Gender-bender….or just a kid?

So I listened to people freak out on a radio show recently about Shiloh Jolie-Pitt, regarding her tomboy status and gender bending. Salon.com has even published an article about this famous little blond:

Immediately following this conversation, I heard an equally derogatory conversation about Suri Cruise being too young for high heels, which literally equated high heels to sexuality.

(Not really my point but it is worth pointing out that this is the flawed logic that allows rapists to justify their actions with statements about their victims clothes and behavior. Oh and by the way, I read a worthwhile blog post by The Accidental Theologist regarding our one-sided thinking about rape anyway back to my thoughts about kids and gender).

My point about these two kids is this: STOP IT! There are so many rules about gender and kids gendering in particular that we seem to criticize people no matter which way they go. Let people be – who ever they want to be!!

4 responses

  1. This has been confusing me lately too, after that toenail painting ad that started a mini uproar. No one seemed to have these issues when I was a kid and I think it is reactionary. Heteronormativity is slowly but surely taking losses, so certain types of people and organizations rush in to try to browbeat the culture back into “place.” Being a “tomboy,” painting nails, or wearing your sister’s frilly ballet dance outfit just for kicks as an 8 year old boy was not a big deal in my (fairly conservative) upbringing (and we have the pictures to prove it). Now there is a great cry for justice when children and/or parents cross these lines. This is certainly partially due to our hypertext, hypermedia, hyperbolic cultural – on the other hand, my mom, who took said picture of said 8 year old too-too laden boy 19 years ago, has taken small issue when we have put our son in a frilly shirt his little female friend left at our house, or he tried on his Mimi’s (clip-on) earrings for laughs. Maybe it’s because we did it for him and I put… I mean that boy put the dance uniform on himself, but I think there may be more to it.

    As your earlier post (concerning representations of gay teens on teen television) points out, the trenches of this culture war have moved forward, so the sacrosanct ideals are “under attack” and need to be even more strictly enforced. These voices will eventually fade to some large degree, as they did when people rallied against rock-&-roll and interracial marriage.

    • sure – but then rock and roll – and every other subculture gets assumed into the norm and becomes part of the oppressive machine – urban outfitters for example – how much of that is made in third world countries by people who eat one meal a day – Oh Phil! Will I never be happy! I guess I just feel like we care too much about other people’s business – and in some ways I wish we weren’t so F-ing gender conscious – like that boy in the tutu you mention. That said – can you please explain the logic at work with that heteronormative argument. How will the wearing of certain clothes and/or nail polish turn these girls or that boy in the jcrew ad away from heteronormitivity??

      • I’m finally getting to this, but I have meant to for a while. And, honestly, I’ve had a couple beers, so let’s not be too critical if there are typos or leaps in logical process.

        Also the first sentence of your response is really, really long. And confuses me.

        No. We will never be happy. Postmodern crises remember? We must realize that we can (likely) not change (much of) anything, but will live within the systems we identify and disdain, while changing what little we can, without becoming depressed about what we can’t (Which if we do, we become existentialists and then probably kill ourselves, like most of them have). I just had a long conversation along these lines. The other person left frustrated and confused, but hopefully enlightened (if he doesn’t kill himself).

        The pink nail polish boy, I would argue, is not representative of the retreat of heteronomitivity. He is what is reacted against by the (lets call them the) agents of heteronormativity. These are mainly the people and organizations who are threatened by any idea of line-crossing or gender-“confusion” (as they define it). While, according to my own experience admittedly. they would not have reacted to the pink nail polish in the past, say 10 to 20 years ago, they do now, because New York just passed a gay marriage amendment and now w need to make sure that boys who play with nail polish or wear tu-tus don’t end up “turning” gay or any of those Other things. (See how I capitalized other, very clever and subtle of me.)

        Wishing for a lack of gender consciousness, I think, wanders into the area of things we can’t change, at least to a point. Sure we can blur said pre-established lines, but the argument has been made that the human mind, as it stands, works on identification, categorization and compartmentalization. It would make my life and the lives of my children (and future generations) if we weren’t so race-conscious, but I don’t see it happening anytime soon, so I live and teach forward thinking, but present living. I would argue that sex/gender comes even before race. Though in English the adjective does come before the noun… that may have been the beers typing.

        The pink nail polish or tu-tu boy do not represent the losses taken by heteronormitivity, but the cultural representations and legislation – though slower than some may desire – do. I think the reactions against pink nail polish boy and tutu boy’s generational counterpart also represent change. One does not react to insignificance, but when one does, it demonstrates that a misunderstanding was existent from the foundation, and the war is at that point, partially won. Further generations will recognize the absurdities, and they many establish their own oppression, but we are only responsible for helping to relieve them of ours, before moving on to examine their own.

      • It seems that I am doomed to repeat the post-modern crisis again and again. Maybe I just like modernism and all its hopefulness :) I agree “the human mind, as it stands, works on identification, categorization and compartmentalization” but can’t we change the categories? Yesterday I posted about Lady Gaga. I’ve been thinking about her a lot lately – because I feel like she is a genuine attempt to move away from gendered categories. Perhaps she is failing at that attempt but for me -even if it is poorly executed – she seems to push the idea of gender further than those who have come before her – maybe. That said – Despite your call to the post-modern crisis, you’ve left me with a sense of hopefulness this morning. I like thinking that the increased awareness or gender-bending behaviors indicate that “the war is at that point, partially won.”

        P.S. I’ve also enjoyed picturing agents of heteronormativity – Let’s write a comic where the heroes and heroines defeat the CHA – central heteronormative agency.

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