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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Who Cares About Gender Roles?

If you’re just joining us on the blog after a bit of an absence, you may notice that the place looks a little bit different.

After a year of having the same design, logo, and colour scheme, I decided that this week was the week that we would switch things up a bit.  Don’t worry, though.  Unlike Facebook, which changes its design more often than some people change their jockey shorts, the new look will be sticking around for some time.

It was hard to say goodbye to the old logo that was crafted by hand by yours truly.  I made it with the utmost of care, joy, and blue and pink gel pens.  But, as we transition into the second year of the blog, I decided that I wanted to make it appear more professional looking.  So, gone went the pink and blue, and in came the yellow and purple.  I think it turned out decently.

I also experimented with computer paint shop programs, and designed an improved logo using the new colour scheme.  I’m not usually that skilled in computer graphic designs, but I think the new logo turned out better than I expected.  I also tweaked the font style of the main heading a smidgen to match the logo a bit.  But, the rest of the layout is exactly the same.  I didn’t want to change things too much.

I’m not going to let a silly little thing like being blocked by a social networking site stop me from sharing my thoughts and life lessons with the world.  If anything, I have a feeling that this next year will be the best yet.

So, now that we have that out of the way, we can begin with today’s Thursday Confessional. 

THURSDAY CONFESSION #22:  I don’t believe in the concept of gender roles, and believe that people who force children to adhere to certain gender-based stereotypes are doing more harm than good to them.

I don’t know if you noticed this, but I am a man.  Of course, I don’t really know too many women with the first name of Matthew, but I just wanted to clarify that.  And, of course, I do like a lot of things that were manufactured for boys.  I played with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle and He-Man action figures, Hot Wheels cars, and was addicted to the various video game consoles of my youth.

But if you were to look at my last week of topics, they aren’t exactly considered to be male-friendly.  With my blog covering Jem and the Holograms and my not-so-secret desire to own an Easy-Bake Oven, some people may accuse me of having given up my so-called “man card”.

Well, you know what?  I say let them keep thinking that way.  I don’t particularly care.

I mean, yes, back when I was a kid, I rarely watched Jem and the Holograms, because I was lead to believe that it was a cartoon for girls.  And, yes, certainly the dolls that Hasbro released as a companion piece to the cartoon were meant to be marketed for young girls.  But when I watched old episodes of the series to do research on the blog entry, I found that for all the glamour and glitz the show had, there was also a lot of action and suspense.  And, hey, the music from that show was infinitely better than some of the garbage that passes as Top 40 radio these days.

And, my desire for an Easy-Bake Oven was simply to satisfy my sweet tooth.  I didn’t care if it was completely pink and decorated in flowers.  I just wanted it to eat all the mini-cakes I wanted.

I know that I don’t have to justify why I choose the blog topics that I do (though admittedly I did just this once to help explain my confession for today).  When I began this blog a little over a year ago, my intention was to have a variety of topics from different eras, and for different groups of people, so that everyone in the world could find something to enjoy.  As long as I keep writing in this blog, I’ll continue to make it this way.

But if I admit to wanting a toy marketed for girls, or liking some aspects of a cartoon marketed for girls, I wouldn’t classify that as being a sissy, or weak. 

Yet, you see it all the time in school playgrounds and on the streets.  You see boys getting made fun of for wearing a pink shirt, or because they like to play with Barbie dolls.  On the flipside, you might see girls being made fun of for wanting to play football, or choosing to play with a tool box instead of a jewelry box.

My honest opinion is that I believe that boys and girls should be able to play with whatever they want to play, or wear whatever they want to wear, or watch whatever they want to watch without the fear of bullying or abuse by people who disagree with their interests.

I have a couple of examples of this that I wish to share with you on the subject.  One example is a fictional one from a Saturday Morning live-action series that aired.  The other one is a real life example that hit the media a couple of years ago.  In both cases, the subjects had a keen interest in something that was atypical for their gender, and in both cases, the subjects were subject to much scrutiny.  Yet, both of them prevailed, and ended up not only surviving the abuse, but persevering in the process.

We’ll start off with the fictional character first.

I don’t know how many of you remember a show called “Hang Time” on television.  My guess is not a lot of you do.  The show aired as part of the TNBC programming block on the NBC network.  It debuted in 1995 and ran for six seasons, concluding its run in December 2000.  The show itself was set at a high school in Deering, Indiana, and the main plot surrounded the school’s basketball team.  Basketball player Reggie Theus and football player Dick Butkus had regular roles in the series, and athletes such as Damon Stoudamire, Kobe Bryant, and the late Florence Griffith-Joyner made guest appearances on the show.  The show itself was sandwiched between two episodes of Saved By The Bell: The New Class, but if one were to watch the show closely, it had its own distinct identity...or at least it did the first couple of seasons anyway.

When we’re first introduced to the Deering Tornadoes, the basketball team is just being formed, and Coach Fuller was anxious to assemble a team of nothing but the best guys in Deering High School.

So when new student Julie Connor decides to try out for the team, Coach Fuller and the majority of the players think that she’s playing a joke.  The school had the attitude that boys played basketball, and girls stood on the sidelines waving pom poms and yelling “Go Deering!”, a stereotype that head cheerleader Mary Beth Pepperton was more than willing to keep going.  But Julie was determined to try out for the team.  As she told Samantha, who was then the equipment manager for the team, she had been playing basketball since she was a little girl, and it was all that she wanted to do.  Unfortunately, with no girls basketball team at Deering, all hope was lost.

That is until Samantha helped Julie by convincing Coach Fuller to let Julie try out for the boys team.  Most of the boys on the team scoffed at the idea, but eventually most came around.  Of course, at the time Samantha was dating one of the team members, so I imagine she had a hand in making him convince the others that Julie would be an asset.  The captain of the team, Chris Atwater still wasn’t convinced that she would fit in, and it took a one-on-one match between Chris and Julie to make Chris see that she had some major skills.

Long story short, Julie ended up making the team, eventually became a co-captain of the Deering Tornadoes, and ended up getting a special award for the dedication and natural athletic ability when she graduated.  The show itself proved that a girl could succeed in the world of male sports, and I imagine that a lot of girls who watched the show were inspired by Julie Connor.

I just wish the show touched upon the discrepancy in that Julie ended up spending SIX YEARS in high school...but hey, the show wasn’t perfect.

For our second tale, I want everyone to take a look at the picture below.

On the surface, it looks like a lovely Halloween picture, and that’s really the way I see it.  Does it really matter that the person inside that Daphne costume was really a five-year-old boy?

It doesn’t to me.  But this picture certainly caused a lot of controversy due to the comments of some people...and it’s not the people who you might think either.

Back in 2010, the mother of this young boy asked him who he wanted to be for Halloween, and he wanted to dress up like his favourite character from Scooby-Doo.  At that time, his favourite character was Daphne.  So the mother dressed him up in a flame orange wig, a purple dress, and purple leggings, and within moments, he was Daphne.  It was a very convincing costume, and I thought that it looked a lot like the cartoon character.  Judging by the smile on his face, I think he definitely approved of it.

And when he wore the costume to his preschool, his classmates didn’t seem taken aback, nor did they treat him any differently. 

The other mothers at the school playground, not so much.

The mother of the boy in the Daphne costume was shocked to hear some of the other mothers talking about his costume in a negative way.  One mother even accused the boy’s mother of opening him up to ridicule and teasing for dressing him that way.

It broke her heart to hear those women (who in my opinion really should have known better) saying such closed-minded and cruel things about her son, and by extension, herself just because of the choice of Halloween costume.  Yes, the choice of a Daphne costume was an inspired one for the five-year-old boy, but it was what he wanted to be.

And you notice that the children weren’t the ones who found it to be a big issue.  Instead, it was their parents who felt it necessary to bully and demean someone that they didn’t know because they crossed a gender line.

You know what, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a boy dressing up as a female for Halloween.  And, there’s nothing wrong with a girl wanting to play on a boys sports team.  As long as it makes the child happy, and as long as they’re growing up with a sense of knowing what is right and what is wrong, does it make a difference whether they play with a Barbie doll or a Tonka truck?

It shouldn’t.  If I had a son, and he wanted to dress up like Ariel from the Little Mermaid, I’d personally buy the red wig myself for him.  Or if I had a daughter, and she wanted to attend a monster truck rally, I’d sit down in the audience right beside her with pride.  Oh, and those people who claim that letting a boy play with dolls will turn them gay, or letting a girl playing football will turn them into a lesbian...I personally would like to see proof that this is the case.  And, even if it was the case, there’s nothing wrong with that at all.

So, I say, let your son bake cookies in an Easy-Bake Oven and let your daughter play football with the guys.  If it makes them happier, better people, then isn’t that all that matters?

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