Posts tagged gender roles
This is how thoroughly we women have been sexualized, that we cannot make the kind of noises that come with physical exertion without it being associated with sex. In fact, everything about our bodies has been sexualized in one way or another. If we groan during sport or we breast-feed in public, we are criticized for making people think about sex. If we talk openly about things like menstruation and poop and farts, then we are criticized for making people not want to think about sex.
Think about what it means to be ladylike and all of the adjectives that go along with it: elegant, cultured, classy, sophisticated. To be successful at being feminine means being successful at being private, keeping your body’s natural functions behind closed doors and never letting anyone know they exist. It means to be constrained, that you do not let your legs spread wide in public transportation and you do not make noises that are harsh on the ears. It means presenting a polished, shiny surface to the world at all times, one that allows others to project whatever they wish onto you while never showing too much of your true self.
Although most boys figure out how to bring themselves to orgasm by age thirteen, half of girls don’t have their first orgasms until their late teens, twenties, or beyond. Teenage girls widely agree that they get the message loud and clear that masturbation is something boys do, but girls don’t, can’t, or shouldn’t. The cultural focus on intercourse tells young women to expect they’ll begin to experience sexual pleasure once they have sex with a man (whether or not they’re even interested in sex with men). Nearly all teen boys, on the other hand, experience sexual pleasure long before they get their hands—or other body parts—into a partner’s pants. Despite the massive advances in women’s equality, young women’s sexuality is stuck in a surprising paradox. Young women are sold provocative clothes but aren’t taught where to find their own clitoris. Many girls give their boyfriends oral sex, but are too uncomfortable with their own bodies to allow the guys to return the favor. It’s still a radical act to say that women need and deserve access to information about their own sexual pleasure—not just about the risks and negative consequences of sex.
As we have so recently and publicly discussed, girls and women have “anger issues” in that they are socialized to not demonstrate anger, but instead to sublimate it where it can sometimes then manifest itself as anxiety or depression. Girls are not born less angry and more anxious, they’re rewarded for being less angry and more anxious. So, it should come as no surprise to anyone that large groups of stressed out girls and women collectively facing the dissolution of a cohesive social structure might be more disposed to fall prey to mass psychosis. It is arguable that men and boys experience similarly jarring episodes of anger and anxiety-channelling mass psychosis, but we call it male aggression and fund military industrial complexes to deal with it.
The issue isn’t that girls shouldn’t cook and have fun with it. It’s that we’re being told by companies, toy stores, and their marketing teams that this is the way it’s supposed to be. Girls should cook and clean (essentially playing “mom”) while boys create, destroy, and learn to save the world. Toys like LEGO, light sabers, and toy cars are all primarily marketed towards boys and these toys have far more creative possibilities and give room for more brain development.
Toy stores play a large role in continuing to support the way children of different genders play and think. From an early age girls are given little options of what they can think and become. It is no coincidence that there is a serious lack of women working in the science and math fields.
That’s why SPARK is asking you to join us in ourToy Aisle Action Projectto bring attention to the gender divide in stores! We are SPARKing this movement armed with Post-It notes and cameras in the blue and pink aisles. (Seriously, some stores have actually have colored their toy aisles pink and blue! When will it end?) With your Post-Its, make a note using slogans like “Where My Girls At?” in the blue aisle, “Your Girl Needs Joe, too” on a GI Joe, “This Is An Option For Everybody” and “What About Dads?” on the baby dolls.
Use statistics, too. Here are some we found: women make up only 13% of architects (I wonder why LEGO?), 14% of active US military (Where is G.I. Jane?), and 4% of executive chefs — so, why are all the kitchen gadgets pink when so many chefs are men?
We have shaved the idea of manhood down to an unrealistic definition that few can fit in it with the whole of who they are, not without severe constriction or self-denial.
The man that we mythologize in the backs of our minds is a cultural concoction, an unattainable ideal, a perfect specimen of muscles and fearlessness and daring. Square-jawed and well-rounded. Potent and passionate. Sensitive but not sentimental. And, above all else, unwaveringly heterosexual and without even a hint of softness.
We have created this culture, and we can undo it.
I think we can all recognize that the “it’s a joke excuse” is the most dismissive, self-righteous loophole, created by those who refuse to examine their power, and assume they have not only the right to say whatever they want to people, but the right to control how other people react to what they have said.
Posting this again in light of Penny Arcade’s Dickwolves Debacle.
Boys are told from a young age that whatever they do will be excused under the “boys will be boys” mantra, and that “boys will be boys” mentality leads to what I call the “boiling frog” problem of women’s sexual boundaries. I call it that because if you put a frog into a pot of boiling water, it will jump right out, but if you put a frog into a pot of room-temperature water and slowly heat it to a boil, the frog will acclimate as it heats and never jump out, eventually boiling to death. Similarly, when we learn as young girls to tolerate “low-level” boundary violations like the ones we often are forced to suffer in silence at school, at home and on the street – bra-snapping, boob-grabbing, ass pinching, catcalling, dick flashing “all in good fun” relentless violations that adults and authorities routinely ignore – it makes it harder for us to notice when even greater boundaries are being violated, eventually leading to the reality that many women who are raped just freeze and fall silent, because that’s what they’ve been taught to do over and over since day one. You tell me what’s more infantilizing: repeatedly letting boys (and grown men) off the hook for their behavior because “boys will be boys” and we can’t ever expect any differently, or creating a consent standard in which all partners take active responsibility for their partner’s safety, and which acknowledges the truly diseased sexual culture we’re soaking in every day.
Psychologists from Middlesex University and the University of Surrey found that when presented with descriptions of women taken from lads’ mags, and comments about women made by convicted rapists, most people who took part in the study could not distinguish the source of the quotes.
The research due to be published in the British Journal of Psychology also revealed that most men who took part in the study identified themselves more with the language expressed by the convicted rapists.
Psychologists presented men between the ages of 18 and 46 with a range of statements taken from magazines and from convicted rapists in the study, and gave the men different information about the source of the quotes. Men identified more with the comments made by rapists more than the quotes made in lads’ mags, but men identified more with quotes said to have been drawn from lads’ mags more than those said to have been comments by convicted rapists.
The researchers also asked a separate group of women and men aged between 19 and 30 to rank the quotes on how derogatory they were, and to try to identify the source of the quotes. Men and women rated the quotes from lads’ mags as somewhat more derogatory, and could categorize the quotes by source little better than chance.
Read the full story here.
“These magazines support the legitimisation of sexist attitudes and behaviours and need to be more responsible about their portrayal of women, both in words and images. They give the appearance that sexism is acceptable and normal - when really it should be rejected and challenged. Rapists try to justify their actions, suggesting that women lead men on, or want sex even when they say no, and there is clearly something wrong when people feel the sort of language used in a lads’ mag could have come from a convicted rapist.”
Dr Peter Hegarty, of the University of Surrey’s Psychology Department, added: “There is a fundamental concern that the content of such magazines normalises the treatment of women as sexual objects. We are not killjoys or prudes who think that there should be no sexual information and media for young people. But are teenage boys and young men best prepared for fulfilling love and sex when they normalise views about women that are disturbingly close to those mirrored in the language of sexual offenders?”