One of the things that bothers me most when I talk to people who don’t really “get” feminism is the way that gender is treated as somehow intrinsic, as if we didn’t start bashing out children over the head with their gender roles literally before they are even born — seriously, when you paint your nursery blue (or pink) or buy little floral (or dumptruck-themed) onesies, you are putting your child firmly in the societally-approved box. Actually, box is too mild. You are building giant fucking walls around your child’s experiences, and saying “GIRL STUFF ONLY” or, “YOU LIKE DRESS-UP, SON? TOO BAD!”
I should probably be clear, I don’t actually blame parents for this. It’s not like anyone consciously decides, “I am going to limit my child’s self-expression today!” In fact, it’s unlikely that most people even realize that they are teaching their children gender, rather than responding to their child’s “natural” preferences, when they buy the much-begged-for Barbie, or toy truck, or whatever. And honestly, telling your son he can’t paint his fingernails is, in some ways, good parenting. Sure, if he likes pretty colors, he should be allowed to wear pretty colors– but there are serious repercussions from the rest of society for failing to conform, and it’s a parent’s natural inclination to protect his or her child from harm.
SO: indoctrinating children via toys, clothes, and basically everything else they ever encounter: BAD SHIT, but it’s patriarchy’s fault; even though I’m saying “you,” I don’t really mean you; it just makes for better ranting if I say it.
ANYWAY. Nothing makes me angrier than seeing kids’ sections in large stores, especially the toys and the clothes. The monolithic walls of PINK! and EVERYTHING ELSE! and the vast (metaphorical) chasm between them… on the one hand, it makes me kind of hopeful, since it’s proof that we have to devote a whole lot of energy to teaching gender, but on the other hand, it just depresses me, because we are sure as hell expending that energy, and then some. And it’s just such a limiting paradigm. It’s a losing proposition for boys and girls, the way boys are taught that they are tough (and therefore cut themselves off from emotion and introspection) and girls are taught that they are fragile (and therefore sabotage their own potential in more quantifiable ways).
Ignore the inherent dirtiness of the phrase “GIRL’s BOX!” Let’s get a closer look at what these have:
I mean, we are literally sorting children into boxes by gender, and telling them what they can and cannot like, and they will learn from it.
Does no one else see the problem with this?!