This is a comment by Jonathan G on the post “My Sons’ Easy-Bake Oven Shame“.
Joanna, I think it’s causation, not just correlation: They Easy-Bake Oven turned more girly than ever because gender roles are starting to fade. I’ll keep this brief:
Postulate 1: Culture determines virtually all of what we think of as personal identity, what we think of when we think of “who I am.” Strip away all the cultural identity markers, e.g. you’re a lawyer, you’re a knitter, you’re a nerd, you like Thai cuisine, you’re blue collar, you’re feminine, inter alia, and what’s left? I’d argue “not much,” but whatever the case, the cultural identity markers form a critical part of our self-concept.
Postulate 2: The roles of feminine and masculine make up a very large portion of our self-concept in Western thought. (Not that everybody fits neatly and comfortably in one or the other, of course.) We find it so important, in fact, that some people will go to great lengths to modify their bodies if they feel that their physical body does not match their self-concept of their gender.
Hypothesis: The process of traditional gender roles breaking down threatens people’s self-concept, their personal identity. They like feeling masculine or feminine; it gives order to the world. Thus, people facing this ontological crisis latch on more firmly than ever to the cultural indicators of femininity or masculinity that remain.
Men can now stay home with the kids while women go earn the money. Men worry about moisturizers and use eyeliner. Women drive trucks and fly fighter jets. Men open up about their emotions. Women keep moving more and more into public office and the corporate boardroom. What’s left for to a person who wants to exclaim unequivocally, “I am male,” or, “I am female”?
For women: High-heeled shoes, diminutive physical size, and pink objects apparently. (I have noticed an incredible proliferation of references to the first two in dating site profiles; so many women feel the need to point out their love of high-heeled shoes, either independently or in conjunction with their requirement of dating tall men so they can “feel small and feminine.”)
For men: Uhh … Actually, I’m not even sure what’s left. Suits and preternatural self-confidence?
Photo credit: Flickr / Cherry Girl77