aefenglommung (aefenglommung) wrote,

On Gender Markers

There's been a little kerfuffle about some silly ad showing a mom with a little boy whose toenails have been painted pink. The ad is selling clothing, but it's the nail polish that's got people riled. Some see in this an attempt to feminize boys; others say boys should be able to like pink things, including toenails if they want.

Back when I was doing a lot of Emmaus Walks and Chrysalis Flights, the Upper Room went through an update of the entire program. This included renaming the behind-the-scenes helpers on the weekend. Previously, they had been known as Chas (pronounced "chaws"), nobody knows why. That was out. But they weren't really given a new, official name that could be used in daily reference to them. Some of our female leaders began referring to them as Agape Angels, which seemed to stick -- except the men and boys hated the term, when it was their turn to serve. Much nattering and gromishing could be heard in the background at team meetings. So, I suggested Agape Techs for the men and boys, which (at least for my tenure) seemed to solve the problem.

Some people keep trying to suggest that it is a matter of indifference how we dress little boys and girls or how we refer to them. This ignores the fact that gender norms are not completely malleable. Men of today don't dress like men of the 17th Century, nor do women; however, men and women usually like different things and find different ways of expressing their preferences. Children of both sexes will often try out the markers of the opposite sex (including nail polish) to see what that feels like, and that's healthy; on the other hand, adults (including grown-up companies selling products intended for children's use) should not impose on kids things that will make them uncomfortable.

What I'm saying is that there's all the difference in the world between following a trend and leading one. If, some day, kilts become all the fashion for un-Scottish boys and young men, then they will be seen as masculine adornment; trying to make boys wear skirts today would be heavy-handed and most of them would resent it. That doesn't mean they're little minions of the patriarchy who should be feminized, it just means that they are boys, not dress-up dolls to be made over into anything the dresser desires.

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