gender stereotypes

Revealing the Gendered Reveal

picture of two pairs of baby running shoes - one blue and one pinkby Maggie MacAulay

“Are you having a boy or a girl?” is likely the first question that people ask pregnant women who announce or confirm that they are expecting. Just as weddings can be both resource-intensive and gender normative events, pregnancy, in particular through the recent phenomenon of “gender reveal” parties, is becoming yet another life event re-appropriated to serve the whims of the market and the binary gender system. It is worth noting the gendering of infants is a relatively recent phenomenon.

Typically, gender reveal parties typically occur around the 20th week of gestation, where couples (typically white, middle-class, hetero, cis) ask the ultrasound technician to write down the sex of the fetus on a piece of paper and seal it in an envelope that they deliver to a baker or a photographer in anticipation of a party or a photo-shoot. A baker might craft a cake containing pink or blue frosting that the couple will cut into at the event (one critic described it as a stand-in  for the uterus) , or a photographer might stage a box of pink or blue balloons that the couple will open during the photo shoot.

Surprise! You’ve gendered something that eats through its belly button.

Pink Capitalism (aka women without feminism)

In a capitalist hetero-patriarchy, the gender-reveal operates under the assumption that knowing the sex of the baby simplifies the shopping process, since friends and family will know the “right” colour to buy and parents will know the “correct” way to decorate. Heaven forbid someone buys the boy a pink and frilly dress!

As feminists we should be highly suspect of this tradition for a number of reasons. Gender revealing serves as just another way to make money off the bellies of women and reinforces pregnancy as a hyperfeminized and infantilized, Stepford Wife-esque event, with the aesthetic of the party resembling more a child’s birthday party than a shower.

The Cisgender Empire Strikes Back (TW: murder)

But more troubling are the ways in which gender-revealing naturalizes the popular conflation of physical sex and gender by assigning gendered identities to genitals in utero. This pre-natal celebration of cisgenderism reminds us that only certain bodies with “matching” sex identities are valued. Read more

Posted on by Maggie MacAulay in Feminism 2 Comments

Gender Focus Reads: Men Speak Out: Views on Gender, Sex, and Power

menspeakout

by Jarrah Hodge

Every once in a while I’m asked to recommend books or other resources for men who are new to feminism and want to learn more. I usually start with bell hooks’ Feminism is for Everybody and follow up with Michael Kaufman and Michael Kimmel’s more recent and more specific book, The Guy’s Guide to Feminism. Now I have a new one to add to the list – one that really explores the diversity of issues and identities of male feminists and pro-feminists: Men Speak Out: Views on Gender, Sex, and Power.

 

The 2nd edition of Shira Tarrant’s edited anthology contains 41 essays (11 new since the first edition) around six themes: Masculinity and Identity, The Politics of Sex and Love, Dealing with Violence and Abuse, Masculinity at Work and Home, Men and Feminism, and Taking Action, Making Change. The insightful, personal pieces cover a range of topics within these themes, including masculinity in hip hop culture, teaching men about violence against women, sexual harassment in the U.S. Military, the problems with the “fathers’ rights” movement, and explorations of sexuality and gender identity.

It’s hard to narrow it down, but if I had to pick my top three highlights of the book, they would be Amit Taneja’s “From Oppressor to Activist: Reflections of a Feminist Journey”, which uses a series of narrative “snapshots” to explore the author’s path to becoming a feminist as a gay, immigrant, person of colour; Jacob Anderson-Minshall on grappling with newfound privilege after transitioning from lesbian to straight white man; and C. Winter Han on fighting racism in the queer community and homophobia in anti-racist groups.

The only quibble I had with the book was Michael S. Kimmel’s intro to his essay, “Abandoning the Barricades: or How I Became a Feminist”. Overall I’m a big fan of Kimmel’s work. I already mentioned The Guy’s Guide to Feminism and Manhood in America is another must-read for anyone interested in the how our current gender roles in the West have been built through pop culture and politics. But I was a tiny bit disappointed reading his contribution to this book because he prefaces it by saying there are things in this older essay that he no longer agrees with, but doesn’t identify specifically what those are other than saying he now identifies as “pro-feminist” rather than “feminist”:

“I’ve left the text as I wrote it in 1975…I do so not because I stand behind every word I wrote more than thirty-five years ago; indeed, I would take a few things back, mute or sharpen various points, or change the language. No, I leave it the way I wrote it not because I stand behind every single word, but because I still stand with the young man who first wrote them.”

I felt like that was kind of a cop-out because it forced me as someone who has a lot of respect for Kimmel to give him the benefit of the doubt on things I disagreed with (it was mostly the overall slightly self-righteous and condescending tone I objected to, such as when he talks about feeling “angry at the men and protective toward the women” watching harassment in his college dorm). I would’ve appreciated more clarity on what he would and wouldn’t stand by so I didn’t just have to assume. But in the grand scheme of things, it’s a minor point.

Back to the big picture: there are big questions about the appropriate roles for men in feminism and Tarrant identifies some of these in her intros to the various sections. For example, in the intro to the part on Men and Feminism, Tarrant writes:

“The puzzle is this: How can we (a) make room in feminism to account for men as “our comrades in struggle,” while (b) retaining a central focus on women, yet (c) avoid reinscribing the gender binaries that feminism-as-female invokes?” Read more

Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Books, Feminism 1 Comment

How Twitter Reflects the Themes of Our Society

This was originally posted at A Nerdy Feminist. Cross-posted with permission of the author.

Let me set this all out from the get-go: I love social media. I’m an early adopter and heavy user of the biggest platforms. I was Facebooking it back in late 2004 when you had to request your college to be added to the network and I’ve been a regular tweeter since 2008. In fact, I’ve racked up almost 6000 tweets. I’m even into Tumbling now. All of this is just to demonstrate that the following is not me hating on social media or fearing progress. (We know how I feel about that.)

Besides, Twitter has been proven to be hugely influential in some really big things, like the Arab Spring, as well as many other grassroots, activist movements including Occupy. It also regularly allows me to connect with feminists from all over the country and world, making the theory feel united, my thoughts more widely informed, and allowing me to be supported and lend support.

But the fact of the matter is that for all the good Twitter can do, it is still is a direct reflection of the “-isms” that still exist in our society. A vast majority of its users are not necessarily engaging in activism, but rather sharing “funny” quips or personal thoughts. Unfortunately, racist, heterosexist, classist, and sexist hashtags often are amongst the top trending topics. So much so, that as a self-preservation tactic (read: I don’t want to get pissed off all the time) I’ve stopped regularly looking at them…which is a damn shame, since it could keep me from knowing about the great stuff I just referenced.

Despite my recent decision to ignore trending topics, I took a little glance last night and, of course, one of them was problematic.

#ImTheTypeofGirlfriend

But more on that particular trending topic in a moment. Read more

Posted on by A Lynn in Feminism Leave a comment

New Survey May Say More About Gender Expression than Youth Mental Health

crying boyby Ashli Scale

Last week Global Montreal posted a news article about a survey conducted by Queen’s University in partnership with the Public Health Agency of Canada and Health Canada. A total of 26,000 youth between the ages of 11 and 15 were surveyed. The main gist of the results is that girls are more likely to have emotional problems and mental health concerns than boys. However, the method of information gathering and the types of questions asked may actually tell us more about gender expression than mental health. To illustrate my concerns I have analyzed two survey conclusions below.

1. “While boys are more likely than girls to report behavioural problems such as cutting classes or skipping school, talking back to teachers and getting into fights, girls are more likely to report emotional problems – feeling low, feeling nervous or helpless, feeling left out of things or feeling lonely” (Global Montreal, 2012).

I provide social support to homeless and street-involved youth. In my experience, the vast majority of male youth DO experience feelings of depression, nervousness, loneliness or alienation but DON’T feel comfortable expressing these feelings. Instead, they act them out in more masculine and socially-approved ways – getting into fights, bullying or withdrawing. Remember, boys are raised to be MEN and told that real men don’t cry or show signs of weakness. Read more

Posted on by Ashli Scale in Can-Con, Feminism Leave a comment

It’s the Genderbread Person!

Genderbread Person
It’s Pronounced Metrosexual came up with this awesome infographic that helps clarify some gender binary terminology. The cool thing about it is how it shows all these aspects are on continuums – it’s not one or the other. And as the creator, Sam, points out, it shows: “Gender identity, gender expression, biological sex, and sexual orientation are independent of one another (i.e., they are not connected).” That means not everyone is stuck on one side of the chart or the other.

For a more detailed breakdown of the chart and the continuums Sam describes, visit the original post here.

-Jarrah

(h/t to A. Lynn of Nerdy Feminist

Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Feminism 6 Comments

FFFF: Gay Baby

Winner of Audience Award – Best Overall Short at FilmOut San Diego.

What if you found out your unborn son is GAY? An expectant couple learns their unborn son is gay. Can a young gay store clerk change the father’s reaction from disappointment to excitement? An interesting twist on the idea of how parents will react if a “gay gene” is ever discovered.

-Jarrah 

Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Feminism, FFFF, LGBT Leave a comment

The Gender Anachronisms of Figure Skating

Artistic Impressions Book Cover

The 2011-2012 figure skating Grand Prix Final is starting this week in Quebec City, but according to Queens University Kinesiologist Mary Louise Adams, figure skating’s gender roles are running at least a few decades behind the times.

Adams is the author of Artistic Impressions: Figure Skating, Masculinity, and the Limits of Sport, which I highly recommend for figure skating fans, skaters, and anyone with a passing interest in the gender dynamics of sport.

Last year’s Vancouver Olympics brought the gender dynamics of figure skating to the public’s attention more than ever before as the battle between male skaters Evan Lysacek and Evgeny Plushenko turned into a debate on whether men skating without a quad jump was “effeminate”, and former US champion Johnny Weir was the subject of homophobic remarks by French commentators. Over the years, skaters like Elvis Stojko have argued that figure skating needs to be re-branded as more masculine to appeal to young boys. And organizations like Skate Canada have on occasion taken up that torch with ad campaigns.

Adams’ book gives historical perspective to these issues, showing how figure skating originated as a gentleman’s sport in which women were not even allowed to participate. But over time society changed, and so did the technique, rules, artistry, and demographics of figure skating so we now see the sport dominated by younger and younger women.

(Note: Adams’ book and this article only look at the singles’ events. The gender dymanics of pairs and dance events are too much to get into here.)

“The thing about skating more than other aesthetic judged sports is the division between presentation and aesthetic qualities and also technique and athletic qualities. The relative weight and balance of these things and what they mean for both the sport and for the people who participate in the sport has been a debate since the beginning of the 20th century. It’s changed over time. It used to be about class and now it seems to be more about gender,” Adams told me in an interview.

Adams points out that the very way we score skating today is based on arbitrary gender constructions. In addition to obvious gender markers like women’s revealing, skirted costumes (women skaters weren’t allowed to wear pants in competition until recently) the women’s long program is thirty seconds less than men’s. It’s based on the idea that men are stronger, but it has real implications in terms of the scoring. Adams points out that women’s world champion and Olympic gold medalist Yu Na Kim will never be considered “the best” under the current scoring system because women’s scores are very likely to always fall below men’s. Adams continued:

“The thing that surprises me most is that these rules persist – the spirals, the timing – and the illogicalness of them given, say, that pairs skaters skate longer. The anachronisms of figure skating are stunning given what women figure skaters do now and have done. They pretty much always do what the men have done except for one or two things – and we then place the emphasis on those things.”

“Those things” includes the quad jump: widely purported to be the ultimate goal for male skaters. Male skaters like Evan Lysacek who do fail to work quad jumps into their programs are frequently attacked with homophobic accusations of effeminacy. Read more

Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Can-Con, Feminism 4 Comments