Gender Bender

I have followed with some dismay the recent criticism of poor little Prince George for taking ballet lessons, and was glad to see the support of his dancing by other media figures and dancers.  Our son studied ballet for 12 years. It helped with some of his motor coordination problems from his prematurity. He channeled it into a study of the martial arts in college, and now he can break a board on his head!  He still retains some dance moves, and it is amusing to see all 6’5″, 250 lbs. of him doing a pas de chat (dance of the cat) down the sidewalk.

I did not encounter much gender bias growing up. My parents encouraged me to do what I wanted to do. I remember being outraged at about age 5 when I was told I couldn’t run around outside without a  shirt, though. Most of my cousins were boys, so I played lots of sports with them and tagged along with them as they did their boy activities like building model cars and tree houses, stockpiling fire crackers, making homemade cannons, and setting pocket gopher traps.

I remember that boys with non-traditional interests had a harder time of it.  I remember the discomfort people back home had when a boy became the first male cheerleader at my high school.  It looks like, given poor Prince George,  that things haven’t changed much. I hope he keeps dancing. Maybe he will do a pas de chat through Westminister Abbey at his coronation.

What gender bias did you encounter or witness growing up?

43 thoughts on “Gender Bender”

  1. I might be the only Baboon old enough to remember when pairing two words was sure to spark a fit of giggles. The words? “Woman driver.” In the 1950s every comedian had a supply of woman driver jokes. Newspapers and magazines were filled with derisive stories about women attempting to drive. Of course, we all knew that women–some women–drove. And we all “knew” they did it incompetently, and wasn’t that a hoot?

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      1. The question is whether any of those male bashing ads were ever effective with women or if they were the unsophisticated product of some twenty-something ad writer imagining that pandering to women in that way would be ingratiating.
        I never see ads like that, so I don’t know if they still do them.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Bill, they ran extremely ads through the 1960s that were shockingly condescending toward women. You can do searches on YouTube to see some. Advertising got much more sophisticated in the 1960s (the years depicted in Mad Men). As tim suggests, no ad agency would now run ads starring airhead women, although some ads now take digs at men.

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        2. That’s because the ad agencies figured out that women were their prime customers.
          The ads that condescended toward women in the ‘60s were intrinsic to a cultural blindness and lack of introspection that is no longer possible. Male- bashing ads at this point couldn’t enjoy the same blindness but must stem from a naked stab at ingratiation. I think they underestimate their audience.

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  2. Even recently, I have read of instances where a woman could not get credit for work she had done, i.e. ghost writing for her boss, because it was assumed a woman’s mind could not think that way. There have been movies made around this theme.

    Conversely, it was assumed that men could not be nurturers, and now (at least in some circles) that is being disproven. It pains me to think of the lost resources, productivity, gifts that we have missed from all kinds of people… still going on today in much of the world. Sigh.

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  3. I grew up in the “Free to Be You and Me” generation, which provided a brief window that allowed a little more leeway for kids to be the kids they were, not what was expected of them. I also remember being mad (around age 5) that Dad and my brother could go without a shirt when they were hot, but I had to keep a t-shirt on. So unfair. I also remember well a boy from my 4th grade class being teased because he had a “Holly Hobbie” lunchbox (boys did NOT carry lunchboxes with dolls on them…especially dolls that were so much like the “Little House” characters…double whammy). He was an only child of a single parent, and what was then called a “latch key kid” (no parent at home at the ned of the school day), so along with the lunch box, he was different than most of us…at least what our short-sighted 4th grade eyes could observe. I can’t say I stood up for Jim and his lunchbox, I did not tell my friends to leave him alone – that would have required bravery aI did not have. I did, however, let him know that I liked his lunchbox and we spent time together at recess. I suspect I was one of a very few he asked permission to bring home after school – I remember his tidy little house with lots of stuffed animals in his room. I sometimes wonder where he is now – I’d like to thank him for what he may not have realized was an early lesson for me in the importance of acceptance and inclusion.

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    1. Renee – This was during my elementary and early junior high days. Then the rule changed so we could wear slacks (not jeans) if the temp was below a certain number (don’t remember exactly) on the early AM WCCO weather report.

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        1. That was my problem too; I’d mouth off, then have to out-run them when they chased me. If I wasn’t going to fight them I had to outrun them.

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  4. i was a man of the world and had no clue about the gay culture. i had a gay roommate in high school and didn’t realize it until a few years later when i got a clue
    i was in san fransisco in the 80’s at the very beginning of the aids crisis and i got to go to the gay day parade where people celebrated their identity. it was eye opening. i was a hat wearer even back then and even though i thought they could tell i was surprised i kept getting hit on and assumed to be gay. at first i was perturbed but the boys were all so nice and pleasant about the celebration it was really a fun day. dykes on bikes started off the parade in their harley’s. black leather for men was chaps and vests, for women too come to think of it
    i liked theater in high school but ended up doing sports until i was kicked out because of long hair (late 70’s must have been the point where long hair got accepted) and i got into a band instead of theater. i remember thinking that the guys in the theater were not my regular friends but never put two and two all the way together
    my daughters always friended gay boys growing up. all three daughters had a special attraction to gay boys. my middle daughter (theater daughter) is a strong advocate of all things lgbtq.
    we still have a ways to go with redneck % still way too high but i think general acceptance and understanding is much improved.

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  5. I was a senior in High School when Luverne had its first girls basketball team. You would have thought, being so close to Iowa, that we would have had women’s sports earlier. Thanks, Title IX.

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    1. It didn’t seem natural in the 1950s. So much that seems natural now didn’t seem so then.

      The state Girl’s Basketball championship was a big deal. I remember when the TV guys interviewed the coach of the victorious team. “Didja see that Grossman?” he asked. “Dang, she come down that court like a BULL let out of a CHUTE!”

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  6. A while ago, I was listening to a discussion on MPR. The subject was “Masculinity Under Attack” Some of the comments had to do with diminished deference for the masculine voice and point of view. A lot of the host’s discussion had to do with the “feminization of the school system.” Nowhere in the discussion was the suggestion that, contrary to being attacked, the conventions of masculinity were simply changing.

    Masculinity is a social construct and it’s always changing, albeit slowly. Masculinity in the eighteenth century, especially in its social and sartorial expressions, were nothing like masculinity in the last half of the twentieth century. The same would be true in many respects with masculinity in the nineteenth century and even the early twentieth.

    While notions of masculinity that may reside in the minds of baby boomers and possibly their progeny are confronting change, it seems apparent that millennial males are comfortable with that change. It remains to be seen how that will be reflected in notions of femininity.

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  7. WARNING: I admit up front, I’m irritable today, but can I really be the only baboon who is uncomfortable with two of Steve’s comments above? And please, don’t mansplain it to me or tell me to lighten up, that’ll really piss me off.

    I suspect that tim’s comment about women staying in their place was meant to be funny. To me that’s about as funny as wearing blackface to a Halloween party, but as I said, I’m irritable today. I’d almost be willing to bet that tim expected some push back to that comment, and probably was surprised when Anna’s gentle comment was as close as it got.

    I spend very little time watching TV, so I’m certainly no authority on TV ads, but I’m wondering if tim can give me some concrete examples of “male bashing” ads that he claims have been so rampant in the last handful of years?

    At the age of 76, I don’t deny that women have made lots of headway in my lifetime, but we still have a long way to go. Call me an angry, radical feminist, and you won’t be far off the mark. I have lived long enough to learn that a lot of subtle attacks on women are delivered as jokes, when in fact they’re zingers meant to deliver a not so hidden message.

    End of rant.

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  8. We have some people here even crabbier than you are, PJ. The local SWAT team has been called out for the second time in as many days due to guys barricading themselves in their homes as police tried to serve warrants. No one was injured, thank goodness. Only one of them had a gun. Both are in custody.

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  9. I don’t particularly remember any issues of gender bias. In the 70’s I was trying the gold chain look (It was from Avon as I recall and I must have asked mom for it) but my grandmother told me I looked like a girl wearing that. Does that count? Grandma also had a candy dish on the counter but if I took candy she’d tell me I was going to get fat.

    Isn’t it sad how cruel words will hurt so long and stick with a person far longer than a nice word.
    I remember more times of my Dad yelling at me than I remember him complimenting me. There wasn’t that many – I know we were all loved, but once fixing a tractor he chewed me out because I hadn’t laid the parts out the way HE would have, and a couple other times when I overslept– the memory of him chewing me out sticks with me clearly today.

    My mom drove tractors so maybe that helped me see girls doing things usually done by guys.
    Back in my stagehand days, if there was a woman around you assumed she was part of the wardrobe crew. The first few that were actually pushing cases – they had to be tough to put up with the guys in the first place – and once they actually showed they knew what they were doing, they were accepted without too much trouble. There’s always 1 or 2 idiots that will have inappropriate comments. I certainly wasn’t brave or outspoken enough back then to say anything. But usually the girls didn’t need it either; as I said, they were pretty tough to get there in the first place.
    I find it pretty cool to see a woman driving construction equipment or riding a Harley.

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      1. Haha- way back when I found a flower earring with a clamp on it and I wore it around the Theater for a while. People
        Laughed at it but I was also warned to take it off before we went to the bars that night.

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