(Thanks to Gwenn and BeardOfPants for some of the links!)

There’s been a lovely and adorable video circulating on the tubes-osphere the last few days that I’m sure has helped bolster a comforting sense of optimism about the next generation’s understanding of gender. A little girl named Riley gets irate about the toy store’s division into a pink section and an “every other colour” section, and the way that marketers “trick” girls and boys into liking particular kinds of products:

Notice something?

While Riley has a precociously intuitive grasp of the fact that not every girl is going to like pink, glitter and princesses, she is initially incredulous at the suggestion that some boys may, and requires coaxing from her father to grasp the concept.

The last few weeks have seen an abundance of discussion regarding the “girl toys” vs. “boy toys” debate. British toy store Hamley’s has desegregated their sections, Lego is planning a new line marketed towards girls called Lego Friends, and there was the victory of Edmund Scientifics choosing to no longer divide their science kits into a “for girls” category of pink, perfumed, pretty ones and a “for boys” category of everything else.

Although for the most part I’m immensely happy to see this conversation happening, there are a few questions and issues I’ve felt have gotten a little bit lost in the shuffle.

For one, there has occasionally been a bit of venom directed towards pink and pretty and “feminine” things themselves rather than on the way these things are forced upon girls or how girls are expected to prefer them, which can reflect both internalized misogyny (Lauren from Teen Skepchick wrote an excellent post on this) and the issue of “femmephobia”.

Femmephobia, beautifully articulated in this article, is a particular subset of sexism that suggests that femininity and things regarded as feminine are inherently inferior, bad, weak, stupid, non-preferable, valueless, disempowering, etc. It comes in a lot of different forms… such as the way that boys, men and AMAB (“assigned-male-at-birth”) individuals are scorned (and often assaulted or killed) for expressing themselves in a feminine manner, possessing feminine characteristics, or enjoying feminine things, occurs to a far more severe extent than the scorn directed towards girls, women or AFAB individuals who express or enjoy conventionally masculine things. Given the assumed preferability of masculinity, the latter is seen as natural and understandable while the former is seen is as abhorrent, crazy and pathological. For a stark example, the psychological diagnosis “transvestic fetishism” is only applied to men and this requirement is written directly into the DSM. The explanations for this (“women have broader clothing choices”, for example) only emphasize the point.

Given that femininity is only an associative, relational term, referring to things that are culturally associated with women (there is no actual inherent quality of “feminine” that anything can possess), denigration of that which is feminine is to denigrate that which is female-ish. The misogynist implications are fairly clear cut.

Femmephobia can also often show up within certain branches of feminism. A common suggestion is that femininity is strictly a creation of patriarchy and a means of subjugating and controlling women. Often times it will be forgotten that for many individuals, across many genders, femininity can indeed be a natural, comfortable, empowering and even radical or subversive identity or form of self-expression.

Along these same lines it seems that as we discuss the issue of “pink is for girls” we have seemed to forget about the corollary “blue is for boys” problem. Like Riley, we find it easy to see that not every girl or woman is necessarily going to want to stay within the strict confines of her assigned gender role, but find it a tad trickier to remember that boys and men face similar issues. As if to ask “Who could actually want to play with ponies and princesses?”

I do!

Within the framework of the gender binary and oppositional sexism, every sexist concept of what women and girls are or are supposed to be has an analogue for men and boys. As we suggest that women are best suited for domesticity and motherhood, we prop up the stereotype that men are useless and inept in domestic chores, parenting and matters of the home. This isn’t really to suggest the MRA concept of “equally but differently oppressed” or lend legitimacy to the notion of “female privilege”…where those notions fall short is failure to consider how gender binaries and oppositional sexism are not the entirety of sexism (there’s misogyny too). More on that some other time. But… this parallel set of expectations and stereotypes does mean we probably shouldn’t be focusing strictly on giving girls the option of doing boy stuff. Doing so paints the girl stuff as inferior and neglects every boy who wants more than what he’s been told to want.

For every pink science kit for girls, there is a body wash or moisturizer for men. For every pink razr phone or “Miss Army Knife” there are “macho mattresses” with “muscle recovery technology” and a bunch of cookbooks geared around opening cans and adding bacon. For every set of tools with smaller, pink handles, there is a special girliness-free brand of ultra, super-duper manly conditioner. For men. I guess with the special ingredients that keep you from growing boobs.

And Yorkie bars…. don’t even get me started on the bloody Yorkie bars.

And what I find especially perplexing is the set of neologisms that are constantly popping up to assert that something is totally a guy thing, okay, seriously, it’s for dudes. As the Holiday skeptic-net has been awash in discussion of our dear Tim Minchin, I keep stumbling upon references to “guyliner”. Why not just eyeliner? What’s the difference? It lines your eyes. It looks hot. And the “murse”? I get that it’s likely there will be design differences between a purse meant to compliment a woman’s wardrobe and a purse meant to compliment that of a man, but is a different word necessary? And heaven forbid we refer to intimate friendship amongst men. It’s a bromance, bro!

I also believe there’s a subtle but meaningful difference in the way that products are marketed “for girls” and the way that products are marketed “for men”. The “for girls” marketing seems to have as its goal making women find the product more appealing. The “for men” marketing, and the silly neologisms (neo-bro-gisms?), seem designed to somehow protect or insulate men from the girliness of whatever you’re selling. As though it’s addressing an actual fear of “girl stuff”.  That touching it or using it will contaminate them with… I don’t know… cooties or something. Maybe turn them gay. Or trans. Gasp!

If only it were that easy.

There’s this excruciating commercial for Wiser’s Canadian Whisky airing these days. I don’t know whether our non-Canuckistanian readers get these, so if you think you can handle the ridiculousness, here it is. If not, I’ll summarize: we’ve got a guy walking around in the mall with a woman, presumably his wife or girlfriend. She suddenly sees something she wants in a store, and bolts in, asking him to hold her purse (won’t she need her wallet if she wants to actually buy something?). Anyway, the guy stands there embarrassed, sees another guy walk past, then drops the purse like a ton of bricks. He then pulls a plastic bag from his pocket, and does the inside-out pick-something-up-without-touching-it trick, like when picking up dog poop, to pick the purse back up and hold it without having to… you know… touch that awful, girly, cootie-ridden thing. Then a set of magical Manly Men appear from nowhere to applaud him on his “uncompromising”, masculine, testosterone-oozing dudeocity.

We’re to literally applaud this? Treating “women’s things” as being just as disgusting, contemptible and untouchable as feces? Grown men acting like children, terrified of the possibility that they might be seen holding a woman’s accessory for even a split second, by a stranger? It reminds me a bit of my roommates who refuse to say hi to me on the street for fear of being seen to know a trans woman by the various random strangers around who MAY clock me and make that connection.


What kind of message are we ultimately sending with this- when we rightly challenge and critique absurdly gendered marketing towards women and girls, and teach our girls to be themselves and explore the many possible iterations of gender, but neglect to offer similar challenges to male-gendered marketing? Are we at risk of confusing girls even more with them now confronted with contradictory messages of “you should like pink” and “you shouldn’t like pink”? If we focus our attentions on devaluing pink and femininity itself, are we at risk of simply swapping out one set of stringent, external gender expectations for another?

And what of our boys? Don’t they also deserve to feel free to fully explore the possibilities of gender and self-expression? What message are we sending them when it seems that the girls are free to express themselves however they wish, and choose from the entire toy store, but they’re still at risk of being seen as “sissies” and “fags” and maybe getting beaten up should they dare step an inch into the pink aisle?

The critique of gendered marketing is an extremely important conversation to have, as is the critique of gender roles and expectations. And applying critical examination to our constructs of femininity is an absolute necessity of feminism and gender theory. But it’s my hope that, like Riley, we will be able to make progress as we work through these issues towards understanding that they are multifaceted, do not only effect one gender, and that boys deserve liberation too.

Natalie

Natalie

Natalie Reed now writes at http://www.freethoughtblogs.com/nataliereed

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95 Comments

  1. Profile photo of palaeographia
    December 26, 2011 at 11:35 am —

    Yech. The comments under the Wiser’s YouTube video are even more hideous than the commercial itself. I have a lot of time and respect for men who don’t put up with this ‘be a man’s man’ stuff. Way to go, guys.

  2. Profile photo of Mark Hall
    December 26, 2011 at 11:42 am —

    On an entirely manly note, I have never really understood the whole aversion to holding a purse for one’s S.O.. Holding a purse in that situation means you HAVE an S.O.. It is rare that someone”s first thought on seeing a guy standing with a purse will be “What a cute purse, where did he get it?” Those same gender expectations that say we shouldn’t carry a purse also more or less insulate us from the assumption that the purse is ours.

    Similarly, the buying of any feminine hygrometer products. There are about two reasons a man is buying them: he either has an SO or relative who needs them, or he is buying pads because he heard they made good bandages and is anticipating getting wounded. Neither one actually screams girly-man. My aversion to buying them always stemmed from my ex’s seeming inability to actually provide me with necessary information (like brand, type, and number), especially after we started keeping separate bathrooms.

    • Profile photo of Natalie
      December 26, 2011 at 12:09 pm —

      Or he might be trans and still menstruating. ;)

    • Profile photo of SadWhaleFamily
      December 26, 2011 at 10:38 pm —

      “feminine hygrometer products”? I didn’t know that there was boy environmental air moisture and girl environmental air moisture!

      The More You Know .oO*

      Natalie, with all of your articles so far, you are very quickly becoming my favorite Skepchick writer.

    • Profile photo of sallystrange
      December 27, 2011 at 7:34 pm —

      It’s like that moment from a Simpsons episode–the kids are teasing Bart: “Bart kissed a girl!” “That’s SO GAY!”

      Only it’s not even satire. The presence of women is emasculating, and gay men are emasculated, so…

  3. Profile photo of Praedico
    December 26, 2011 at 11:49 am —

    Yes, yes, yes, yes and YES.
    As a guy with a somewhat feminine personality, I’ve chafed at this problem quite often. The thing that most annoys me is that I seem to have internalised a certain amount of it; I feel not-quite-ashamed to enjoy more feminine pursuits sometimes, which I sometimes compensate for by proudly announcing that I enjoy this ‘feminine’ thing, even though I’m male (I once spent a while chatting to a female guildmate in an MMO about clothing choices for my fairy necromancer and bemoaning how I couldn’t find a set of clothes that went with her wings… at the end of which I said, quite without any prompting, “Why yes, I do have testicles, why do you ask?”)

    Also:
    “…my roommates who refuse to say hi to me on the street for fear of being seen to know a trans woman …”
    I AM BECOME FURY.

  4. Profile photo of Improbable Joe
    December 26, 2011 at 11:56 am —

    My memory is kind of fuzzy on what passed for “girl toys” when I was a kid, but I seem to remember them as being sort of crap. As an older kid, sort of remember them being crap and baby-ish and obsessively pink. Like “pink” as a selling point/feature, as a rough equivalent of “kung-fu grip” or “real flashing lights!”… and as almost a replacement for quality build and interesting design.

  5. Profile photo of Will
    December 26, 2011 at 12:05 pm —

    Great article Natalie! I was one of those boys who wanted to play with “girl stuff” when I was a kid. I shunned He-Man for She-Rah and owned dozens of Barbies. Thankfully my parents let me play with whatever toys I wanted (except for realistic-looking guns) and never tried to shame me about it.

    You hit upon a point I also often make that people usually either had not connected or resist when I bring it up: Homophobia is inextricably linked to misogyny. When directed towards gay men in particular, it’s based in “femmephobia” (I like this term!). These are all problems of patriarchy.

    One other thing, the blog Sociological Images often posts about the gendering of children/youth through toys, advertisement, and other types of media. Here’s a link to those posts on that blog: http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/tag/gender-childrenyouth/ (They also have all sorts of posts about gendering aimed at adults, as well as a variety of other topics not dealing directly with gender. It’s a good blog!).

    • Profile photo of Natalie
      December 26, 2011 at 12:16 pm —

      Yeah… personally, I see the disproportionate amount of violence and ridicule directed towards gay men (particularly effeminate gay men) and trans women is DIRECTLY connected to femmephobia (in contrast to the lesser degree of such violence towards lesbians and trans men). It’s a funny thing… a form of misogyny that particularly victimizes people who were assigned male.

      Femmephobia kills.

      But yep, I’m really glad to have found the term, because it’s hugely useful for articulating some of the more nuanced forms of sexism as well as the intersections of sexism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, etc.

      • Profile photo of weatherwax
        December 26, 2011 at 8:42 pm —

        A rediculous example: When I was at Humboldt State U, the gay and lesbian groups leadership was taken over by a group of women who immediatly started trying to exclude gay men. Their stated reason was “all men hate women, but gay men hate them even more because they don’t even what to sleep with them.”

        Actually, now I read it, I’m not sure it’s a good example of men being excluded for being too feminine. At least not the stated reason.

        • Profile photo of Natalie
          December 26, 2011 at 9:42 pm —

          Yeah, I’m not sure that’s a case of femmephobia so much as it’s just part of the internal grudges and resentments in the LGBT community… and maybe a bit of influence from some of the more radical positions of Red Stocking feminism.

          Greta Christina wrote a really great article about how the atheist / skeptic movement can really learn a lot from the LGBT community in that regard… not making the same mistakes. Like that we should nip our diversity problem in the bud before it ends up growing into big, angry, long-standing grudges and bitterness.

          Like… if we keep up with the misogyny and evo-psych, with the “I’m colour-blind” / “race doesn’t matter” / “affirmative action is reverse racism” stuff, with treating trans people in a rude and condescending way and saying that more nuanced understandings of sex/gender aren’t “scientific”, with acting like minorites need to adapt themselves to the community’s current form rather than the community adapting itself to be accommodating of broader needs, perspectives and experiences, etc. then twenty years down the line these problems are going to be even worse, and by then we’ll have decades of built-up anger and resentment getting in the way of useful dialogue or fixing them.

          So… yeah, bit of a derail. Just that things like the way that L, G, B and T folk are often at one another’s throats (and even particular TYPES of each given letter, like stone butch lesbians vs. femme lesbians, “straight-acting” gay guys vs. nelly queens, “HBSers” vs. non-op, butch and lesbian trans women, etc.)… things like that can serve as a bit of a warning regarding the value of having an inclusive and diverse movement that doesn’t pit particular identities against one another.

          • Profile photo of weatherwax
            December 27, 2011 at 12:52 am

            A more appropriate, really silly, example: Businesses making men cover their pierced ears with bandages. ‘Cause that doesn’t look really stupid at all.

  6. Profile photo of BeardofPants
    December 26, 2011 at 12:21 pm —

    Awesome article, Natalie!

    I have a couple of thoughts. Firstly, on the backlash of the pinkification of everything – that is so effing true. I distinctly remember deciding in kindergarten that I wasn’t gonna be like my friends. Dammit: I was gonna like *blue*. It was an arbitrary decision, but one that I adhered to almost religiously until maybe the last couple of years. I hated on the pink. I hated on the femininity. I hated on the frilly, the bows, the polka dots, the girly colors. I gained a lot of weight. I hated even more on the girly stuff, because you know… you have to be skinny, and graceful to pass it off, right? /sarcasm

    I got healthier. As a byproduct, I lost the weight. The black moods came a little less, and I started embracing my femininity more. Pink looked good on me. I rocked the frills, and the bows, and the shoes. I felt empowered, and feminine, and sexy. I was still all elbows, and knees, and hips, but the bruises sort of worked with the more feminine me.

    I took me all of my life to overcome that arbitrary decision made when I was 5. I still like blue. But now I like pink too. Pinkification can still suck it, but I’m at peace with the pink.

    *****

    On boys playing dress ups. I had a conversation with the other half on this once. I think I was complaining about Dragon Age II sucking ass, and one of the things that I told him that they’d stripped back really horrified him. Can you guess which aspect it was? It was the ability to choose armor and weapons for the characters. For him, gaming and roleplaying were as much about selecting gear (or playing dress ups) as it was about the gaming component.

    • Profile photo of erikakharada
      December 27, 2011 at 11:09 am —

      The only thing I don’t understand though, is — why are there markers like “femininity” or “masculinity” in the first place? Aggressively marking some things as being “feminine” or “masculine” really limits peoples’ choices…
      There’s also the pressure for straight cis women to be “feminine”, lest they be seen as a butch lesbian (the horror!). Some women are actually shocked that I choose not to wear heels and form-fitting dresses when I go out, which I don’t understand.

      • Profile photo of Natalie
        December 27, 2011 at 1:08 pm —

        Why NOT have markers like femininity and masculinity in the first place They can be somewhat useful and fun, and don’t (in and of themselves) really cause any harm. It’s only through the extreme degree of importance we attach to the concepts that we’ve ended up in trouble.

  7. Profile photo of BeardofPants
    December 26, 2011 at 12:23 pm —

    Waaah. Why is my comment awaiting moderation??

    • Profile photo of Natalie
      December 26, 2011 at 12:29 pm —

      I have no idea. It sometimes seems to grab them at random. Might be related to “the problem with Scunthorpe” thing.

  8. Profile photo of The Troubadour
    December 26, 2011 at 12:24 pm —

    Thanks so much for this. It touches me a lot to hear a woman talk about these things.

    I have to admit, I have never endorsed the naming of certain modes as “feminine”, as that is in fact part of the problem, but rather stereotypically feminine-moded.

  9. Profile photo of weatherwax
    December 26, 2011 at 12:54 pm —

    Natalie, you’re posts have really been giving me alot to think about.

  10. Profile photo of java7nerd
    December 26, 2011 at 12:55 pm —

    I’m a male (I think) and I’m buying an iPod Nano using vouchers I got for Christmas. The only two available colours that appeal to me are the blue and the pink – about in equal measures. I used to have a strong preference for pink when I was a young child but unlearned that.

    I’m getting the blue one because I know I’ll be critised by specific people if I get the pink, the way I get critisised for listening to a lot of girly pop songs.

    • Profile photo of Natalie
      December 26, 2011 at 2:23 pm —

      I once wanted to get the pink one but opted for the blue one because I was too scared of being ridiculed.

      I regret this. Don’t repeat my mistakes! Get the pink!

      • Profile photo of java7nerd
        December 26, 2011 at 4:24 pm —

        I like both the blue and the pink, and the blue goes with my netbook (which was only available in blue or silver) so I’m probably not going to reget it too much if I go with the blue.

        Plus I was a little self-concious recently when a light-purple hoodie I ordered online turned out to be more pink in real life than it did onscreen, looks nice to me, but made me wonder if I might be being starred at.

        • Profile photo of erikakharada
          December 27, 2011 at 11:11 am —

          I see some guys here rocking pink/pastel hues and they look awesome. The people who make fun of them are the ones who are probably just jealous that they’re confident enough to pull it off ;)

  11. Profile photo of Aretha
    December 26, 2011 at 2:00 pm —

    And when a girl wants to do boy stuff as a kid, it’s often seen as a something of a phase, like she’ll learn to be feminine when she *needs* to (that is, when she *needs* to find a man). During that time when there’s no sexual strings attached (or at least there isn’t suposed to be), she may chose the fun stuff boys get.
    The other way around (boys wanting girl stuff) is just disturbing.

    I always think of this blog: http://raisingmyrainbow.com/ when these particular issues are brought up. “Adventures in raising a slightly effeminate, possibly gay, totally fabulous son.”

    Anyway, great article.

  12. Profile photo of ladydreamgirl
    December 26, 2011 at 2:21 pm —

    I knew there was a good rational explanation for why my “this statement is problematic”-dar went off over the guyliner comment on the recent Minchin thread.

    It seems that lately I have been encountering more pointless gendering of things which have absolutely no reason to be gendered in any way on the net, or possibly I’ve just become more aware of the phenomenon. A little while back I came across a ‘why women aren’t funny’ article of a recent vintage that was claiming that HUMOR could be masculine or feminine. Seriously, what makes a freaking JOKE masculine or feminine? GRRR! Why is it so hard for people to deal with things that are unisex(and in the true sense of the word not the equally annoying, male=unisex way that seems most common)?

  13. Profile photo of runmattrun
    December 26, 2011 at 2:26 pm —

    In the dudeocracy I grew up in being seen with a purse outside a store wasn’t bad because purses are for girls. It was more to do with being seen as subordinate to the SO, and everyone knows the guy needs to be in charge of the relationship.

    Same thing with going into a store that only sells woman-things/clothes/shoes (note the fact the man in the commercial doesn’t go in the store). Frankly none of the dudes I know would even consider the possibility that a guy would have these things for themselves.

    It was still along the, femmephobia, lines you’re talking about because less power = feminine = bad (or something along those lines).

    At least, that was my experience.

    Good post, and good questions.

    • Profile photo of Natalie
      December 26, 2011 at 2:34 pm —

      Good point. Some day I should probably write a little something about my first forays while still presenting-as-male into make-up sections, women’s clothing stores, and (most terrifyingly) bra-stores. :p

      • Profile photo of Xanthë
        December 27, 2011 at 11:39 pm —

        Yes please, for a post on this sometime Natalie! Being trans* I’ve found having a “wing-woman” to be a help in all manner of clothing stores, especially when you need to try things on before handing over cash, since being clocked leads to the suspicion that you’re only trying things on as a fetish, rather than it being your identity. (*shudders at thought of going for a bra fitting alone*)

    • Profile photo of Mark Hall
      December 26, 2011 at 4:59 pm —

      That argument makes a fair amount of sense.

      • Profile photo of freemage
        December 27, 2011 at 4:31 pm —

        Yeah, so much of the patriarchy crap comes down to power-relationships.

  14. Profile photo of thelittlepakeha
    December 26, 2011 at 4:00 pm —

    I’m AFAB genderqueer and have been joking recently that I wouldn’t want to transition to full out male these days – you have to have “mantrol” and “bromittment” and such and it seems like terribly hard work. Those are both actual ad campaigns running at the moment in New Zealand. Mantrol is a safe driving one and I’m not actually sure what bromittment is. Meanwhile, last night Manlab was on tv, and advertising has informed me that there is such a thing as “bread – for men!” and “yoghurt – for men!”

    I briefly tried to find the bread ad about how you wouldn’t use all her other stuff so why would you eat her bread but no luck – I did find a page discussing Vogel’s bread though. If bread had a gender, apparently Vogel’s would be a guy.

  15. Profile photo of BeccaTheCyborg
    December 26, 2011 at 5:40 pm —

    I love this post. So excellent.

  16. Profile photo of Natalie
    December 26, 2011 at 6:29 pm —

    Mostly this post was just an excuse to simultaneously nod towards Lost and My Little Pony.

    • Profile photo of BeardofPants
      December 26, 2011 at 10:12 pm —

      That dude had seriously dark eyes. Apparently they had to add make up to make him look even LESS like he had eyeliner on.

  17. Profile photo of BeardofPants
    December 26, 2011 at 10:33 pm —

    Oh, and yorkie bars? I saw them and I was like totally, I can eat those! I’m not gonna be told what I can and can’t eat, dammit! >_< And then I looked at the calories and realized, no… I probably can't. But then, nobody needs than many calories of chocolate in one sitting. :/

  18. Profile photo of slxpluvs
    December 27, 2011 at 10:25 am —

    Your article reminded me of a male student of mine who regularly shows up to middle school in women’s clothing. Other students were thrown off by this at first, but saw teachers’ lack of interest and their support of anyone being teased. They embraced his behavior.

    Anyway, the moral of the story is that I wish I could wear skirts to school. I find them so much more comfortable – like sweat pants. I am jelous of this student!

  19. Profile photo of erikakharada
    December 27, 2011 at 11:15 am —

    Thing is though, in a lot of cases, the “for women” products are “girly” versions of the generic products that aren’t marked as being for men or women. In this society, (straight, white, cis) males are seen as the “default”. I think products that are “for men” are kind of an anomaly.

    • Profile photo of Natalie
      December 27, 2011 at 1:06 pm —

      I agree. I we create “girly” versions of both masculine-gendered AND non-gendered products, whereas the “for men” stuff is generally only applied to products that in some way gendered feminine. But that doesn’t mean it’s any less an issue.

  20. Profile photo of GideonBanner
    December 27, 2011 at 11:24 am —

    Hehe I actually got my girlfriend into MLP FIM she didn’t want to give it a chance but now she’s a bigger fan of it then me . ;P

    • Profile photo of Nicole
      December 30, 2011 at 2:44 pm —

      I was also introduced to that show by a male friend! Pinkie Pie is wonderful.

  21. Profile photo of James Fox
    December 27, 2011 at 12:44 pm —

    I have a couple pink dress shirts in different shades and patterns. With black trousers it’s a good look for me! I do take some pride in having a daughter who made it into adulthood without a Barbie; and not that I object to an ostensibly feminine toy, its the Body Dysmorphic Disorder inducing qualities I don’t like.

  22. Profile photo of Christianne
    December 27, 2011 at 1:27 pm —

    As with most of your posts so far, I just want to stand on a chair and shout “Yes! THIS!” I settle for reblogging them to social networks.

  23. Profile photo of carolw
    December 27, 2011 at 2:52 pm —

    I’m the one who made the “guyliner” comment. I’d never thought of that term as being femmephobic. I don’t know why it never struck me, since I gripe about stupid products like Dr Pepper 10 (“it’s not for women”) and “male nail polish.” My husband paints his toenails with my nail polish, and in a pinch, I’ve used his makeup from his clubbing days. Consider me duly chastened. Thanks for the eyeopening post, Natalie.

  24. Profile photo of MyMelody
    December 27, 2011 at 5:39 pm —

    I fully support my boyfriend’s fondness for purple and “My Little Ponies: Friendship is Magic!” YAY!

    And thank you for not making this about demonizing pink! It’s my favorite color! <3. Seriously, I have no problem with pink, but I do have a problem with it being the only option for the ladies sometimes, and I do have a problem with it not being an option for men at all! :P Go color diversity!

    • Profile photo of Natalie
      December 27, 2011 at 5:43 pm —

      Heh. I think you just summarized my entire feelings about this in one little paragraph! :)

      PINK PRIDE! Pink is awesome (but not for everybody).

  25. Profile photo of zylla
    December 27, 2011 at 7:22 pm —

    I remember one time my girlfriend asked me to pick up some tampons for her. This was over 20 years ago, but that’s all I was buying. The cashier asked if I wanted a bag and I declined. A bag for one tiny box of OB tampons? When I handed them to her, she was embarrassed, and she wasn’t the type to get embarrassed about anything usually. I didn’t see what the big deal was. (And no, I didn’t have them on display to announce my girlfriend’s period, I just didn’t bother to hide the tiny box in a bag when I left the store.)

  26. Profile photo of sallystrange
    December 27, 2011 at 7:41 pm —

    Yeah, I don’t mind pink, I have this delicious coral pink summer dress–it’s a halter top with a wide flowing skirt and it makes me look like a tropical drink. But this Christmas, when my niece’s other grandmother gave her a heaping pile of clothes in nothing but pink with slogans like, “I’m a diva” and “All hail the queen”, I found myself cringing. I am now saving up money for green & purple onesies with squids on them, or mathematical equations, and a bib that says “zombie snack.”

  27. Profile photo of helloworld
    December 27, 2011 at 9:00 pm —

    The shampoo or body wash for men is still primarily bought by females (market research backs this up). They purchase it for their S.O.’s. Perhaps they want their man to “smell like a man” rather than like a girl. Or maybe society and/or the media tricked them into thinking that. Or maybe they know their man won’t use their brand, so they have to get a different one for them. Who cares? It’s just shampoo. It’s not some tool of the patriarchy.

    I think you’re reading a little too much into marketing. It is intended to sell shit. If that means appealing to a sense of humor and making gender jokes, then okay. They ran that commercial through focus groups, consisting of both men and women, to see how they would respond. Just because YOU didn’t like it doesn’t mean it didn’t pass the tests. I imagine a lot of women like it – perhaps as many as men. They don’t read into it the way you do – that it is perpetuating femmephobia – because it isn’t.

    Commercials for men’s products are different than commercials for women’s products because there is a difference between the two genders. Denying that it exists doesn’t make any sense, especially for a marketer. Men will generally respond one way, women will generally respond another. Thus, creating products and commercials/ads that appeal to these different, generalized responses is the most effective way to make money.

    Regardless of gender, marketing is intended for exactly the same purpose: make users aware of your brand, your product, etc. There is no conspiracy to “protect men from feminine stuff” and there is no targeting women with more information than men.

    You might be well and good to critique femmephobia, but when it comes to marketing, you don’t know what you’re talking about.

    • Profile photo of Natalie
      December 27, 2011 at 9:45 pm —

      While it’s true that advertisers don’t necessarily create the cultural attitudes in question (like femmephobia), they are certainly indicative of them and help perpetuate them.

      It goes both ways. The advertisers market their products in such a way that it plays upon the general, overall beliefs and attitudes of whatever demographic they’re targeting and trying to sell to. But that demographic then sees those beliefs and attitudes reflected back to them by the media, which then normalizes and affirms them.

      It’s true that the advertisers only want to sell things. They don’t care about gender one way or the other. But they will sell things in whatever way works, and often times what works is playing up or soothing insecurities and anxiety about gender. Making people feel like they need your product in order to be a Real Man™ or Desirable Woman™ is a winning strategy.

      Just because advertisers and marketers and toy stores don’t have sexism as their goal doesn’t mean they aren’t accountable for the consequences of their actions.

      • Profile photo of helloworld
        December 29, 2011 at 1:18 pm —

        So does the personal responsibility of parenthood, of teaching your kids that they can be whatever they want to be – and to ignore those who tell them otherwise (such as the media) – not exist? Or is just not as important?

        You can’t blame the media for delivering what people respond to, and then say the media creates the demand. That’s circular logic.

        A lot of advertising is aspirational – we want the fancy car, to be the life of the party, to be attractive, etc. Yes, a lot of those messages are reinforced by the media. But it’s our job, as individuals, to question those desires and “not buy what they’re selling us.” Arguing against the sellers doesn’t make sense, when their methods can be forced to change by better teaching at home.

        • Profile photo of Natalie
          December 29, 2011 at 1:26 pm —

          Who’s limiting the conversation to targeting the advertisers, or saying that they need to bear the entirety of the responsibility? This is about questioning oppositional sexism in general, not JUST in advertising.

          • Profile photo of Natalie
            December 29, 2011 at 1:28 pm

            P.S. The media both meeting and reinforcing a demand or cultural more isn’t circular logic. It’s simply a circular system, a vicious cycle, a self-feeding loop.

          • Profile photo of helloworld
            December 29, 2011 at 2:47 pm

            Your blog post spends a great deal of time deriding the marketers/advertisers for creating these products and ads, but it doesn’t really mention the fact that people are buying them and using them. It also fails to mention any instances of when advertising has been used for “good” causes or the fact that, honestly, any ad, even one that attempts to address negative societal beliefs such as objectification/sexism, can always be (and likely will be) criticized for not “doing enough.”

            I agree that oppositional sexism isn’t good for society, but advertisements that play on gender differences work. And gender differences will always exist.

          • Profile photo of Natalie
            December 29, 2011 at 2:58 pm

            WHERE do I specifically deride the advertisers for creating the ads, rather than simply deriding the existence of the ads and marketing (regardless of cause)?

            Why on Earth am I obliged to point out all the “good” advertisers do? This post is about oppositional sexism, gender binaries, the phenomenon of gendered marketing, and femmephobia. Ads and marketing are used as examples (as are neologisms, which have nothing to do with advertising at all). It’s not an overview of the history of advertising.

            Sorry, but like you yourself said, advertising simply reflects the culture. Which is why it provides a wonderful go-to for illustrating prevalent cultural attitudes. I don’t see why I should need to disclaim my critique of those attitudes with a defense of the advertising industry.

          • Profile photo of Natalie
            December 29, 2011 at 3:00 pm

            P.S. The fact that people actually buy the products in question, and that this form of marketing works, is something so obvious I really didn’t feel it needed to be explicitly pointed out. The post is specifically about the fact that we live in a culture that demands and accepts these kinds of attitudes towards gender.

          • Profile photo of helloworld
            December 29, 2011 at 3:11 pm

            If you want to talk about advertising as reflecting our culture, then the fact that *some* advertising attempts to make what would be viewed as “improvements” upon our culture matters.

            Gendered marketing exists because gender exists. Are you arguing that gender shouldn’t?

          • Profile photo of Natalie
            December 29, 2011 at 3:15 pm

            Are you kidding?

            This particular kind of gendered marketing exists because certain particular socio-cultural attitudes about gender exist.

            Are you arguing everything is completely hunky-dorey?

          • Profile photo of Natalie
            December 29, 2011 at 3:17 pm

            …and if you’re saying that advertising can change culture (“improvements”) then you’ve conceded advertising has an effect, which throws your whole “you can’t blame the advertisers” arguments out the window.

          • Profile photo of helloworld
            December 29, 2011 at 3:27 pm

            I said “attempts” to make improvements. Not that it does. If you look at marketing from this decade and compare it to marketing from the 1960’s, you can see that advertisers have come a long way (much like society has).

            People will believe what they want to believe, when they want to believe it, regardless of what the media tells them.

            With regards to marketing, I think that for the most part, things *are* hunky-dorey. The industry is getting better and more responsive to consumer preferences.

            The reason you’ve seen an influx of men’s hygiene ads (and thus ads that are gendered and playing to male tropes) is because that’s the market with the most predicted growth. Probably in no small part because men previously avoided/ignored meticulous hygiene because it was “too feminine” – but then, the fact that they’re starting to do these things – what does *that* say about gender and oppositional sexism?

          • Profile photo of Natalie
            December 29, 2011 at 3:31 pm

            I didn’t ask if you think things are fine in the world of marketing. I asked if you think everything is fine with our cultural treatment of gender.

            The fact that things are gradually getting better doesn’t mean we just stop working towards improvement.

            Again: do you think our social treatment of gender is totally fine now and doesn’t need to be critiqued?

          • Profile photo of helloworld
            December 29, 2011 at 4:02 pm

            I interpreted your comment that mentions marketing before asking “are things hunky-dorey” as, “are things hunky-dorey in marketing?”

            Do I think society’s treatment of gender is totally fine? No. Do I think it deserves to be critiqued? Sure. Do I think it needs to be addressed/fixed/acted upon: Absolutely.

            But I also think the two of us would have a lot of trouble talking about *how* to do that. I get where you’re coming from w/r/t marketing, but I don’t think it is as important as say, talking about parenting. Education. Politics. The role of the church.

            And yeah, there’s some messy interplay between these things and marketing/advertising. But in my opinion, consumer marketing doesn’t really matter in this context (unless the product is something with much more significant societal implications than say, shampoo).

          • Profile photo of Natalie
            December 29, 2011 at 4:12 pm

            It is entirely possible to discuss ALL of those things. And discuss different ones at different times. It is NOT possible to discuss everything all at once.

            Again, I was using advertising and marketing as representative of prevalent cultural attitudes about gender- as an effective tool for illustrating some of the issues. It’s a strong misread to see this post as “the advertisers and marketeres are entirely and solely responsible for gender binarism!”

            If you believe that a critique of our cultural treatment of gender is valuable, please allow those of us who are engaging in such a critique to continue doing so.

          • Profile photo of helloworld
            December 29, 2011 at 4:35 pm

            I understand (because you’ve said it several times) that you were using advertising as a “representative” discussion point. But a lot of people will take umbrage with that because they will have differing opinions on how much marketing/advertising actually matters in the first place, before they even get to the question of how much it matters to the discussion of sexism.

            For example, when you talk about the Canadian Whiskey ad, extrapolating it to the degree you did (women’s things are feces) strikes me as ridiculous. Lots of men have held a purse before, and most have probably never even though about treating it like a piece of dog shit. The ad is funny because it is exaggerated hyperbole. Saying that the ad is indicative of how men treat women, or society views feminine things, stops the conversation because most people simply aren’t going to agree with that line of thought.

            I only think a critique is valuable if those who hold a different point of view are willing to listen and discuss it – and the person giving the critique is willing to consider those views as well (which is why I think most American news broadcasting is worthless at this point).

          • Profile photo of Natalie
            December 29, 2011 at 5:12 pm

            I did not suggest the ad was indicative of how men treat women, or reflects real life. It is reflective of cultural attitudes.

            I think you’ve definitely misread the post and intended points. Anyway…thanks for your input. I think I’ve clarified things as much as I can.

    • Profile photo of Will
      December 28, 2011 at 1:58 am —

      Please provide links or citations for your claim that shampoo/body wash for men is bought primarily by females. I’d like to see the data behind this claim.

      No one is claiming that gendered products are “tools of the patriarchy.” But they tell us a lot about our culture. Advertising does not happen in a vacuum, free of cultural baggage. People who participate in focus groups are part of the culture. They buy into many of the norms that perpetuate femmephobia. People not thinking about the cultural implications of marketing and advertising is not evidence against femmephobia. Your only claim is that it cannot be indicative of femmephobia because, hey, it passed focus groups!! Do you not see the shortsightedness of this position?

      I also take issue with your gender essentialism and binarization. No one is denying there are differences between genders–it is that these differences are cultural, not natural or biological. Men’s products are not NATURALLY more masculine. Advertising is not tapping into some NATURAL masculinity or femininity. These are all socially constructed norms, not based on any natural gender binary.

      Finally, I think you should be careful telling people that they do and do not know what they’re talking about when it is pretty clear that you do not have anything near an informed understanding of gender. Additionally, nothing you’ve said in your post comes across as any more informed about marketing than Natalie’s original post. You provide no evidence for your claims. All you have written is a few statements attempting to refute Natalie by appealing to gender binaries and essentialism.

      • Profile photo of helloworld
        December 29, 2011 at 2:36 pm —

        The fact that women purchase for men (albeit not for single men) is common knowledge within the advertising industry. If you have paywall access to business publications such as Datamonitor, Business Source Premier, etc. you can find specific numbers (for specific product categories) for that stat easily. If you don’t, do some Googling and you’ll find several pages that reference the trend – both in hygiene and other products.

        Who cares if the difference between men and women is natural, physical, or just cultural? Not marketers – they only care that there is a difference, they care not why the difference exists. Then they create products and ads to profit from those differences.

        As for my uninformed understanding of gender, I think you reconsider telling me what I do and do not know, when I know that the social construct POV that you’re putting forth is pretty easy to prove wrong (because if it were true, Natalie would’ve never transitioned). My post also wasn’t “gender essentialist” because I never claimed where or why the differences between men and women exist – only that marketers seek to profit from them where they can.

        Finally, I’ve already spent entirely too long on this comment – if I were to respond to this post with my own blog somewhere, I would take the time to lay out and support my claims. But I’m not writing a post – I’m commenting. My comment should not be expected to be as thorough as a post, but just because it isn’t, doesn’t mean that I don’t know what I’m talking about when it comes to marketing. Or gender.

        • Profile photo of Will
          December 29, 2011 at 3:19 pm —

          Ah, the old make-a-claim-and-shift-the-burden-of-proof routine. Classy. You also shifted your claim (now it’s “not single men”–what about gay men?)

          I think it’s laughable that the same person that said to Natalie, “when it comes to marketing, you don’t know what you’re talking about” turns around and says to me, “I think you reconsider telling me what I do and do not know.” Way to be consistent!

          So, you say that it doesn’t matter if the differences between men and women are natural or cultural, but then you say that you “know” that a constructionist explanation of gender is wrong, and that it’s easy for your to prove wrong. Well, I will take you up on that challenge. Give me evidence that *proves* that gender is biological and not culturally constructed.

          You were gender essentialist because you essentialized how men and women will respond: “Men will generally respond one way, women will generally respond another.” Those are your words. You are essentializing men as acting one way and women as acting another way in response to advertising and marketing. That is gender essentialism, regardless of whether or not you address the why of it.

          As to your final assertion, I do not expect a blog-post length explanation of your position. I do expect that you provide evidence for your claims–especially when asked for it. The burden of proof lies on YOU, not on me. It is not incumbent upon me to seek out evidence for your claims. So I will remain skeptical of your overly generalized and uncited claims.

          • Profile photo of helloworld
            December 29, 2011 at 3:38 pm

            I don’t think gender is biological. I don’t think gender is socially constructed.

            I didn’t “essentialize” how men and women will respond. I commented on how they will generally respond. Their responses could be generalized based on biology, socialization, or a number of other factors. Generalizing how someone responds does not imply I know *why* they respond that way.

  28. Profile photo of Heina Dadabhoy
    December 27, 2011 at 9:51 pm —

    I feel you on this. For a long time, I was uncomfortable with how femme I like to present because my personality is pretty butch in a lot of ways. Then, I came across the idea of a “fierce queer femme” and decided that that is what I am.

    • Profile photo of Natalie
      December 27, 2011 at 10:06 pm —

      Eff yes! “Fierce Queer Femme”! That’s terrific. Mind if I claim that too? :)

  29. Profile photo of clyboston
    December 27, 2011 at 11:46 pm —

    Natalie, love the post. It is so refreshing to see so many people speaking positively about being outside the gender box – I just had to way in.

    Here is my favorite – running shoes. Pick any brand, they all have men and women running shoes. Like running shoes can have a gender. Running shoes are not made to accommodate a specific gender, they are made to accommodate the type of pronator you are. Based on your pronation, you need either a stability shoe, a motion control shoe or cushioning shoe. The only difference between men and women running shoes is the color choices. By segregating by gender they are forcing people to select specific colors and accept certain gender stereotypes. I think it’s funny that there is a tab for “men’s running shoes” and “women’s running shoes” on websites. Why can’t it just be “running shoes” then filter by pronation type/brand/price etc and then give all the color choices. Are people afraid that a man might actually purchase a fuchsia shoe. Would this cause our society to collapse?

  30. Profile photo of lorraine
    December 28, 2011 at 7:04 am —

    I’ve got a 3 yr old boy who loves having his nails painted. We do them about once every couple of weeks, whenever he asks really. He’s had red, pink, blue, sparkly gold, and yesterday, he wanted a mix of sparkly gold and red for a party so we did 3 gold, 2 red on each hand.

    Up until about a month ago, no-one at all had bothered about it, but it was photo day at nursery recently and he had his nails red that day. Apparently the photographer wasn’t keen on it though. She kept making him hide his hands. So the selection we got to choose from was 5 pictures of him standing or sitting awkwardly with his hands behind him, in his pockets, arms folded.

    He was clearly uncomfortable and the photos were rubbish, so we didn’t buy any.

  31. Profile photo of lamuella
    December 28, 2011 at 9:47 am —

    when I saw the word “murse” in the story title, I thought there was going to be mention of a connected area that is a personal bugbear, namely the idea of gender-specific careers.

    I work for the NHS, and it’s surprising to me how many people will use the phrase “male nurse” to describe someone, in a situation where specifying their gender is entirely unnecessary. The need for the unnecessary gender prefix seems to have stuck with this joblong afterit stopped being normal to talk about “female doctors”.

    When I worked in public libraries, I found my least favourite example of this: an article in the New York Times that unironically used the phrase “guybrarian”. Wow, thanks, a word that simultaneously makes me feel like I’m the wrong gender for my profession AND I’m a hipster jerkbag! Thanks, NYT!

  32. Profile photo of mjtheprophet
    December 28, 2011 at 10:12 am —

    A very impressive article, and one with which I heartily agree. Also, mad props for inserting Pinkie Pie!

  33. Profile photo of Ezekiel
    December 28, 2011 at 12:06 pm —

    That was a fascinating article. I wish I wasn’t near the peak of Mt. Stupid (http://www.smbc-comics.com/comics/20111228.gif) and could better participate in the discussion here. I know virtually no one that isn’t a straight white male. There are about three women in my life, and one is my daughter.

    When I read an article like this I wonder where I fall in the spectrum as a participant in the system and as member of it. But since I am blind to all but the most brutally obvious of sexism, I can’t articulate an intelligent thought or opinion either way.

  34. Profile photo of felixt
    December 28, 2011 at 12:14 pm —

    Speaking as a trans man, I find the concept of female privilege an entirely valid one. As I transition I’m seeing more and more double standards held by society that privilege women: like, for example, the fact that now I’m perceived as male, for me to express any kind of sexuality openly is “perverted”, whereas previously it was seen as a combination of attractive and progressive. I’m also given filthy looks if I go anywhere near children; paedophilia is apparently for boys, and children are only for women to enjoy. I find the belief that paedophiles must be men superbly ironic since I happen to be a survivor of abuse – by a female abuser.

    I also find that on the whole, women are far more sexist than men and far less willing to admit the possibility that sexism could apply to the things they think, do and say. There’s a constant readiness to judge and condemn men among groups of women which I really can’t find any way to explain or justify. Given that, it’s not enormously surprising to me that the debate about gender norms in marketing to children is not taking the effect on boys into account.

    • Profile photo of Will
      December 28, 2011 at 2:48 pm —

      I’m not sure that anything you’ve described here is “female privilege.”

      I am not going to tell you that your experiences are wrong, but I have not had the same experiences of having my expressions of sexuality be called a perversion. Surely it is about the manner of expression than the expression itself, no?

      When looking at the media, we can find countless examples of how men openly express their sexuality and are lauded for it. When women do this, they are often slut-shamed or considered whores. This is the double standard.

      I’m not really sure how your pedophilia example fits into the concept of female privilege. Pedophiles are statistically more likely to be men than women. This is not to say that women do not sexually abuse children. It should also not be any reason to treat all men differently.

      Also, no one is claiming that women do not internalize sexism. You say you cannot understand why groups of women would judge and condemn men–could it not be the sexism and misogyny that are unceasingly directed towards them?

      Ultimately, what I’m trying to say is that I think you’ve provided anecdotal evidence based on personal stories and experiences, but you’ve given no empirical evidence in support of the existence of female privilege. This simply won’t do.

      • Profile photo of Natalie
        December 29, 2011 at 12:38 am —

        To be fair, I’ve used personal stories and anecdotal experiences as a means of articulating my own perspectives regarding privilege. So I don’t really think it’s necessarily a not-okay strategy for Felix to be doing the same.

        He didn’t make a statement about some broad “female privilege”, he only made statements of particular circumstances and situations that seem to privilege women. I don’t see that as being nearly as problematic or unsubstantiated as the claims of “female privilege” in a broad sense.

        I think the points raised here are reasonable ones. There ARE ways that men are negatively impacted by gender binaries, and women are at least partially complicit in the maintenance of oppositional sexism. It’s not the WHOLE story of sexism, but it’s certainly part of sexism, and I do believe these issues have a deserved place in feminist discourse.

        • Profile photo of Natalie
          December 29, 2011 at 12:39 am —

          P.S. I’m really sad to say so, Will, but I’m pretty sure it would take us all of five minutes to find examples of people stating that your sexuality is indeed a perversion. :(

        • Profile photo of Will
          December 29, 2011 at 2:19 am —

          Like I said, I’m not trying to dismiss his experiences. I just don’t find his evidence compelling. I don’t think internalized sexism/misogyny is the same thing as female privilege. Privilege in this context is a very specific thing.

          I’m not debating that men are harmed by binaries or by femmephobia–quite the contrary. What I am saying, though, is that it’s going to take a lot more evidence to convince me that double standards = privilege.

          And you’re right, plenty of people would describe my sexuality as a perversion. That was bad wording on my part. Now that I think about it a little bit more, it’s all very heteronormative. So, I think generally straight men are encouraged to be open and expressive about their sexual desires. I do not think that is the case for women. And I do not think any of this is evidence of female privilege.

          • Profile photo of Natalie
            December 29, 2011 at 3:38 am

            Yeah, I pretty much totally agree with what you’re saying, and I think you pretty much agree with me, I just didn’t read Felix’s comment as trying to legitimize a concept of “Female Privilege”, rather just as pointing out a few specific ways he’s been disadvantaged by now being gendered male.

            I think the experiences of trans men can be really, really helpful in this regard, actually. Just like the experiences of trans women can be very illuminating in understanding Male Privilege, so can the experiences of trans men. And the experiences of both can also be helpful for articulating the ways that men are harmed by gender binaries… trans women in talking about how stifling the male gender role can be and how strictly (and often violently) it is enforced, and trans men in talking about the ways that some of their social freedoms suddenly become limited, and certain things that they perhaps took for granted (like being trusted around children) are suddenly a bit less available.

            I completely, totally, 100% agree that there is no real justification for claiming the existence of an over-arching Female Privilege, or claiming that women aren’t regarded as the inferior, secondary class within that binary, but a big part of what I was trying to illustrate with this post is that the negative impact of oppositional sexism is not limited to AFAB individuals, and that feminists (invested as we are in gender equality and human rights) should be careful not to overlook the ways that oppositional sexism, gender binarism and patriarchy harm AMAB people.

            I do NOT buy into the MRA schtick, and do NOT think it’s inappropriate of feminism to prioritize or focus on women, and do NOT mean to play into the simplistic “but what about the men???” thing. I’m just interested in the multi-facetedness of social treatment of gender. And as much as this is a “oppositional sexism harms men too” post, it’s also about how the harm that men experience from femmephobia and the constraints of their gender role ties back into misogyny and harms women too. So when we’re looking at that side of sexism, the binary part, everything is incredibly interconnected and interwoven. We owe it not only to other genders and iterations of sexual identity to explore this interconnectedness out of a sense of human kinship, but also to ourselves because it impacts our own experience and treatment.

            Personally, I found Felix’s comment was entirely in keeping with the overall spirit of the post and conversation, and not meant to undermine it or redirect it down an MRA what-about-teh-menz path. Just to add some of his own experiences to the accumulated knowledge.

          • Profile photo of Natalie
            December 29, 2011 at 3:55 am

            P.S.

            I’ve actually noticed that I’m now more trusted around children. And children themselves seem more open to trusting me. It no longer feels socially problematic for me to smile or wave at a kid, or to smile at a mother with that “your kid is adorable!” thing, or return a mother’s “did you hear the cute the kid just said?” smile. Etc. Instead of a mom giving me a weird look if I wave or smile at her child, she’ll give me an approving smile.

            In fact… this might sound kind of weird… but one thing I’ve noticed is that there’s in general this fun sort of mini-language of exchanged smiles amongst women that I never even noticed existed before. Like the “cute kid” smile, the “did you see that?” smile, the “I like your outfit / hair / whatever” smile, etc. It’s nice… although being a woman means you suddenly have to be very, very careful about sending certain signals to men, there’s also a noticeably greater sense of trust amongst women. Which makes sense, because they’re no longer being careful to send those aforementioned signals to me. But men remain guarded even amongst themselves. I don’t know if this is making sense at all… but… I guess, like, although I now have to worry about men being potential threats (I know, most guys aren’t, but it’s not the kind of thing you want to play russian roullette with), I’m no longer perceived as a potential threat (so long as I’m passing, anyway), so there’s this greater level of interpersonal trust with strangers (women, anyway) that wasn’t previously available at all (not even with men).

            [/random tangent]

          • Profile photo of Will
            December 29, 2011 at 3:27 pm

            All good and fair points. And I do apologize that I came across as being dismissive of your experiences, felix.

            I got caught up in the use of the phrase “female privilege” because it has some very negative connotations. I should have been more direct about my disdain for that phrase and not brought in experience or evidence like I did. I am truly sorry.

            <3!

  35. Profile photo of Dr. S A
    December 28, 2011 at 2:25 pm —

    This kind of gender policing is exactly the problem I had with many of the responses to Jimmy Kimmel’s Christmas “challenge” (that, and the whole premise of pulling “pranks” on kids too young to understand the joke). When parents think it’s hilarious to give a boy “girl things” and then tease them about it, how can it be surprising that they grow up to think that it’s understandable and funny to treat a woman’s purse like it’s the equivalent of touching dog shit?

  36. Profile photo of msatheism
    December 28, 2011 at 10:08 pm —

    This was wonderful to read. Fortunately as a girl with two brothers I was never forced into girl toys, in fact boy things were encouraged because then the three of us could share.

    However, I still love wearing makeup, and wearing dresses and looking pretty. In fact I just bought a brand new pink ski jacket!! I’ll be all pink while tearing up the ski hill!

    And about advertisers, yes they do not give a crap about their audience they perpetuate very negative stereotypes that exist in our society. A really good movie on this is “Codes of Gender”. I watched it in my Sex and Gender Anthro class.

    Also, femmephobia is a badass word. So using it!

  37. Profile photo of Jessika
    December 29, 2011 at 5:22 pm —

    Yes 1000x yes! I’ve been saying this for YEARS, and am glad that it’s getting talked about. Well, not really *glad* since I’d rather it not be an issue anymore, but still…

    This really hits home with the “manly” marketing. My Grrl is 5, and recently said she couldn’t drink Dr Pepper. Why? Because she saw the Dr Pepper FOR MEN commercial. Certainly made me stabby, as we have been raising her as a girl who loves superheroes, pirates, Scooby Doo, and lots of other “boy toys”.

    As hard as it is to raise a child that doesn’t conform to any gender stereotypes, the world just won’t let up.

  38. Profile photo of OrchidGrowinMan
    December 30, 2011 at 3:22 am —

    Well, here I am, going to risk letting-out a little personal information (I have reasons to preserve my anonymity).

    First of all, I’m pretty happy with my Y; it seems to function adequately for my purposes. And I’m not consciously homophobic (In fact, a lot of ppl think I’m gay; my now-GF did for years. I get invited to all the best parties).

    But I really do grow flowers, and have since before I was five (and orchids since the age of twelve). I almost might as well have worn pink tutus as far as the local culture was concerned, but bless my parents, and my brothers. As an adult, I COULD say I do it for the same reason the guy in the beer commercial does ballet, but as a kid, it was pretty rough. At least I could wear pink if I wanted to: ‘couldn’t make it worse!

    As an adult, I have faced different circumstances where “gender” role nonconformity has caused me trouble: I enjoyed being the stay-at-home for my daughters, but I got in trouble several times when out in public, once being asked by the authorities to leave the park (leaving behind my 9-YO daughter) because some woman was hysterical that I was “taking pictures of little girls” (it was the big fireworks show: I had a large [manly?] telephoto lens). Other times, I had to change a diaper but the men’s room at the mall was a sty, so we had to risk making-do with back hallways. I was yelled-at more than once for using those or changing tables in (vacant or one-stall) ladies’ rooms. It’s way better now that changing stations are more common.

    Then came the acrimonious divorce. Not only was I pretty much permanently financially crippled, but I was not permitted to see my daughters at all for many many months due to scurrilous accusations.

    I have to sympathize with some of the “men’s rights” arguments, and particularly with the “Disposable Male” position set-forth here: http://youtu.be/vp8tToFv-bA

    [An aside: I have a theory as to why male gays are conspicuously overrepresented in orchid- and other horticulture clubs: straight boys are driven-away by homophobia more than gay ones. That’s sad; it was through my Botany interest that I entered the sciences; how many were turned-away?]

  39. Profile photo of OrchidGrowinMan
    December 30, 2011 at 3:40 am —

    Oh, and another thing: As a Dad who spent an awful lot of time with the littl’uns, I now have a peculiarly well-developed maternal sense; my automatic reaction is to fly to the aid, the NURTURE, of a hurt or lost or hysterical child. But that is often unproductive. What I try to do is to compel some unthreatening-looking person (a woman) nearby to intervene. I’m too big and scary to be directly effective, and that’s frustrating. Unavoidable, but frustrating.

  40. Profile photo of Merkuto
    December 31, 2011 at 9:04 pm —

    This has been an incredible read, both the article and the comments. I often worry I’m near the peak of Mt. Stupid, so I mostly try and keep my mouth shut and ears open, and this was insightful. Partly because I’d been looking for a nuanced way to discuss some of the same topics, but didn’t have the vocabulary or full understanding of the issues for it, and partly for fear of just coming off as a men’s rights kind of discussion.

    I’ve become a big fan of My Little Pony, I have to admit that hoping to see a reference was part of why I read below the fold (yay Pinkie Pie!). It’s been an interesting insight in to femmephobia, as I’m a guy talking up the virtues of a cartoon targeted at young girls, and a lot of men and women scoff at it. I’m enjoying the opportunity to try and soften their view a little, and advocate for the ponies’ sake as well.

  41. Profile photo of startledoctopus
    January 3, 2012 at 1:11 am —

    Hmmm… I read Riley’s resistance to the idea of boys buying pink toys as an actual awareness of femmephobia – of the idea that, while our culture says girls can like “boy toys,” it is extremely much more disvalued for a boy to play with “girl toys.” While I’d say this doesn’t necessarily reflect an awareness on her part of how many boys do actually want to play with pink, I think it was actually more naive of her father to prompt her the way he did. There is definitely pressure and gender essentialism on both sides, but to say that “girl toys” and “boy toys” are equally valued by society is naive.

    Also, the new legos being marketed towards girls? Not what I would want to play with – just more gender essentialism. Plus the “girl” lego people have been made taller, skinnier, and have curves. Um. http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2012/01/01/beauty-and-the-new-lego-line-for-girls/

  42. Profile photo of guywhowearskeds
    January 3, 2012 at 7:30 pm —

    Let’s see here . . .

    Little boys do play with dolls, but they have to be called “action figures” so as not to offend the delicate sensibilities of their parents’ own unresolved issues. Men do get facials, but they have to involve razor sharp objects dangerously close to major arteries and thus the possibility of death or disfiguring injuries. And no moisturizer or any such froufrou afterward, just stingy, alcohol-based aftershave products that dry the skin. And during the Rose Bowl, I saw a commercial for a male product that conceals dark under-eye circles. Call it what it is – makeup for men, for chrissakes! And if I had my druthers, I’d carry a purse because I hate stuffing my pockets full of stuff.

  43. Profile photo of PrimevilKneivel
    January 6, 2012 at 12:56 pm —

    I’ve been carrying a purse daily for over ten years. I love them, I don’t feel comfortable without one and my wife gets mad every time I get a new new (I try not to get more than 1 a year). I’m a 6’1″ bearded “dude” and I fucking love my purses.

    But don’t you dare call it a “murse”, “man-purse”, “man-bag” or any of that crap. It’s a purse, call it a bag of that’s just too much for you but don’t try to wipe your fear of gender issues onto my purse.

    When you need to make up a word you are saying that you think I’m odd.

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