Writing at the intersection of motherhood, feminism and my Latinidad

22 August 2009

The Gender Police is still alive and well

While my husband is quite the feminist, he's not an academic one or one who seeks out a lot of feminist theory. Who can blame him? He's got me! But seriously, watching his growth as a feminist is one of the most touching things in my life. Adding our daughter to the equation has heightened his feminist spidey sense.

Our daughter had long hair until Saturday. I took her in to get a back to school cut, which should had been a bob up to her chin. It looks more like a long pixie cut. OMG, it is super cute! But to her it's a tragedy. We've done all we can do to help her feel better about her hair, but I'm sure you know what it feels like to have a bad cut or bad hair on picture day.

She hasn't told us so, but her camp counselor told my husband that the boys are teasing her about her hair. "You look like a boy!" is their main chant. This led to a discussion about teasing, boys and gender. Sadly I have to admit that we immediately think "What are those boys' parents teaching them?" But I quickly recall that gendered expectations are pervasive in our sexist society. Girls|Boys, there is no in between.

Despite all the feministy parenting I perform each day, my daughter still remarked at a Chicago Red Stars game, "She looks like a boy!" as she pointed to a player. *sigh* Heck in pre-school we went thru a period when she *had* to wear a skirt or dress because "or else I'll look like a boy!"

I don't recall going thru a time when anyone questioned my gender. Heck, I grew up when it was pretty much an insult to be called a girl. I wasn't a girl! I was a tomboy. But my tough girly girl is going thru such a moment and it's breaking her heart. And thus our hearts.

Even the toughest and biggest of girls get their hearts broken when their gender is questioned. AND IT FUCKING SUCKS!

There are times when I think that it would had been great to be a girl today. Where we were so post-Title IX that women make up over 50% of college students, we closed the math gap in high school and we play sports the way my friends & I use to play school. Girls can do all this and still walk out of the locker room wearing lipstick and a cute skirt.

But gosh darn it, despite all our progress on what we expect from girls, we still want them to LOOK like girls. No matter how strong we get, we still need to look good in that evening gown at the ESPYs. We take pictures of professional women athletes wearing lipstick, with their pregnant bellies (cause ya know, lesbians don't get pregnant) or wearing nothing at all. We do this because we need to know that despite their strength, they are still "just girls" underneath it all.

But my daughter's hair will grow. In fact I bet it's at an acceptable length by the time school starts. I'll watch the stylist's scissors better next time - heck I'm thinking of finding a new stylist for her. Others are going thru gender issues that are far more difficult and can't be solved with a trip to Claire's for a hot pink headband with peace symbols.

I do wonder what my daughter will take from this experience. Will she finally believe me that there really isn't anything like "boys hair and girls hair?" Or will this reinforce the fact that if you step out of line the gender police will stop you, whether you are 6, 16 or 26?

I know those in my life wonder why I'm so touchy when I hear them say things like "that's a girl thing" or "boys just don't write as well." Gender is fluid and gender roles are as well. No matter how many boys you know who just won't sit still, when you say that "all boys need to get up and run around" you are doing an injustice to the boy who likes to sit and read. No matter how many girls you know who do better in reading, there is that one girl you are overlooking who kicks math's ass. When we say girls do this and boys do that, yet the girl or boy listening doesn't how do you think that makes them feel?

Let's work together to free all our girls and all our boys from the gender police.

2 comments:

I have to confess that after about the 4th time a little girl in my son's class told my husband he looked like a girl (he's got long hair) he finally told her she looked like a boy :) I love short hair on girls, but as a mom of a boy with long blond curly locks I can relate to her worries. He finally insisted on getting his hair cut.

I haven't had my coffee yet, so I won't get on my soap box about this b/c it'll be too rambling...but you're totally right. If there's one argument I have w/ people on a seemingly regular basis is that there's no such thing as girl/boy toys,colors,shows,etc. One day I'm just going to go around and smack people upside the head.