We are in the midst of a full-throttled gender rebellion, with gender reassignment procedures as the ultimate form of this rebellion.
I’m wondering if part of what is fueling this rejection of societal norms for maleness and femaleness stems from how narrowly “male” and “female” are defined by the consumerist part of our culture.
In a great article, The Atlantic reminds us that 120 years ago pink was for boys and blue was for girls. It then goes on to explore why it’s so hard to find girls’ clothing with trains and rockets and dinosaurs on it, among other things.
The increasing consumerism in our culture has narrowed what it means to be a girl or a boy so much more than it ever has been in any preceding culture that it’s no wonder kids grow up feeling like those definitions of maleness and femaleness don’t work for them.
When a penguin on a boy’s shirt is chubby and wearing sunglasses and a penguin on a girl’s shirt is slender and long-lashed, cultural expectations of what it means to look like and be either of these genders is being subtlely impressed on our kids.
In the article, Adrienne LaFrance writers, “It’s difficult to overstate the cultural power that clothing wields. What a person wears isn’t just seen as a reflection of their style and values, but a window into that person’s identity. For children in particular, the link between what you wear and who you are is especially strong.”
Yes, there have always been cultural expectations placed on gender. And no, not all of them have been healthy — binding little girls’ feet, for instance, is bizarre and cruel. But we’ve become masters of the unhealthy.
As in most things, our culture is currently responding with a vast over-compensation to past wrongs. But just because there is an over-compensation doesn’t mean we should ignore the questions it brings up about what’s wrong. Instead, we need to embrace this opportunity to think well about what maleness and femaleness actually consist of and how we can protect it from both consumerist categories and over-compensation against those categories.