We're elaborately taught how to relate to ourselves as gendered beings. It's been a long time that people have been building on the critical observation that there's no natural connection between pink/girl or boy/blue, yet kids continue to be the targets of aggressive marketing that creates profitable niche interests—a collection of stereotypes from which gender binarized consumers are "free" to choose—and of subtler gender conditioning (as my friend Ember is finding out, swaddled babies, though indistinguishable, are praised as pretty or strongdepending on how parents advertise their sex). I've mentioned how a lot of kids are skipping the closet and, consequently, finding themselves at the forefront of advocating respect toward sexual difference. What about trans youth? There's been increasing attention to "gender creative" or "gender independent" kids as social space opens up in which to discuss, rather than repress, their behavior. Could these terms reflect a reluctance to apply the concept of transgender to youth of a certain age because of its association with sexual identity (I am thinking specifically here of the historical, medical roots of trans-related descriptors in the West that have stemmed from the word "transsexualism" coined as "transsexualismus" in the early 1900s by Magnus Hirschfeld and later "trans-sexual" by Harry Benjamin in the 1960s)? Conversely, does the usage of the trans label problematically continue to lump the T in with the LGB? (Not that the B gets much visibility, either).
In my last post, I took a look at the book Asperger's and Girls, a collection of essays that attempt to address the needs and concerns about girls with Asperger syndrome. I found the book to be a disappointment overall, but one chapter in particular stands out as especially heinous. In "Girl to Girl: Advice on Friendship, Bullying, and Fitting In," Lisa Iland, a non-autistic young woman with a sibling on the spectrum, dishes out "practical advice on dealing with the 'popularity hierarchy' and 'levels of relationship'; how to make yourself likeable; using MTV to your advantage; combating bullies; the positive role of gossip; and more."
Wait, MTV? Really? This book was published in 2006. Although it's true: when I read this chapter to myself I can't help but hear Quinn Morgendorffer's voice in my head.
In my last post, I critiqued a chapter of Tony Attwood's The Complete Guide to Asperger's Syndrome. Now I'm taking a look at Asperger's and Girls, a slim collection of essays in which Attwood and others tackle the intersection of Asperger's and gender.
Or, rather, in which they attempt to take on that intersection.
My goal in writing this series was to delve into the intersections of feminism, parenting and pop culture, and I did my best to tackle as many topics as possible in my eight weeks here. (Although of course, I'm still left staring at a laundry list of things I wanted to write about...isn't that always the case?)
I know I've spent a lot of time on this blog looking at subtle forms of feminist art, but it's only fair to consider the more direct approaches, especially when they're as thought-provoking as Red Is The Colour. Be prepared to embrace menarchy, or menstrual anarchy...
Now, maybe there's a bigger subtext that I'm missing. I'm coming at this as a mom and a feminist, not necessarily as a comic book reader, so perhaps I don't understand all the nuances of this world—I'll own up to that. But when my son is starting to find himself interested in all things "Super," then I feel my opinion counts for something. We're barely scratching the surface of superheroes—there is a whole lot more out there that is even more sexist, and racist—but just what we've seen so far has left this feminist mom clutching at her non-existent pearls.
I'm not a fan of McDonald's for a variety of reasons, but beyond their tasty unhealthy food they are a perfect example of how marketing has changed over the years to further push gender stereotypes upon consumers.
Pejic distances himself from queries about gender and sexual identity. When speaking to New York, he referred to his androgynous beauty as "the situation," (which is a "situation" far preferable to Mike Sorrentino's six pack, yes?) and clearly is more focused on climbing the fashion ranks than challenging gender norms:
I know people want me to sort of defend myself, to sit here and be like, 'I'm a boy, but I wear makeup sometimes.' But, you know, to me, it doesn't really matter. I don't really have that sort of strong gender identity—I identify as what I am. The fact that people are using it for creative or marketing purposes, it's just kind of like having a skill and using it to earn money.
We pay a curious amount of attention to blue jeans specifically, a staple wardrobe item in virtually any wardrobe, both young and old. Despite Lee Jeans proclaiming in 2010 that "real men" suffer from "shop-a-phobia" and couldn't give a hoot about finding the perfect pair, the type of jeans a man slips on nevertheless seems to say a lot about how he projects his masculinity and sexuality (which is probably the culprit of the bogus shop-a-phobia). And who are these "real men," anyway? Are they the ones outfitted in Garth Brooks-y cowboy bootcut Wranglers or skin-tight indie rock frontman fare? Or are they one who prefer the saggy and baggy, or distressed and bedazzled? So many choices, so many (unnecessary?) implications about what started as a practical, durable pant for California gold miners.