Friday, November 16, 2007

Two Brief Instances of Gender Prescriptivism

1. Scene: The dentist's office.

Receptionist. Where are the toothbrushes?

Hygienist. In the closet over there. The women's toothbrushes are on the bottom shelf; the men's are on the top.

Receptionist. Women's and men's?

Hygienist. I segregate 'em: the purple and pink on the bottom, the blue and green on top. Otherwise, everyone takes the blue and green--even the women--and the men are left with pink and purple. So I just separate them to make it easier.

(I, meanwhile, am being prodded and scraped by said hygienist, which makes it impossible for me to either laugh or twist my face in incredulity.)

2. Scene: The local cafe.

Woman: They have a great playground with lots of equipment, and a costume area--the boys can dress up like superheroes, and there's a princess area for the girls.

(I actually had to stifle the urge to join in the conversation at this point. How I hate, hate, hate the "princess culture" that little girls are forced into these days! And I can say with some certainty that I would have hated it as a little girl, too--I wanted to be Luke, not Leia. Or, better yet, Darth Vader. Or even a storm trooper. I was a militaristic child.)


Fretful Porpentine said...

OK, why is it that childrens' toys and clothes are so much more gender-marked these days than they were when I was growing up in the 1980s? Is this some sort of backlash? Are sexists simply out-breeding non-sexists? (Probably, yes.) Anyway, it's one of the more frustrating cultural trends out there.

The toothbrush story was a hoot, though :)

Notorious Ph.D. said...

Does it never occur to these people to just order blue and green toothbrushes only, since that seems to be what people want?

medieval woman said...

OH GOD, I HEAR YOU!!! The gender coding of children's toys, clothes, lives, etc. makes me want to hurl everytime I have a reason to go into a toy store.

What Now? said...

The playground story is, sadly, not unexpected, but I can't believe the toothbrush story!

Part of my disbelief, actually, is that people care about the color of the toothbrush they get at the dentist's. I'm not sure I've ever gotten to choose before but have rather meekly accepted whatever I was given, knowing that it was just going to get stuffed in the drawer with other spare toothbrushes for traveling, guests, and the like.

Maude said...

i always wanted to be han solo while at the same time being able to date indiana jones or vice versa. indiana jones was always my dream costume for halloween that never manifested. and i would have had a purple toothbrush though. obviously i had a severe fixation on harrison ford when i was a wee girl.

squadratomagico said...

Amazing! And I have to agree that the "princess culture" (good phrase!) is becoming more and more frightening. Particularly since it's never a particularly creative version of "princess," either. Why does it always have to be a pink frilly princess? Why can't anyone be a kick-ass Xena-style princess? And do the kids really adore this, or i s it the parents' fantasy of perfect girlhood?

heu mihi said...

I honestly don't remember the princess culture (or cult of the princess? would that be even more apt?) being so prevalent when I was a kid (the late 70s/early 80s). Maybe the proximity of second-wave feminism helped. These days, however, when "feminist" is so often considered a bad word, there does seem to be a pretty major backlash going on in terms of child gendering--at least, in my entirely unscientifically measured experience.

The toothbrush thing was absolutely nuts. Did it not occur to the hygienist that the fact that everyone was choosing the same color of toothbrush perhaps pointed out the artificiality of dividing toothbrush colors along gender lines? Perhaps? And maybe it won't *kill* men to use a pink toothbrush? Maybe, just *maybe*, using a pink toothbrush will not irrevocably undermine their oh-so-masculine sexuality? Just a thought. Utopian dreams, I know.