by sweetkid at 3:58 PM on February 20, 2013


I don't understand, I thought this would be a good thing.

It's just kind of condescending. And if it never occurred to the girl that it *wasn't* okay to use tools, it'll make her realize some people think it's not okay. It's like the aunt who tells you, "Don't worry honey! You really are as pretty as your sister. Really!" when you weren't worried at all before she said it...

It's halfway there but it's a lot better than nothing.
posted by cairdeas at 4:07 PM on February 20, 2013


Yeah, which_chick, I agree that it looks like your brother is trying to counteract sexism your niece may have run into, rather than being any kind of "Lo, child, look upon your female aunt using the tools of the menfolk" or anything. Maybe he's a bit clumsy, but he's trying.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:08 PM on February 20, 2013


1. When I was younger, the catcalling used to seriously weird me out. It was angry, spiteful, mean, and demeaning. People made a point of telling me I should take it as a compliment, and they assured me I would MISS IT WHEN IT STOPPED. Oh, lord, were they wrong. One of the sweetest things about being over 50 is that it stopped.
2. I have a doctorate and a last name that is not the same as my husband's. So my sixth grade boys (I teach only boys) call me "Dr. [Peach]" (or, when they forget, "Mr. [Peach] (or "Mr. [the-male-teacher-next-door's name]". The funny thing is, a huge number of them have mothers who are doctors. And those mothers call me "Mrs. (my mom's first married name)."
3. My daughter looooooved pink. And sparkles. Rainbrow Brite. American Girl dolls. The whole shebang. She wore my wedding dress every Halloween, until it frayed and disintegrated. I didn't really try to fight the colors. Raising a kid to be free of gender stereotypes isn't about buying the perfect color. It's not about attempting to be a one-family cultural display all your own. It's about surfacing the stereotypes, whatever they are, and discussing them. I suppose that's why my now-grown daughter is a 5'10" rugby-playing bruiser whose research subject is the hermaphroditic interpretation of homosexuality in 19th century American literature. Heh.
posted by Peach at 4:18 PM on February 20, 2013 [11 favorites]


@ sweetkid and EmpressCallipygos... Maybe. I was furious (but didn't say anything) at the handling of it. He is the parent and I try pretty hard to allow him to parent even when he follows approaches I feel lack merit. After all, if I had wanted to parent, I would have had children. (I wanted -- and have -- ponies instead.)

If he felt it needed mention at all, which I am not sure it did, a better way to handle it would have been thusly: "Aunt Which-Chick is fixing the door because she's better at fixing stuff than I am and also she has better tools than I do." In this representation, door fixing is a job and the most qualified person available should do the job. Gender is entirely irrelevant and unmentioned.
posted by which_chick at 4:31 PM on February 20, 2013


But I'm also seeing a lot of comments like this, where people seem upset that things marketed to girls are a different color than things marketed to boys, even if they're the same in every other regard.

The college I graduated from is a women's college. Recently, the bookstore was outsourced, and the products in the bookstore were changed correspondingly. Pretty much within a month, virtually every accessory, keychain, and shirt included pink or purple. Our college has colors. It also has class colors. Pink is not among them. But no, college full of ladies? Everything must be pink.

It's just-- it's kind of ridiculous. Trying to buy sports gear? I hope you like pink! Going down the girl toy aisle? I hope they like dolls and pink! Are you a boy who likes pink? I hope you like taunts! The male gender is allowed to escape blue. But if you're a woman, pink will be the default suggested choice for "lady tool kits" and bath products and gear forever.

And that's the thing: the lady category of stuff is usually separate and unequal. I enjoy the idea that tools might be made for smaller hands, or to take advantage of more manual dexerity. I do like pants that fit, and shirts that are tailored. I'm not against gender-specific items! But often, those lady tool kits are nothing more than not-great hammers with flowers on them. Does anyone remember that lady car that Chevy came out with? Instead of focusing on a smaller seat, or better visibility, or anything that might actually impact the way women drive, they put in a purse compartment and carved out a section of the door handle so you wouldn't scratch your enormous diamond ring. And that separation, of what colors you can and can't like, of girl toys and boy toys-- it starts before you're born.
posted by jetlagaddict at 4:35 PM on February 20, 2013 [10 favorites]


ThatFuzzyBastard: " But I'm also seeing a lot of comments like this, where people seem upset that things marketed to girls are a different color than things marketed to boys, even if they're the same in every other regard. And at that point, it seems like you're railing against identification of gender difference, rather than discrimination based on gender, and are off in a very different realm."

That gets into a subtler issue of gender normativity and socially prescribed gender roles, and how a small gender division snowballs into much bigger problems. It would be okay if things that are marketed at girls are pink, if there were also things marketed at girls that are green and blue and black and silver. But there rarely are (cf the girl's area of the toy store section of department stores), and so "pink" becomes associated with "girly", which turns into this idea that girls are different from boys, that they inherently aren't the same, which in turns becomes the excuse for treating the two differently.

I might be more on the radical side of things, but any sort of gendered advertising (to me) gets into this idea that there's this one specific way that every girl or boy is or should be, and so if you want to be taken as a Proper Boy/Girl you must conform to this one specific way and abscond from all things that are associated with the opposite gender. It's not like some companies are saying "the green is for girls and the blue is for boys!" and other companies are saying "the yellow is for girls and the red is for boys!". No, girls are pink, and boys are blue, and never the twain shall meet.

Furthermore, given that we already do live in a society with so much latent and institutional sexism, any separation of the genders feeds further into that dynamic. Why is pink such a reviled colour among boys in the 21st century? Because it is associated with femininity. It might be (although I wouldn't bet on it) a different issue if our society were gender-equal in every single way, except that occasionally there are pink products for women and blue products for men. But in a society that already denigrates women's skills, capabilities, and accomplishments--a society that can unironically claim that women just aren't good at computer programming because they lack logic, never mind the actual history of computing--this gender division just provides another opportunity to teach girls that they aren't equal to boys. Because see: we can't even play with the same toys!

So many of our problems could be solved if we just get rid of this damned idea that women and men are so inherently different, that women are a mystery to men and vice versa. See how many human relations questions there are in AskMe about how a guy just doesn't get his lady friends, or why girls do X and boys do Y. We're all just people. Call it a pipe dream, but I wish our media (which includes advertising) would reflect that.
posted by Phire at 4:36 PM on February 20, 2013 [15 favorites]


All kids like pink. All kids like glittery shit. All kids like dinosaurs, and mud puddles, and toy cars and baby dolls and play kitchens.

Yeah, the only person I've met who likes dinosaurs more than my son is my daughter. My son loves his play kitchen, and the dolls and cars are (with the exception of a few favorites) more or less communal.

Of course for Christmas, what does my daughter get from a good chunk of my wife's family? A bunch of stuffed animals and princess dolls (to be fair, she does love the dolls, but most toddlers are fascinated by babies). At the same age, they got my son all sorts of cool books and bath crayons, all of which my daughter would love.

The thing is, she does seem to naturally love dresses and girly (for lack of a better word) clothing, but I'm always wondering if that's just because of the attention she gets in it. That's a part that really sucks, the doubt. I've decided to just assume that what she shows her preferences to be are in fact, her preferences, so if she wants to run around being a fierce dinosaur with an pink owl purse, then by god, she gets to.
posted by Gygesringtone at 4:40 PM on February 20, 2013


The crazy thing is that the cultural expectation of blue=boys, pink=girls is, by the standards of western history, a pretty damned recent development.
posted by shiu mai baby at 4:49 PM on February 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


But I'm also seeing a lot of comments like this, where people seem upset that things marketed to girls are a different color than things marketed to boys, even if they're the same in every other regard. And at that point, it seems like you're railing against identification of gender difference, rather than discrimination based on gender, and are off in a very different realm.

Hey, if a kid wants pink tools, more power to them.
I'm not upset, just found it interesting that they made a pink toolbox to go along with the pink tea set, the pink kitchen set, the pink jump rope as well as having a blue toolbox to go along with the blue airplane and the blue rocket.

They also have a pink/purple dump truck which I've never seen.
posted by madajb at 5:16 PM on February 20, 2013


Building from Dora and the princess stuff, can we talk about Abby Cadabby? It's great that Sesame Street wanted to introduce a new major female character, but did they have to make her pink and sparkly?

At least they brought in Sonia Sotomayor to explain to Abby that princess is not a career.
posted by naoko at 5:39 PM on February 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


All kids like pink.

I HATED pink. And of course, my bedroom was pink, and so was the bathroom, and so were 80% of my clothes, because Mom looooved pink and wanted me to be a girly girl.

When I turned eight my mom said I could pick any color I wanted to repaint my room. I chose turquoise.

I still hate pink. I do not own a single pink item or article of clothing.

And the only reason I wanted to play princess was because the queen had to answer to the king, but the princess answered to no one.
posted by caryatid at 5:47 PM on February 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


It goes the other way - telling nerdy smart girls that it is OKAY TO BE PRETTY, and that things that are coded as feminine are -okay-

Yes this! And not just for girls! It's great to encourage little girls to embrace the kind of active play associated with boys, but we really shouldn't be so quick to denigrate girly-girl play. Storytelling, roleplaying, drama (both the theater kind and the relationship kind), arts and crafts, playing house, primping... Those all develop important skills that boys can totally benefit from, like empathy, social skills, imagination, dexterity.

And kids playing in mixed groups will do a lot more to demystify gender differences than putting everyone in same color onesies.
posted by Freyja at 5:59 PM on February 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


[Hi! Time for the "if you're not trolling you need to look like you're not trolling" public service announcement. If you are making a joke, make sure people are going to understand it. Otherwise you just look like you are making snarky comments at other people's expense. MetaTalk is your option. thank you.]
posted by jessamyn at 6:25 PM on February 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


we really shouldn't be so quick to denigrate girly-girl play.

Absolutely we should not. This is my big challenge with my son; I had a much easier time supporting my daughter's culturally-masculine side than my son's culturally-feminine side. Gee, I wonder why, sigh.
posted by KathrynT at 6:28 PM on February 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


"In Spanish (and maybe Portuguese, too), some have tried to get around this by taking advantage of a happy accident of Spanish spelling. Nouns and adjectives that end in "o" are typically masculine (and thus, historically, default) and those that end in "a" are typically feminine. You will see things now addressed to, for example, "Latin@s," (PDF) subsuming both the "o" and the "a" into the at-sign."

Damned interesting. Thanks. Has it, or how has it been addressed verbally?

And thus the reason guys do that is because no one believes they really do do that.

Doesn't happen around me. On rare occasions when it has, I've said something. Although I probably look that way. People tend to act nicely around me. Paraverbal cues I suspect. I look like I'm going to help that old lady across the street, I look like it'd be an honor to do so, so someone else does first.
So in part the fact that my attention is directed that way and I tend to be the most visible person in a crowd contributes to the bystander effect.

I agree though that it has to be that air of disapproval for catcalling *and* the willingness to follow it up with confrontation.
I think that's where the excuses come from. Whether someone believes it happens or not, or says "boys will be boys" it serves their interests not to believe it or to write it off.

I think catcalling is separate issue (albeit perhaps linked, I dunno) from advertising and gender disparity in terms of empowerment.

I don't think it's a purely male/female thing because there are cultures/countries that are far less sexist - hell, Ireland comes to mind. Most of the nordic countries are pretty big on female empowerment. Looking at the global gender gap report, yeah (also the Philippines and Nicaragua - wha?)

My father in law exudes neutral. You'd have no idea whether he's just come from a funeral, wedding, got a shot in the pills, won the lottery, nothing. About 1/2 my size, he's harder than tool steel. Again, you'd never know it. He and my wife were at a reception, someone (about twice his size) said something to my wife (I wasn't there) and he dispassionately told the guy off and the guy apologized.
Some time later he came back and did it again. This time my father in law dispassionately severely injured the guy and got arrested. Court was fun. Watching large young guy's lawyer argue little old guy provoked the fight.

What wasn't fun was watching how it shook out socially. I think things like that you find out who your friends are. Some people did take the position that their buddy could do no wrong and what's a little "teasing"?
As time went on he was a little more ostracized. In this case my father in law's supreme dignity being more damaging than his physical ability, and people got the idea. And started remembering or noticing or whatever that he did say things inappropriate to women.

Point being, I don't think it's the threat of violence so much as the threat of pressure. Or social pressure. But what I don't understand is why anyone feels threatened by enforcing that standard.

I mean, if someone is an acquaintance and a woman comes to me and says he said something inappropriate to her, I'm going to ask him about it. Absent proof, there isn't much to be done.
If it happens a few more times or I notice his attitude, etc, I'm not going to form the opinion that "Jeez, all these broads must be crazy."
That's what is so stunning.
Like, what, there's a conspiracy of women to make a guy you know look bad and he's a victim of circumstance?
So if it did happen again, yeah, I'd confront him and hand him a beating. Perhaps not literally physically, but most people would rather that than telling their mom or people they know.
I'd discuss it openly. "Hey, Joe Guy has some issues with women." I wouldn't tolerate his presence unless he demonstrably changed and even then it wouldn't be worth the time to be his friend.

Perhaps my lifestyle affords me that luxury. I don't know. I do know everyone I call friend has not acted that way and has pretty much the same sensibilities I have. So it's entirely possible there's a social buffer there. On the street I tend to be attuned differently, so I could have missed it.

Still, I don't think it's just the avoidance of white knights thing.
You do see groups doing a variety of things that elicit conflict and violence and I think catcalling is probably one of the things people blind themselves to the blowback on.
Displaced aggression is still aggression and it has to come out somewhere. It's as corrosive and self-destructive as any antisocial behavior one develops a habit for.

What's dangerous, I agree, is the desensitization and denial and sense of voicelessness.
What's stunning is that it's at all tolerated when it's perceived. That lack of investment.
I probably would scare the hell out of any woman who's experienced harassment. I'm big, strong, loud and angry looking.
Inside two seconds, the opinion might change (because I also look like I'm in charge and completely competent - I get stopped every single time I'm on the street - "excuse me, sir, can you tell me where..." ), but it's not worth ignoring or avoiding trouble.

No more than ignoring a fire in a house because it's not mine.
That's what makes me thing "WTF is wrong with them?"

I mean hell, people yell "Jump" at people about to commit suicide off a ledge. It doesn't fail to stun and anger me every single time I hear that anyone's done that.
posted by Smedleyman at 6:37 PM on February 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


crush-onastick: showbiz_liz said above, catcalls are primarily angry and dismissive. "Like I'd done something to HIM and he was trying to take me down a peg and show me I wasn't all that." You don't run into a lot of that in expensive neighborhoods or on suburban street corners.

I think partly because the elements of social order which come out in catcalling are based on more than just gender. Men at the very bottom of the social order--who don't have social power because they are too young (high school students) or because they are too poor or too much the wrong race--claim power by diminishing women through catcalls. You'd notice that the type and amount of vitriol thrown in a catcall varies greatly not only by neighborhood, but also by target. A woman who looks like she belongs in the neighborhood hears much uglier stuff than a woman who looks like she doesn't. Because the woman who doesn't belong, she can just leave or, if she calls the police, they'll respond. Or the "man whose duty it is to protect her" will step up and it's likely he's above the catcaller in the social order and the catcaller is taking a risk catcalling her that he's not taking catcalling someone else.
"

This is so spot on, crush-onastick. It immediately reminded me of that section of George Orwell's Down And Out in Paris & London when the tramp mutters "Tarts!" every time he sees a prostitute:

"Like most tramps, he was passionately mean about matches. He had a box of matches when I met him, but I never saw him strike one, and he used to lecture me for extravagance when I struck mine. His method was to cadge a light from strangers, sometimes going without a smoke for half an hour rather than strike a match.

Self-pity was the clue to his character. The thought of his bad luck
never seemed to leave him for an instant. He would break long silences to exclaim, apropos of nothing, 'It's hell when yer clo'es begin to go up de spout, eh?' or 'Dat tay in de spike ain't tay, it's piss,' as though there was nothing else in the world to think about. And he had a low, worm-like envy of anyone who was better off--not of the rich, for they were beyond his social horizon, but of men in work. He pined for work as an artist pines to be famous. If he saw an old man working he would say bitterly, 'Look at dat old--keepin' able-bodied men out o' work'; or if it was a boy, 'It's dem young devils what's takin' de bread out of our mouths.' And all foreigners to him were 'dem bloody dagoes'--for, according to his theory, foreigners were responsible for unemployment.

He looked at women with a mixture of longing and hatred. Young, pretty
women were too much above him to enter into his ideas, but his mouth
watered at prostitutes. A couple of scarlet-lipped old creatures would go
past; Paddy's face would flush pale pink, and he would turn and stare
hungrily after the women. 'Tarts!' he would murmur, like a boy at a
sweetshop window. He told me once that he had not had to do with a woman for two years--since he had lost his job, that is--and he had forgotten that one could aim higher than prostitutes. He had the regular character of a tramp--abject, envious, a jackal's character."

posted by LuckySeven~ at 6:48 PM on February 20, 2013 [8 favorites]


All kids like pink.

I'd like to offer this just as an anecdotal curiosity rather than derail: Ignoring the cultural Juggernaut of enforced gender colors, anecdotally I'm under the impression that color perception may be gendered. As in biologically different.

I first noticed this with the advent of blue LEDs 15 years ago. They produced a color no-one had really seen before. And it was mesmerizing and pure and gorgeous. I loved it at a biological level - the sensory qualia. It was common for my (male) friends to be struck by it too. But the response wasn't like that from women. Blue LEDs were Meh, whatever. Meanwhile, men seemed likely to be struck deeply enough that women noticed and were confused enough to ask what was the big deal. I saw this same conversation play out in different places that were touched by blue LEDs.
For example, women in the PC-casemod scene (ie artistically decorating your computer with lights, glass, etc) would sometimes say things like "I don't understand why casemods by guys ALWAYS have the blue LEDs, it's just another color! What about all the other colors?" And guys would reply that it was the most beautiful color. (And it was.)
Husbands and wives buying consumer electronics. Husbands choice influenced by LEDs in one product being blue. Wife going WTF. And so on.

You might cry "confirmation bias", and I guess it's possible, but I'm fascinated by color in general and I keep my ears peeled for conversations and examples that would suggest there isn't any signal in the noise.

(FWIW, pink always looked to me like a faded red, with the associated ugliness of old ruined things that were no-longer bright and shiny.)
posted by anonymisc at 7:48 PM on February 20, 2013


I'm under the impression that color perception may be gendered. As in biologically different.

This anecdote could completely reflect a sociological bias, or definitely confirmation bias. Also I like blue despite my ladyparts.

Husbands and wives buying consumer electronics. Husbands choice influenced by LEDs in one product being blue. Wife going WTF. And so on.

I've never heard of anything like this.
posted by sweetkid at 7:53 PM on February 20, 2013


This anecdote could completely reflect a sociological bias

No-one that I've talked to describes it in terms that seem that way. It was never about having a favourite color, or liking blue, but instead a visceral "whoa", and "There's just something magical"

Also I like blue despite my ladyparts.

Bear in mind that I'm not talking about blue, but that amazing indium gallium nitride blue. The "whoa" reaction is not prompted merely by things that are blue. Blue is just another color. But this particular blue hits something that other blue lights don't.
posted by anonymisc at 8:05 PM on February 20, 2013


Sorry, nothing about what you're saying means that there is a biological connection to the color blue or LED blue for men. No one is going to tell you they are doing something because of sociological bias, that's not the way it works. Of course they will think it's biological, if it's something they can't explain or if it feels "visceral."
posted by sweetkid at 8:16 PM on February 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


I went to go pick out more sippy cups for my son. I tried a couple brands and found one that worked for him. The problem though, is that they have hot pink with butterflies and flowers labeled for girls and blue/green with rocket ships and dinosaurs labeled for boys. No neutral options. So frusterating that they have to make sippy cups gendered!

It's the same with shoes and clothes and everything. I hate skulls and rock bands and I'd rather not have everything he owns be dinosaurs and rocket ships, grey, brown, navy or black. But when I look across the aisle into the girls section, it's all neon pink, bedazzled crap, slim fit (wtf?) pants with bows everywhere leaving trails of cheaply tacked on glitter and rhinestones everytime you bump into it. And so many have these stupid sayings. "Boyz Rule!" "Princess!" Nothing neutral, nothing that just celebrates being a kid it's all this gendered crap meant for a 1 year old kid that has no concept of gender what so ever. (Half the time in public, regardless of what he's wearing people think he's a girl anyway.)
posted by HMSSM at 8:17 PM on February 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Anyone who thinks that having some pink stuff for girls isn't a problem should take a look in the toy aisles of a department store sometime. Multi-coloured stuff, blue stuff, army-coloured stuff that's all dinosaurs and action toys and blocks, and then you turn the corner and oh god my eyes the wall-to-wall PINK with PINK versions of all the other toys. Cuddly pink stuffed dinosaurs; no action toys, but plenty of fashion dolls; blocks in 4 shades of PINK. That's not mildly gendered, that's fucking bizarre.

My toddler niece assumed that any pink item, including calomine lotion, must belong to her because all her stuff is pink and no-one else she knew (her brother, her mum, her dad, her aunties and grandparents) had anything in that colour. That's how constant the pink is compared to the rest of everyday life.

Mind you, stuff like this gives me hope: Dalek Princess, Vader Princess and Transformer. Pink is just a symptom, not the disease itself.
posted by harriet vane at 8:50 PM on February 20, 2013 [13 favorites]



My toddler niece assumed that any pink item, including calomine lotion, must belong to her because all her stuff is pink


I had a bright pink bunny that I named Amoxicillin after the antibiotic, which was bright pink.

My doctor mother was thrilled.

Also my brother wore all my hand me downs, mostly red, blue and green not pink. But this was the 80s. Things do seem more gendered now.
posted by sweetkid at 9:00 PM on February 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Also because hey, I've got mlkshk open now... How Lego used to be advertised.
posted by harriet vane at 9:01 PM on February 20, 2013 [8 favorites]


I think catcalling probably has something to do with perceived power in a situation as well. Some of the grossest things that have been said to me were courtesy of a group of be-suited frat boys heading to a party as I was walking home from campus. About a gazillion of them, top of the social order, drunk, and feeling pretty snazzy - and just one of me. Of course there won't be consequences to saying things in that situation - who's going to call them out on it?
posted by ChuraChura at 9:10 PM on February 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Here's a fun game to play: Every time you read an article that mentions Pinterest, see if that article also mentions that Pinterest "skews female" or is "popular with women" or some such. Every time you read an article that mentions Reddit, see if that article also mentions that Reddit "skews male" or is "male dominated." Guess how this game works? (Yes, I am the person who made a scene in a meeting about "social networking strategy/planning" by shouting "the patriarchy is bad for everyone!!!" I regret nothing.)

A few weeks ago, my dad was recounting some kind of Candid Camera–type show, where a person was sitting alone on an otherwise empty subway car or bus or something, and then one of the actors from the show entered and sat right down next to them. My dad thought this was a funny instance of a goofy, harmless prank — how silly, how awkward, etc. And all I could think was "god, I'd be terrified that that person was going to rape me." And when I said that exact thing, my father was horrified because that reaction had literally never occurred to him. My dad's a progressive guy and he raised me to be a feminist and to be exactly the kind of person to make a stink about any perceived injustices, and he's not some turnip-truck rube. But someone sitting next to him on the subway is something he sees as a nuisance. It's something I see as profoundly, life-and-death–caliber dangerous. And we both take the subway to work every day.
posted by Charity Garfein at 9:17 PM on February 20, 2013 [25 favorites]


subject_verb_remainder: " I stopped bringing cookies to work when I got called the "office mom" by a guy ten years older than me."

I made a conscious choice not to fall into the role of "keeps the candy dish/jar stocked" after I read something that pointed out how mindblowingly gendered that particular practice is in most offices.

Even at my current workplace, which is quite gender-balanced (although, still, the support staff's gender ratio skews 6/1 female/male), and where we don't really keep a candy jar or dish out, it's usually the female employees who bring back edible treats from business trips (convention in New Orleans? pralines!).
posted by Lexica at 9:29 PM on February 20, 2013


color perception may be gendered. As in biologically different.

According to, like, some stuff I read on the internet one time, people with X / Y chromosomes (that is, males, mostly) are somewhat more likely to be red/green color blind, and have more color perception along the blue spectrum. So perhaps some males perceive more richness in the blue than other colors. On the other hand, I'm a male who was building a gaming PC rig recently and I quickly decided it would not have any of those FUCKING goddamn bright blue LEDs that I hate. So, "many" is never "all".
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 9:44 PM on February 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm in the middle of interviewing for a receptionist, and one of the women I interviewed today used to be in the military as an aviation technician. When I asked her about her experience with filing, she talked about how she managed all of the filing and documentation for her team, and then slipped in that she had been assigned that task "probably because [she] was the only female on the team."

Later when I asked her about her motivations for completing tasks that are tedious, she replied that she likes to prove she is "capable."

And my heart broke.
posted by rhapsodie at 10:26 PM on February 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


I populate my office candy dish in the name of the Patriarchy.

(What? It's discount Valentine's candy, and it's better than me eating all of it.)
posted by mikurski at 12:43 AM on February 21, 2013


I work in a male-dominated field, and though for the most part, I am treated with equal respect as the men, once in a while I'll have a wtf moment. Like last week I was asked to help out a guy who was struggling with his work, so I got what I needed from him, fixed it, and went on with the rest of my work. I guess he was trying to be complimentary, but he made a bit of a fuss about how quickly I had done it; going as far as to write that I had "owned him like a little bitch" in an e-mail to other people on the same project. I work on the best computer in the place, in my own office, why the hell was he surprised that I was doing a good job?
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 1:31 AM on February 21, 2013


I made a conscious choice not to fall into the role of "keeps the candy dish/jar stocked" after I read something that pointed out how mindblowingly gendered that particular practice is in most offices.

My office is fairly non-gendered in that there are women at almost all levels. The managing attorney (one step below the partner) is a woman, we've got two male attorneys and three female attorneys, and an even mixture of male and female paralegals.

The one exception to this is the receptionist (unsurprisingly the very bottom of the totem pole). The owner won't admit it, but he basically won't hire a male receptionist under any circumstances. The receptionist is, of course, in charge of candy jar maintenance.

It's actually fairly interesting because my boss, who is 70 years old and has older attitudes about gender roles, has basically internalized that there can't be jobs that are only for men, but is fine with there being jobs (at the bottom) that are only for women.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 5:42 AM on February 21, 2013


I had a much easier time supporting my daughter's culturally-masculine side than my son's culturally-feminine side. Gee, I wonder why, sigh.

My son, at two weeks shy of age two, hits all the gendered expectations. He's been given the freedom to choose his toys and play with whatever interests him, and what interests him is wheels. He's totally obsessed. He's also (typically) much better at his gross motor skills than at language development. He's a very, very active little person whose main desire in life is to find wheels and spin them.

I get SO MANY comments ALL THE DAMN TIME about how my son is "all boy."

No. My son is all Paulo. He is who he is. That his interests overlap with what you associate with maleness is about your preconceptions of "boy" not because of who HE is. His second biggest interest these days, after wheels, is dancing.

I live in a big city and when I tell people around here that I'm going to start my son in ballet, no one thinks anything of it. Plenty of people have sons in dance. When I go home to my more.... rural... family, I get a heaping of immediate concern about a BOY?! in BALLET?! To which I respond that those ladies aren't about to lift themselves. Still, people have a shitty time reconciling that a TODDLER boy who likes wheels can also do a baby ballet class without losing some of his manhood.
posted by sonika at 8:26 AM on February 21, 2013 [18 favorites]


I serve on a commission for my town. Last night a subcommittee held a public workshop to gather feedback on a project we are working on. As chair of the commission, I spoke for a few minutes to give some opening remarks, introducing myself and explaining the agenda for the evening. I then turned it over to one of the other commissioners to lead the rest of the workshop. A man came in a few minutes late and did not hear my opening remarks. As the workshop was wrapping up, I was standing by the exit, thanking people for their participation. As he got to the door and I said "thank you for coming tonight" he gave me a quizzical look and asked "who are you?" I introduced myself as chair of the commission, and he said "oh, I thought you were staff."
posted by ambrosia at 9:06 AM on February 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ambrosia - I hear you, but that could have been an innocent mistake if he hadn't seen you addressing the commission for the entire length of time he was there.

If you had gotten up and made closing remarks, and he still was all "who are you?" that's something else again.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:13 AM on February 21, 2013


yanno, I'm not really on board with the "Oh your experiences aren't truly how you've experienced them" thing you're doing here, EC.
posted by KathrynT at 9:16 AM on February 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


To clarify, there was a staff person there, sitting on the other side of the room, and when people had questions for staff, they were addressed to him, and when people had questions for the commission, they were directed to myself and the other cluster of commissioners attending the meeting, who were all sitting together.
posted by ambrosia at 9:18 AM on February 21, 2013


when people had questions for the commission, they were directed to myself and the other cluster of commissioners attending the meeting, who were all sitting together.

Ahhh, gotcha. Yeah, the guy who asked "who are you" was a dingus.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:25 AM on February 21, 2013


also just the nerve of just going along with his assumption - "I thought you were staff" like how are you supposed to respond to that?
posted by sweetkid at 9:32 AM on February 21, 2013


All of this reminded me... my son needed a cup for baseball. my daughter--his much younger sister--and i were out shopping and i decided to pick it up. went into the sports store and asked where i could find them. clerk pointed the way and my daughter and i walked over. i picked out the appropriate size for my son. the clerk took one look at the cup and said, "oh. this is too big for that little guy." (talking about my daughter). she and i have laughed about that many times...
posted by byjingo! at 9:55 AM on February 21, 2013


I just found out yesterday that we're having a girl, so this thread and the many favorites I've dropped in it have been great in helping me begin to think about the hazards my daughter will face.

Thanks, Metafilter! (sincerely.)
posted by mdaugherty82 at 9:55 AM on February 21, 2013 [6 favorites]


This just in, from your friends at Hasbro:

“It used to be that people just make pink versions of boys’ products for girls. We found that girls wanted products made just for them,” said John Frascotti, Hasbro's global chief marketing officer. “We didn’t just make a pink version of the boys’ product. We made a product just for them.”
posted by jbickers at 10:25 AM on February 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


I just found out yesterday that we're having a girl

Congrats. Girls are fun! So much I had two. (So are boys!)

This just in, from your friends at Hasbro:

Great idea. Guns for girls. I think it's a winner. One of my older daughter loves all kinds of water/nerf guns, and none are marketed the mainstream girl aesthetic (i.e. pink or purple).

I wouldn't buy them for my kids for philosophical (anti-gun) and practical (one of them will use the bow to hit the other over the head - the nerf part is fine - it's the plastic that hurts) reasons, but I'd let them play the hell of them at someone else's house ;)
posted by mrgrimm at 10:36 AM on February 21, 2013


I saw the pink Nerf thng passed around a lot on the Twitters as Mattel creating "gender neutral" toys. What bugged me most about the buzz about "gender neutral!" guns for girls is that ok, so girls can participate in play violence in culturally acceptable purple... but... where is the Bob the Builder baby doll for boys?

Seriously, it's not neutral to cover something "masculine" in pink while still reinforcing that stereotypically feminine toys aren't "for boys." That's just selling extra Nerf guns to girls who have been conditioned, by you the toy companies, to want things that are PINK.

It's actually bassfuckingackwards as you're sending messages to the boys that the pink guns aren't for them, just like the pink dolls, pink ponies, pink fairy dresses... Just another brick in the "real boys don't play with pink" wall. As hard as it is for girls who break away from pink is, it's even worse on boys who prefer it. Feminine being seen as "less than" makes it a bigger social sin to lose masculinity rather than gain it.

I think about this a lot preparing for a second kid someday. I could put a girl in a lot of my sons's handmedowns and maybe a few dumb comments would ensue from her wearing overalls with trucks on them, but nothing like the nonstop shitstorm if I put a boy in a pink shirt, much less tights or a dress. (PS: My son's winter coat is green. I get "What is it?" at least once a week. It. At age almost two. Geezus, humanity, he's still a person even if his gender isn't displayed on his forehead.)
posted by sonika at 10:52 AM on February 21, 2013 [6 favorites]


There was an fpp at least a couple of years ago about a family who'd had a baby and they weren't telling anyone (except the baby's older sibling or siblings) what the sex of the baby was. People freaked the fuck out - mefite people and also random non-mefites who were quoted in the article and left comments in whatever publication wrote about it. The reaction surprised me and I was surprised that I was surprised.
posted by rtha at 11:10 AM on February 21, 2013


There was an fpp at least a couple of years ago about a family who'd had a baby and they weren't telling anyone (except the baby's older sibling or siblings) what the sex of the baby was.

This is that thread.

There were only one or two mefite people who got close to freaking the fuck out. Most people were pretty supportive.
posted by phunniemee at 11:20 AM on February 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


Ah, that's the one. Fewer freakouts than I recall (whew!) - maybe I'm remembering the worst of newspaper comments or something.
posted by rtha at 11:31 AM on February 21, 2013


That article does mention that Hasbro is making their Easy Bake Oven in black and silver to make it more appealing for boys which is pretty neat as well. So, not a Bob the Builder Baby Doll, but maybe they'll get there eventually. Sadly, my son it too old for one. He has to live with helping me bake with the real oven.
posted by madelf at 12:05 PM on February 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


I populate my office candy dish in the name of the Patriarchy.

Preach! Here in my office (2 lawyers, 2 paralegals/community support workers, office manager, and me at the bottom articling - only myself and 1 lawyer are male) there's no public-facing food, but our communal snacks/food/whatever come from whomever has extra candy to get rid of. Usually that's one of the paralegals just because she has a huge family in town compared to the rest of us, but nobody's batted an eye* when I've brought in bread, ice cream, desserts.

It definitely and thankfully doesn't fall to our office manager/secretary to do it.

*well everyone bats an eye at my ice cream but that's on a "ohmagerd this is delicious angle"
posted by Lemurrhea at 12:47 PM on February 21, 2013


When I was maybe 10 or 12 years old, my father and I were traveling to DC. We hopped in a cab, the driver asked us where we were from, and we said Buffalo. The driver mentioned the Bills and we got into a long conversation about football. When we were getting out of the cab, he noticed that I'm a girl and said that he was so surprised that I knew so much about football.

That said, the resident football fan in my house growing up was my mother. Occasionally, my dad would sarcastically say that he wanted to see The Big Game and we'd all be like, Dad is so funny! He never watches football - that's what Mom does!

I've been catcalled and I usually don't mind. I feel like for some people in my neighborhood, "you have such a pretty smile!" directed at me is basically equivalent to "hey man, how's it going?" directed at my husband. It's not malicious or overtly sexual so I just let it go.

But. There have been two incidents which bothered me. One time, a guy yelled at me while I was walking and started following me. It was in a neighborhood that's only okay, I felt threatened and I screamed at him. I think that's the only time I've yelled at someone catcalling.

The other time, I was walking home from yoga and it was raining a little. I was fumbling with an umbrella and these fratty guys standing outside a bar were like, "how are you doing? are you getting wet?" I was just walking home, I didn't want to talk to people, I wanted to get out of the rain as soon as possible, so I just kept going. They yelled something like, "I hope you don't have a nice day!" It still pisses me off - what did I do to them? Why am I, or rather, why do they think that I am, obligated to answer them? Sure, it was a small thing, they just said something annoying, but like I said, it still bothers me.

It's probably been done before but I've thought of trying to make a video or something to demonstrate to men how street harassment feels. I think it's like throwing pebbles at glass - one is not a big deal and even a rock lightly thrown at glass isn't a problem but sometimes it feels like the comments just keep coming.
posted by kat518 at 3:48 PM on February 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's just amazing reading this. My kids are probably the same age as many people posting here: I remember the effort, the no Barbies, the trying to find practical hardwearing clothing; is it ok to play with toy guns? (what, water pistols? Potato guns? Yes. Or your son will only make guns from sticks and shoot his sisters anyway.) Would your boy like a My Little Pony? (He loved it. It was purple.) The weird looks from other parents. Changing the gender of kids in storybooks because girls rarely did anything adventurous or independent, apart from a very few, special authors, Nina Bawden for example.

Thirty years later the struggle is harder! How did that happen? Unless my daughter fights like a wild thing, my grandchild is going to be plastic pink and passive from head to toe. Women are freer and have more opportunities now than ever before so how on earth did this happen?

One of things I remember is when Rap started to get popular and forbidding it in the house for misogyny and violence.....yeah, my kids where the weirdos with the strange mother who weren't allowed junk food or rubbish TV or polyester or much plastic at all. But I find it SO ODD that this struggle hasn't got any easier.

And as women's independence has increased somehow this pubic aggression towards women is just about acceptable. The last gasps of a dying system? I wish I could believe that.

"This princess stuff is a real mystery to me as a parent." Me too, as a grandparent. I mean there's gender difference - and vive la differance, it's a source of great pleasure and discovery - and then there's this reductive restrictive marketing stereotype stuff.
posted by glasseyes at 4:52 PM on February 21, 2013 [6 favorites]


"This princess stuff is a real mystery to me as a parent."

I think I do understand a piece of why it is so appealing -- there are not many ways for children to have real power and force adults to listen to them. If you were a princess, everyone would have to listen to you and you would not have to wait until you grew up for that. When I think about some of the male Disney main characters (Simba, Aladdin)... well, Simba is a prince, and Aladdin finds a genie in a magic lamp. Then outside of Disney there's Harry Potter, a wizard. So it's down to becoming a wizard, finding a magic lamp, or being a princess. It's not really clear how to achieve the first two... but you can become a princess just by getting everyone to agree that you are one. I don't think it's just about being pretty.

I think if we started by getting popular media to offer images of different kinds of powerful children other than princesses, who don't need specialized skills or powers, it would be possible to break the back of the princess thing.
posted by cairdeas at 5:11 PM on February 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


I was a kid in the 70s, and we played: Walter Cronkite interviewing Vietnamese villagers whose village had been blown up; Six Million Dollar Man and/or Bionic Woman; generic We Have Horses and Therefore Adventures; jungle explorer (at the flood control channel nearby); Partridge Family.

I don't recall any princess play. We had a TV and I know we went to the movies, so I probably saw Disney movies. My step-grandma sent me Barbies sometime but they were just props for making sure the houses and stables I built them out of boxes would be big enough.
posted by rtha at 5:32 PM on February 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


I wonder what would happen with the princess thing if the world of mainstream comics/superheroes stopped being so freaking sexist and more appealing to young girls.
posted by cairdeas at 5:42 PM on February 21, 2013


"This princess stuff is a real mystery to me as a parent."

One word:

Marketing.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:13 PM on February 21, 2013


I was a kid in the 80s and I just missed the princesses. It really took off with The Little Mermaid and then Beauty and the Beast - the latter of which came out when I was 10, just old enough to watch it a zillion times but not so young that I got sucked into having princess toys all the time. If we put the onset of princess culture at Peak Disney, that's about 1991.
posted by sonika at 8:52 PM on February 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ladies! Stop crying! Here to console us after decades of crass objectification by sexist beer marketing is the most sexist beer marketing of all! It's a beer made for chicks! Who don't like beer! Or themselves! It's pink! The carton looks like a purse! Only 3.5 carbs! No way you will look like a dyke drinking one of these!
posted by applemeat at 8:12 AM on February 22, 2013


If we put the onset of princess culture at Peak Disney, that's about 1991.

When I was in first grade, which would have been about 1991, a friend of mine had a princes and princesses birthday party. It was the stereotypical cone princess hat deal. I don't recall there being any Disney anything involved, and recall that the overwhelming color scheme was pastel blue and purple. And we were all kids who loved the Little Mermaid. The two were still distinct entities at that time.

When I was in fifth grade, my best friend had a little sister, kindergarten-aged. Her little sister had Disney princess and pink everything.
posted by phunniemee at 8:24 AM on February 22, 2013


One of the things I hate most about the invasion of all things pink is that even professional sports schwag has gotten in on it. Every time I go to a baseball game, I see women (not all women, but many) wearing pink ball caps or jerseys or t-shirts, and I get all "OUR TEAM HAS COLORS. WEAR THE FUCKING COLORS." Because if you're wearing a pink cap, how can I tell if you are a Dodgers fan or a Giants fan? This shit is in fact important to me!
posted by rtha at 9:01 AM on February 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


"OUR TEAM HAS COLORS. WEAR THE FUCKING COLORS."

Totally agree. Ick.
posted by sweetkid at 9:04 AM on February 22, 2013


One of the things I hate most about the invasion of all things pink is that even professional sports schwag has gotten in on it. Every time I go to a baseball game, I see women (not all women, but many) wearing pink ball caps or jerseys or t-shirts, and I get all "OUR TEAM HAS COLORS. WEAR THE FUCKING COLORS."

OH MY GOD YES. When my niece was a baby my brother proudly sent us all pictures of her bundled up in a wee little pink Boston Red Sox onesie and hat, and I thought what the hell are you doing with her in that when I KNIT that child a Red Sox had IN THE TEAM COLORS with my OWN TWO HANDS you jackass....

To be fair, the hat didn't look quite...perfect. But the socks did, and it's the principle dammit....
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:16 AM on February 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


I turned 3 in 1991, so man, I was at the right place at the right time! Though I was too wimpy to sit through the wolves or the beast in Beauty and the Beast (or the mean sharks in the Little Mermaid), I pretty much *lived* for Cinderella. When I was four or five, I was also obsessed with Little House in the Big Woods, and so I had to retrofit all my princess clothes to pioneer clothes. My pink satin princess dress from Grandma (Halloween: 1992) became a Pioneer Dress with the addition of a sunbonnet and a pretend covered wagon. Kids are adaptable, they just need to know that here are more appealing things to adapt to. And my parents, as far as I can recall, didn't obviously freak out and try to keep me from being a princess or anything, they just read books to me with more interesting girls than Cinderella - some of them were even princesses!
posted by ChuraChura at 9:17 AM on February 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


applemeat: "Ladies! Stop crying! Here to console us after decades of crass objectification by sexist beer marketing is the most sexist beer marketing of all! It's a beer made for chicks! Who don't like beer! Or themselves! It's pink! The carton looks like a purse! Only 3.5 carbs! No way you will look like a dyke drinking one of these!"

They're not wrong about the way beer is advertised and marketed in this country. Beer ads focus very heavily on selling to men. I sort of feel like this is a natural response to that by the women who make "Chick beer," rather than an affront. But everyone's mileage on that will no doubt vary.
posted by zarq at 9:24 AM on February 22, 2013


Ambrosia, I had a similar experience a few weeks ago. (And variants happen to me all the time.) I was a well-advertised keynote at a conference, and had been doing a ton of media and meet-and-greets and stuff. There was a lunch at which a half-dozen women attendees were telling me how great my talk was, what an honour it was to meet me, and so on. And some random male attendee, the only man at the lunch, interrupted to introduce himself and ask me who I worked for, and what was my "department or project." I looked at him kind of blankly, and a friend of mine said "she runs [it]." Whereupon he looked blankly at me. I was like, WTF, my face is on a huge fucking poster within your line of sight.

Stuff like that happens to me all the time, and the really insidious thing is that for years I thought there was something wrong with *me*. Like, I wasn't sufficiently authoritative, or was dressing wrong, or somehow accidentally sending low-status signals. It was only after years of accumulating experiences like that that I realized it happened regardless of how I was dressed, who I was with, what kind of mood I was in, etc. The single common denominator was men. Many men take me and my work at face value, with seriousness, but many just seem to be unable to do that. Their default assumption is that I'm unimportant, and for some it takes a really ridiculous amount of evidence before they can rethink that. I often find it funny, but of course it's also infuriating.
posted by Susan PG at 11:12 AM on February 24, 2013 [8 favorites]


Oh, lord, were they wrong. One of the sweetest things about being over 50 is that it stopped.

Oh hell yes. One of the best things about being older is that now I get to be the person who does the looking, rather than the one who's looked at. I still get to dress up if I want, but it feels as if the pressure's off.

If I were to plot the instances of catcalling in my life on a chart, they would reveal almost nothing about me--how old I was, what I was wearing, whether or not I'm attractive--but they would show you a lot about where I was standing.

Yes, my own anecdotal experience is that the catcalling is very much to do with neighbourhood. My university years were spent in a fairly grungy working-class suburb and I was catcalled constantly. As soon as I moved to a nicer, more middle class suburb it dropped to almost nothing.

It was more than just catcalling; once I was in a shop, kneeling down to look at something from a lower shelf, and a man walking past turned to his friend and said "That's what I like to see, a woman down on her knees." I looked up in shock and they laughed at me. And then when I walked past them on the way out they laughed at me again.

Now in a professional setting I encounter situations where a male visitor will address all his questions to my male colleague, even though said colleague has already told him "This is andraste, she's the expert in this field". But those burn less than that incident in the shop more than 20 years ago, and I think it's because I *do* have power here. I know something they don't; they need my advice; I can choose to give it or withhold it and so I can pointedly keep the conversation focused. I have ways of letting them know that I hold the cards here. In a way it's almost funny.

But when you're 18 and poor and female, and in a poor neighbourhood, you have no cards. If the shop incident happened to me now that I'm a tougher, snappier person with a thicker skin it would be different, but I was a kid and felt horribly humiliated and demeaned and utterly powerless, and I knew that that was their intention and it made it worse.
posted by andraste at 3:02 PM on February 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


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