The Blue and White

June 6, 2009

(This will be a short post because I’m on a mini-vacation. The kind where I’m theoretically supposed to not be glued to my laptop. Which is, of course, why I brought my laptop with me.)

It’s graduation season, and for the first time I’ve noticed how many schools have different colored gowns for male and female graduates. This wasn’t true for me in high school or college, so I suppose I didn’t have much reason to think about it until now.

What’s the point of separating the men from the women (or the boys from the girls) in this way? I don’t know if this is a case of me reading too much into something, but I’ve noticed that if one of the color options is white, the girls wear it. Why are the boys never in white? (My high school’s colors were blue and white, so if we’d had two different colors, I would’ve been in white, and I think I would’ve been really jealous of the blue robes.)

And what does that mean for anyone who might identify as genderqueer, or otherwise outside of the binary gender norm?

Girls will be girls?

February 28, 2008

Facebook is so helpful sometimes! Via a somewhat random friend’s profile, I found this article from the New York Times magazine a few weeks ago. It’s very brief, commenting only a little on the recent spate of books “for girls” and how they present different visions of girlhood. I have a little trouble with calling these visions different strains of feminism, as the article does, but I also haven’t read any of the books so maybe I shouldn’t talk. Anyway, I find this line particularly telling:

Whether girlie or girlist, girls, because they’re allowed more latitude in their identities, can still be girls: Boys, on the other hand, must be boys — unless no one is watching.

This really rings true to me. Perhaps this is a function of growing up in the 80’s instead of the 50’s or 60’s, or perhaps it’s a result of growing up on a farm with an older brother and a mother who almost exclusively wore overalls, but I enjoyed an immense amount of flexibility in my girlhood. I wore hand-me-downs from my brother, loved sports and action figures, and wouldn’t be caught dead (or at least extremely grumpy) in a dress. I did have dolls, but I was much more interested in buying clothes for my Kens than doing just about anything with the Barbies.

There’s a really interesting bit in Forever Barbie about how housewives hoped that the dolls could “cure” their tomboy daughters. I have trouble coming up with the right analog for boys–how do you cure a “girly” boy? Sports? Hunting? G.I. Joes?

I would argue, though, with the question Orenstein raises at the end of her article–“whether any more expansive vision of girlhood can survive without a similar overhaul of boyhood.” It seems to me that the ever expanding bounds of girlhood are, in part, what have allowed girls to achieve on into womanhood–causing a lot of panic over the boys. More women than men are graduating from college! Something is terribly wrong with boys! Why is this always a zero-sum game? Why can’t greater success among girls and women mean there’s something right with them, and not necessarily something wrong with boys and men?