Marketing Gender

Mary Frith ("Moll Cutpurse") scandal...

Image via Wikipedia

The only time I give into the gluttonous lure of fast food is when I am on a long car trip. I don’t know why, but I cannot resist the greasy goodness calibrating my stomach as the miles roll under the cars wheels.

Yesterday, as I licked the last bit of tartar sauce off of my fingers, I realized that I would probably regret my choice of lunch later in the day as the longest car trip of my life stretched into the double digits. I decided to distract myself by reading the box of my daughter’s Happy Meal. This, however, added to my problem by the simple mechanism of gendered and stereotypical marketing that added food for thought if not for digestion.

One side was blue and clearly geared at the boys, picturing an anime character with an aggressive look.  The game on the side recommended that boys add power to their names so they too can become kick-ass fighters (okay, I’m paraphrasing here) by simply adding -oid or -tron to the end of their names.

The pink side showed pictures of the fuzzy little stuffed toys for the girls. In the corner, a pink heart that could be punched out of the box and divided in half. Give half to your friend, it says. Keep half for yourself. When you are separate, you will have half a heart, but when you are together your heart will be whole. Gag!

I guess that the girls don’t need to worry that they can only be whole through the support of someone else, or that only having half a heart might make them weak, because Paul-tron or Stephen-oid can always come and protect her collection of fuzzy animals.

I wish that my daughter would rather be Sarah-tron, but of course she spent time talking baby talk to her new tiny unicorn.

A few days ago, one of my Facebook friends who is a super intelligent person, posted for input on how to refer to a male with an effeminate term that would not be offensive to gay men.  I didn’t respond because I was disturbed by the question. Why does there have to be a word for it? Why can’t a sensitive, non-macho man simply be a nice guy?

Even as gender roles have changed in some ways in our society, I realize that we have NOT “come a long way, baby.”  We can pretend all we want that women have more opportunities in this world (if still unequal pay). We can be shown images of men being house-moms or crying and being sensitive but still winning the girl.  But underneath that, the expectations remain the same. Girls are supposed to love pink and play with dolls. Boys are supposed to get dirty and roughhouse. Women are supposed to have a mothering instinct and men protect their family. In the family, women are still expected to take time off for sick children while the men bring home the bacon.

We talk as if the above isn’t true, but the little pink and blue box proves otherwise.

I think it is time for everyone to choose his/her own color and for gender to be self-selected. How do we make that happen when every detail of our lives is marketed to us with gender identity attached?

Any thoughts on this?

A Glee-full Discussion of Bullying

I just finished watching yesterday’s Glee and my initial reaction was “Best Glee ever!” Sometimes, I admit, I only pay attention to the show long enough to catch the songs and productions as the storyline loses me about 50% of the time. Yesterday’s show, however, had the delightful combination of meaningful story combined with great music, a fabulous guest (Carol Burnett), fun production numbers, and Sue Sylvester.

Through the entire show, I reflected on its messages about bullying, and about the inability of the school to protect this young man in any substantive way. That little dose of reality lent some gravitas to the show, and is sadly, too true. I applauded, in my own mind, Sue’s stance at the end, that she would rather resign the principal-ship in protest and serve as protective eyes in the hallways. But then, the end came, and Kurt announced he was leaving the school. He announced that he was escaping the bullying he was facing in the only way he could, by going to a school that has a zero tolerance policy.  And my heart broke. And my anger was raised.

After that, I read one of my blog subscriptions, a woman who writes eloquently about Schooling Inequality, and has focused recently on the rash of gay suicides. Today she wrote about Queer Youth and Cultural Products, reflecting on the “It Gets Better Campaign”. Reading this entry made me think about Kurt as a Cultural Product. In many ways I think he is representing the struggle faced by GLBT youth daily in our country. But, for that reason, it makes me angrier that he has to run away; that his only hope for safety is to escape to a private boy’s school. This is probably a sad truth in many of the public schools that face bullying, but it is a disgusting truth. Schools can not, or maybe simply do not, do enough to protect these children. That is simply wrong! I hope, in the fictional world of television, that an alternative solution is found.  At the same time, though, Glee tries in some ways to be true to the world as it exists, so I don’t know what that solution will be.

In Schooling Inequality, she also included this video, which could be such a powerful part of the solution.

Sadly, though, I see the fight to get this kind of programming into public schools as a long drawn out one.

I need to find a way to be part of the change that schools need. Lives are at stake.

%d bloggers like this: