Just got alerted to this lovely post over at Jezebel, a man musing on the difficulty of raising a boy amid the gender-policing traps that lurk everywhere.
The author notes that there is a serious disconnect in how we look at kids who fuck with their assigned gendered activities. Yeah, unspoken cultural pressures mean that there’s a real need for the Rock n’ Roll Camp For Girls, but at least if you tell people that you’re teaching your daughter to play a wicked bass riff, they’ll be basically supportive. “Awesome,” they’ll say, “good for you for not confining her to girly stuff.” Now tell those same people you’re sending your son to ballet camp. Watch their expressions change. “Oh, uh, cool…” they stammer. “I mean, aren’t you afraid it might make him… I mean, you know, don’t you worry about him getting picked on?”
The raw facts on the ground are that right now, our culture values stereotypically-masculine attributes more highly than stereotypically-feminine ones, and that gender enforcement goes double or triple when it comes to kids. (If you doubt this, I await your explanation for the Avatar: The Last Airbender action figure line. Seriously, two fucking figures of Roku and none of Katara, Toph, or Azula? Seriously?) One of the reasons feminism has been able to make strides in helping women participate in “men’s spheres” is that women doing man-stuff is is seen as trading up, and hey, who wouldn’t want to trade up? A guy doing woman-stuff (or, as it’s usually called, girl stuff) is trading down, and that’s just CRAZY.
Until it is just as cool for your little boy to want to learn to make his own clothes as it is for your little girl to play Little League, we are not free. Until men don’t have to make sniggering jokes about “bronies” if we want to enjoy a kids’ show with female characters, we are not free. And goddammit, until I get my Toph action figure, I’m just going to be over here pouting. Pouting girlishly, just to piss off the Man.