Posts Tagged ‘gender stereotypes’

Failing the gender roles test

Posted in gender stereotypes on January 31st, 2011 by steph – 7 Comments

Holy shit, men and women are no longer sticking to “male” and “female” tasks, and fewer people live the same life that their parents and grandparents do! Alert the media! Oh, wait. Somebody already did.

So, fewer women “these days” can complete the traditional ladytasks that their mothers can, and more of them can do traditional dudetasks that were previously considered to be a man’s domain. Panic! Australian Gen Y men were more comfortable changing a nappy than changing a tyre. Double panic!

If this was reported in a way that framed it for what it really is, it might not be so bad. Basically, life has changed since this mythical back-in-the-day where women could roast chickens and men mowed the lawn. Gender representation in the workforce has changed, parental roles have changed, lifestyles have changed (although, in a way, these things haven’t changed much…). As is said in the article,

“Women of today tend to be busier, juggling more roles and are quite prepared to compromise a bit of the homemade just to save some time.”They also have a lot more disposable income compared with their mums and their grandmothers so buying a cake mix or lamingtons ready-made is not a big deal.”

Also, being a stay-at-home-Dad is a thing now. And the idea of a man in the kitchen whipping something up is more natural. And automatic cars are more common, so not being able to drive a manual isn’t really a huge deal. So it’s not really surprising that being able to do some things is no longer a necessity for women, or for men. I can’t cook a roast, thus falling firmly into the 49% of women who can’t, but luckily for me I live with someone who’s cooking skills are so great that I probably will never need to cook a roast myself.

But rather than heralding these results as potentially rather good -gender roles not so strict! People do what they’re good at, and let other people pick up the slack where they leave off! Women have the money to pay someone to alter a dress for them!- the article leads off with this excellent title

Generation Y fails where housewives of the 1950s excelled

Bahaha, did you really think that is was great news that women don’t feel restricted to the kitchen anymore? No way. You’re a failure! And your mother and grandmother were awesome successes who blow you out of the water. Renounce your woman card ASAP.

Tecnically, this is an accurate statement: fewer women now can do these specific tasks that more women then could do. Thus they were ‘better’ than us. But failure isn’t really a neutral term, it’s a loaded word. And in this case it’s meant to imply that modern women don’t care about skills or tradition, but are too busy trying with work and whatnot and as a result we have “failed” at these things. And men, they’ve also failed at traditionally manly things. We all suck, really. I guess never mind thinking about all the skills that modern men and women have that are useful now but our parents and grandparents may not have a clue about. And don’t worry that changes in society means that gender segregating tasks (sewing, cooking, cleaning for women, outdoor stuff and car-related things for men) is no longer as important, suggesting that these results are not really worrying or surprising. Fuck thinking about those things: only 20% of Gen Y women can make homemade lamingtons! This is a serious issue.

Pink is for girls

Posted in gender stereotypes, stuff.co.nz on January 12th, 2011 by steph – 7 Comments

Today an article discussing the “pinkification” of toys and products for girls appeared on Stuff.co.nz, and actually did a good job of articulating why the all-pink “toys for girls” aisles of toy stores are problematic. I was especially pleased that they mentioned, as an example, the release of the pinked-up versions of Jenga (“Not only are the Jenga blocks pink, but each features a different question such as, “If you had one wish, what would you wish for? or “Who do you have a crush on right now?”) and Monopoly; over the Christmas holidays I was browsing the games section of The Warehouse and was totally appalled to see Twister Pink: “a girlish twist on a classic game” . Appalled because Twister is already a gender-neutral game, people! This description talks about how “all of the traditional primary colors have been replaced with pinks and fun patterns”; I had no idea that primary colours were the fucking death knell of sales to girls and women. Twister does not need a twist; the classic game is already fine for boys and girls. It doesn’t need to come in a furry pink shoulder bag –“perfect for taking to sleepovers!- for it to be “girl-friendly”. To this some people might say “but hey, some girls love pink and glitter and funky patterns, so why not attempt to tap into that demographic and catch their eye, thus upping sales?”. Well, some girls might like cute lil’ animals, and there’s no animal themed Twister. Some boys might like cars and trucks  and rugged grunty stuff with flames and skulls (y’know, “boy stuff”) but there isn’t a version of Twister that comes in a camo-print bag with studs and flames and maybe a giant monster truck on the front. Actually, I think a boy version would come with a mini leather briefcase to remind boys that they will one day grow up and enter the workforce and bring home the bacon.  The fact that there isn’t any special effort made to create a boy-targeted version to aim for that demographic of buyers suggests that the original version is the one that is ok for boys; the default is for males, and a special version is made for females.

The reason this pinkification of toys and games is problematic is because toys and games don’t need to be pink to be good. And the reason that they “need” to be pink to appeal to girls is because we have taught girls that this is what girls like. Girls aren’t born preferring the pink version of a toy to another version, this is something girls are conditioned to do through repeated exposure to message about what girls want, what girls like, and what is considered to be a “girls toy” or a “boys toy”. And, as the article on Stuff said, the reason that this is a problem is because it forces girls down a certain path they didn’t necessarily choose: there is a right way to be a girl, and this is the way to do it, and deviation from these rigid norms is bad and abnormal and wrong. As it is put in the article,

“We’re imposing stereotypes from the word go and that doesn’t really free us up to choose whatever our self-expression wants to be, whether it’s to muck around in the dirt, climb trees, pretend to be an artist, whatever.”

So to all the commenters on Stuff who have missed the point of the article (surprise, surprise…) and said “girls just naturally like pink, so who cares? It isn’t sexist, it’s human!” or “why are you saying it’s bad for a girl to like pink?!?!?!11!” or “who cares if girls like pink???” or “I loved pink growing up and I turned out just fine!”: none of that is anywhere near the point. Nobody is saying it’s bad for a girl to like pink; what is being said is that it’s bad for girls to be conditioned (trained, essentially) to like pink based on social and cultural stereotypes about what is normal for boys and normal for girls. I’m not anti-pink, I’m anti the idea that pink is a girls colour and blue is a boys colour or the idea that girls can play with dolls but boys can’t. Not that people can’t CHOOSE pink or dolls, but that we shouldn’t be systemically limiting choices to the point that people aren’t actually choosing at all but are really being told what to do. If you have a daughter who loves pink, fine. But conditioning a girl from birth with baby stilettos and all-pink wardrobes, or conditioning a boy with “boys don’t wear pink” or “dolls are for girls”, isn’t ok, and it certainly isn’t choice.