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When Is It Going To Be Enough?

I love this film already and I’ve only seen a two and a half minute clip of it.

It’s so frustrating to me how inured we are to the girl/boy divide, that simply stating you don’t want your daughter dressed exclusively in pink makes you a radical feminist.

That suggesting boys can be sweet and girls creators paints you as an extremist, labels you.

A few stories then:

1. When the Chris Brown/Rihanna situation exploded and pictures of her battered and swollen face were splashed across magazine covers and website pages, I remember sitting down with a handful of the teens I work with to address any triggers, and also just because I was curious about their take.

Their responses shocked me. The boys remained largely silent, they seemed to recognize the magnitude of Brown’s actions, the horrific nature of the situation. But the girls, the GIRLS were the ones to make jokes, to brush it off, to justify and say things like “Well she must have done something pretty bad to make him that angry.”

I was horrified. “No!” I remember insisting, “Nothing she could have done, – nothing – would warrant that reaction. What Chris Brown did was wrong, the fault lies squarely with him. There is no justification for something like this. Ever.”

They sensed how worked up I was and they nodded, but their eyes betrayed them, they didn’t agree. The fact that Brown still has legions of loyal fans (the majority being female) speaks to the far reach of this disordered thinking.

(Sort-of related tangent: A few weeks ago I was soliciting music suggestions from a different group of teens, I was giving my typical schpiel, ” The songs can’t have excessive swearing, glorification of drugs or alcohol, violence against women etc” and one of the young boys spoke up and said “What about violence against men?” and, YES! Fist-pump.)

2. Christmas. Or perhaps gift-giving in general. I once worked in a store where many people did their Christmas shopping, and I guess I’ve been successfully brainwashed by Sociology and Feminism because I was truly surprised by how many people bought incredibly gendered gifts for their children.

It’s frustrating because this issue goes FAR beyond pink for girls, blue for boys – who cares! The colours themselves are irrelevant, but the way toys are produced, advertised and marketed is negligent.

One woman bought her daughter a Mr. Clean-branded broom and dustpan set. Her son got Lego. Packaging on the former showed a young girl, the latter a boy.

Do you see? Men create, they explore, they build, they achieve. Women clean. Women take care of babies.

These statements aren’t problematic in and of themselves- they’re true, men DO explore and create, women DO raise children.

But it’s the complete and utter lack of balance that disturbs me. These toys are being marketed very specifically towards one gender or the other. You’ll never find a baby doll in the “boys” section of Toys R Us.

There’s an appalling absence of options to allow GIRLS to practice creating, exploring, building, conquering, achieving. Equally disturbing is the lack of options for BOYS to caretake, practise domesticity.

Yes, you can buy boy-specific toys for girls and vice-versa, but I find that by the time a child is three or four they know pink is for girls, blue is for boys. They’ve been socialized enough to know that it’s not “right” for a boy to play with a pink toy. We as adults need to make room for each child to explore interests and capabilities regardless of gendered norms and expectations.

You can’t do it by yourself. A parent can raise their child to be as gender-neutral as they want, but at some point they will come into contact with society and a boy playing with a doll on the playground will be made fun of. A little girl will be encouraged to leave behind the science kit and be ushered over to the barbies.

Hopefully they can be strong enough to buck that pressure, but that’s placing the responsibility of changing an entire society’s social norms on the shoulders of a four year old, when we as adults should be taking on that role ourselves. 

Why is it radical that a boy should want to do laundry or learn how to soothe a child? Why is it radical that a girl might want to see a picture of someone who looks like her on a box of Lego’s?

It’s bullshit. Wooden blocks for all.

3. Feminism itself. I hate calling myself a feminist for a few reasons, a) the ridiculous connotations it carries with it: Unshaven legs, masculinity (so antithetical I can’t even go into it), rage, unreasonable attitudes, man-hating, unattractiveness, it goes on ad nauseum…  and b) it seems redundant.

Who isn’t a feminist?! Is there anyone reading this who would actually argue that women are in some tangible, concrete way, less than men? Less valuable, less worthy, less capable, less important? Is there anyone reading this who would argue that women aren’t equally capable of achieving greatness, being leaders and role models, wielding power responsibly?

(and conversely, would anyone truly argue that men are in some way less able to parent, to maintain a home, to strive to create a loving relationship with those close to them?)

It seems really strange to me that these two ideas exist simultaneously; that being a feminist is somehow unattractive and radical, but also that the actual concept of feminism involves simply reaches for equality in the most basic of human ways.

We are all feminists!

(Want to hold hands?)

4. Men and women are not the same, in fact we tend to be (generally speaking) very very different. Throw a stone and you’ll find a study proving gaping differences in men and women’s  memory, spatial skills, the way we learn, athletic strengths, instinct, interpersonal skills etc etc etc. but this is precisely WHY balance is needed.

We need to balance the general strengths of one gender with the weaknesses of the other. Anyone who has ever had a healthy long-term relationship (opposite-sex or same-sex) knows what this is like.

Men are not the problem, women are not the solution.

Balance.