Rape culture is built, one block at a time

Anyone who follows my twitter and Facebook feeds already knows that I am having a moment with Kate Elliot’s post The Problem with ‘Boys will be boys’. To say I love this post is an understatement. As she explains how three different boys approached playing blocks with her daughter, it is like getting a piece of the rape culture blueprint and having a veil lifted from our eyes about just how complicit we all are in building up and maintaining rape culture. It isn’t born into us. It is cultivated into us!

For months, every morning when my daughter was in preschool, I watched her construct an elaborate castle out of blocks, colorful plastic discs, bits of rope, ribbons and feathers, only to have the same little boy gleefully destroy it within seconds of its completion.

No matter how many times he did it, his parents never swooped in BEFORE the morning’s live 3-D reenactment of “Invasion of AstroMonster.” This is what they’d say repeatedly:

“You know! Boys will be boys!” 

“He’s just going through a phase!”

“He’s such a boy! He LOVES destroying things!”

“Oh my god! Girls and boys are SO different!”

“He. Just. Can’t. Help himself!”

Oh, right. He just can’t help himself. How do boys turn into men who must dismantle their internalized sexism and sense of entitlement and privilege? One block at a time.

I tried to teach my daughter how to stop this from happening. She asked him politely not to do it. We talked about some things she might do. She moved where she built. She stood in his way. She built a stronger foundation to the castle, so that, if he did get to it, she wouldn’t have to rebuild the whole thing. In the meantime, I imagine his parents thinking, “What red-blooded boy wouldn’t knock it down?”

She built a beautiful, glittery castle in a public space.

It was so tempting.

He just couldn’t control himself and, being a boy, had violent inclinations.

She had to keep her building safe.

Her consent didn’t matter. Besides, it’s not like she made a big fuss when he knocked it down. It wasn’t a “legitimate” knocking over if she didn’t throw a tantrum.

His desire — for power, destruction, control, whatever- – was understandable.

Maybe she “shouldn’t have gone to preschool” at all. OR, better if she just kept her building activities to home.

I know it’s a lurid metaphor, but I taught my daughter the preschool block precursor of don’t “get raped” and this child, Boy #1, did not learn the preschool equivalent of “don’t rape.

What is the first rule of rape culture? No, besides: Do not talk about rape culture. The first rule is: RAPE IS INEVITABLE! Or, in this case, “boys will be boys” and all that. What else can we do?! How to possibly teach boys to control themselves, that the entire world is not theirs for the taking without any thought to whose space they might be encroaching upon or whose rights or happiness they are trampling?

Tell me that does not sound like the rape-splaining we hear about Steubenville football players and the like!

Indeed, this very dynamic of treating boys and girls differently is the root, the seed, of misogyny and rape culture. We teach boys that they have intrinsic Manifest Destiny over every space at all times. We act like there are biological differences but, in fact, they are nurtured into existence by our social programing to continue systems of oppression, privilege, and rape culture.

The opposite is true as well. If “boys will be boys” allows some children to usurp the space of others, the opposite holds true for girls. They quickly learn that their space is never their own; it is always threatened; and when overtaken by the privileged gender, no one will interfere, as Kate Elliot explains:

Not once did his parents talk to him about invading another person’s space and claiming for his own purposes something that was not his to claim. Respect for her and her work and words was not something he was learning.  How much of the boy’s behavior in coming years would be excused in these ways, be calibrated to meet these expectations and enforce the “rules” his parents kept repeating?

… Take each of these three boys and consider what he might do when he’s older, say, at college, drunk at a party, mad at an ex-girlfriend who rebuffs him and uses words that she expects will be meaningful and respecte, “No, I don’t want to. Stop. Leave.”

The “overarching attitudinal characteristic” of abusive men is entitlement.

This is a teachable moment for all of us. How do we perceive gender and gender differences? How do we perpetuate privilege and rape culture by the very ways we construct identities for children? It’s not just about blue and pink, people!

It’s also about what we are going to do about it. Even if you don’t have children, certainly there are times you come into contact with them. But for the parents among us, what will you do if you find yourself in a similar situation? I know my training as a preschool teacher did not include gender stereotypes or gender identities. So how do we help others see the light after the veil is lifted from our own eyes?

This is the hard part. This is the part where we dig deep to face the internalized tools of oppression that we all have. No matter how enlightened or progressive we are, everyone has these. When we learn something that really challenges those assumptions — those things we feel are absolute and without question — that’s when we want to turn away. ‘Boys will be boys’ is not a part of rape culture. That’s just taking it too far. Is it? How does rape culture start? Do you think there’s a Rape Culture Summer Camp everyone is secretly sending their boys off to? Do you think rape culture is only about what boys are taught?

I’m not saying that every boy who knocks over a block building is a future rapist. Nor am I saying that those who fail to question the dogma of the gender binary are trying to raise rapists. What I am saying is that we all hold these convenient “traditions” and folk “wisdom” in our collective consciousness. These things get said so many times that they feel true. I have four brothers, all younger, and I saw them run around like Tasmanian devils! I also have seen girls lay waste to a preschool classroom in a matter of minutes. Just the other day my three-year-old started running in circles around the living room — for 15 solid minutes — because she was hyped up on apple juice. She throws things. She spits. She kicks. She walks up to other kids and tries to take their toys. She climbs anything. She jumps off everything. You know why? Because she’s three-years-old! She doesn’t understand sharing yet. She has tantrums. She wants her way. These things are not “boy” behavior or “girl” behavior. They are kid behavior!

When we stop labeling things through a lens of gender and just accept that behavior is behavior, then we can stop teaching our kids to re–enact sexist, oppressive gender constructs, too. It is something to think about the next time you are about to say something like, “Girls are so much more verbal.” Are they? Or, do we talk to girl infants more than boy infants and encourage verbal skills differently in each gender? It’s a slippery slope…

Like Kate Elliot’s daughter, we are all constructing gender, the gender binary, and rape culture — one block at a time. The only way we dismantle it is to recognize how and when the blocks appear.

Teen Mothers CAN change the world

We can do better by our youth and by mothers!

Nuestra Vida, Nuestra Voz

By: Desiree CaroImage

May is National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month.  Groups could use this opportunity to educate our youth about sexual health by providing information about and promoting safer sex.  Instead, the Candie’s Foundation has decided to release an ad campaign that shames teen mothers and devalues motherhood.  These ads, which stigmatize mothers of all ages, are endorsed by various celebrities who seem to be clueless about the message they are sending to mothers across the globe.

One of the more appalling ads states: “You’re supposed to be changing the world…not changing diapers.”  Since when did changing the world and changing diapers become mutually exclusive?  Plenty of women of all ages have changed the world and changed diapers. Just take a look at some of the amazing young mothers that work with the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH), such as Leydi and Gloria, who are powerful women…

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Gwyneth Hate Watch: Hey world, why so judgey?

While I am no Gwyneth Paltrow fan, I was irritated to see a glut of angry, sexist comments about this story in which Gwyneth Paltrow shares her daily routine, including two-hour workouts. I don’t understand the ragehol about her fitness/work/family routine. Besides the mega-millions and super-stardom, her routine seems like a lot of working parents who are trying to balance a lot of needs in a busy life. Aren’t we all just trying to find a balance and make our lives work the best we can?

But the real vitriol is reserved for her workout regimen. Why does it seem extravagant to make your health a priority in your life? Seems to me, if more of us did that, we’d all be a bit healthier. I have to do regular physical therapy and workout with a trainer to stabilize a bad back — sometimes 2 hours or more each session. Is that extravagant? Should I just live with pain? Isn’t it better to do the things we need for our bodies? Why judge? To tell you the truth, her schedule doesn’t sound that much different than mine, or many moms I know. I don’t get to workout daily (like I definitely should for my back), but I do a lot of the rest (minus the movies and movie star paychecks, of course).

Honestly, I think the Gwyneth-hate says a lot more about the collective guilt over bad habits and bad health choices than anything to do with the admittedly sometimes-smug star.

The joy and the heartache of Mother’s Day

*Trigger Warning*

It’s Mother’s Day and everyone’s posting pictures on social media feeds of themselves as children with their much-adored moms. It’s a sweet gesture and I hope those moms feel the love and maybe have a giggle at long-ago hairstyles and the behind-the-scenes madness it probably took to get that shot. (As a mother of a young child, I know just the circus of a family photo session!) But it’s bittersweet for me, even sparking a flash of jealousy, or two.

Don’t get me wrong. I adore my daughter. She is the light of my life. She brings me joy. Having her has helped me find a voice I never had before. All those statements would be cliché if they weren’t truly and deeply true. Opening myself up to being a mother; carrying that pregnancy in my body; knowing the thrills and chills of motherhood has been one of the most fulfilling, messy, magical, scary, beautiful experiences of my life. To know my daughter and to have the honor of parenting her is a healing act for me on an almost daily basis.

But damn it if I still cringe at Mother’s Day. Unfortunately, I have only known my daughter for three years and I’ve spent almost 37 years being someone else’s daughter. Healing takes time.

So, as I scroll through happy photos and the sentimental statuses of friends who love their mothers, I do feel a little jealous and a little pain in my heart. I’m sure I could summon a dusty memory from my childhood that doesn’t reek with drama and hurt, but to me it would feel false to post that publicly. It would present an image to the world that was incomplete and a daresay just this side of false. Oh, the memory would be real, of course. But to single it out, plucking it strategically from a voluminous catalog of disappointment, betrayal, neglect, and attacks on my innocence — that would feel like a lie. A convenient lie. One I told the world for a long time, because that’s so much easier than admitting the truth. My mother was not a good parent. And in ways too intense and too upsetting to share, her actions showed me that she did not like me, and quite possibly didn’t love me.

Now, most of the time I can safely walk through my life and not give this old wound much thought. When my daughter bounds into the room, her golden hair bouncing in the light and her face illuminated with happiness, my heart swells and everything bad about my life before her disappears into a foggy and ever-distant past. We go on adventures. We even have little conversations now that she’s mastering simple-sentence structures. I see the world more and more through her eyes. I encourage her to marvel and experiment and study this existence. And as she does, I see her wonder and amazement and it feels like the old scar tissue melts down a little more with each of those moments. Love is a healing tonic, a salve to the wounds. It binds. Its heals. It allows us to grow. And I am so grateful for that. I am so deeply grateful for my daughter and to be her mom.

And then as Mother’s Day approaches I find I have a sort of cognitive dissonance. My daughter is not quite old enough to know what it means, beyond making me a crafted present at school. (Which I adore beyond all my other possessions.) Perhaps when she’s older it will change. I don’t know. But for now, as I pass the displays every damn place I go and see the ads during all my favorite shows (truly, I’m the last person on the planet without a DVR), it just grows and grows. I manage to put it off and put it out of my mind as long as possible. My mind keeps forgetting about it and then I have to remind myself to remember it. (I do have a mother-in-law, after all.) And then in the final count-down, those last days before Mother’s Day, it just consumes every place I go whether in the real world or online. And I feel sort of trapped by all the people sharing warm, happy memories. I feel like I’m claustrophobic and trapped in a tight space.

Worst of all, I feel like if I talk about it with anyone but my closest loved ones — who already know the pains and the whys — that people will think less of me. How is it that having a bad parent makes you the bad child? Why is it that having a bad mother means I’m a bad daughter? Why do the kids have to bear the mistakes of the parents — like scarlet As on our chests. Right where our hearts were ripped out.

You can’t go on Facebook on Mother’s Day and say, “I’m glad you’re all having a wonderful Mother’s Day. Just thought you should know, this just reminds me what a shitty mom I had. Thanks.”

It wouldn’t be a very nice thing. It would be passive-aggressive. And why should I dampen anyone else’s good time? That’s not fair. But it’s also not fair to me — and all the kids like me, and I know you are out there — that we have to just endure the collective emotional dump of these myopic holidays. (Father’s Day is an equally painful landmine for many.)

Maybe if there weren’t emotional landmines around already, it would be easier. Just a few days ago, I gave testimony at the Nevada Legislature in favor of a comprehensive sex education bill. Many people who oppose the bill had testified about how pregnancy was the consequence, the punishment, for teens who did not practice abstinence. More than one mother — I know they were mothers because they all made sure to mention how many children and grandchildren they had — got up and said that if teens made the mistake of having sex, then they should have to live with the consequences. Because that will make a person really love their baby! One woman talked about how her daughter had gotten into drugs and sex and then became pregnant and how having that baby forced her to get clean and straighten out her life. If that actually happened, good for that person. More importantly, good for that baby. Because if having a child is a life-sentence for the mom, guess what, it’s no less a life-sentence for the kid!

I should know, I’m one of those babies of a teen mom.

So, I testified about the hardships of growing up with a teen mom. I talked about our poverty. The lack of choices my mother had because of her limited education. But I also talked about how deeply flawed she was and ill-equipped to be a quality parent. I talked about the emotional scars she left. And, in the context of sex education, I told the legislators that the kids like me deserve quality information, because we might not have anyone else in our lives who will give it to us. But it was not easy to do, to talk about these things in the public square, so to speak. I cried during my testimony, which I found to be extremely embarrassing. I am not a public crying type. And I suppose it shows how deep the shame of being the child of a teen mom is. 36 years later, I still feel the shame that society has placed on both her and me. After all, I’m the product of the “sin.” I’m the living, breathing scarlet A on my mother’s chest.

A couple days later, I was shopping for groceries and passed a display of flowers. (Mother’s Day, in case you forgot!) I stopped a moment and looked at the pretty flowers. There was a basket of tulips — orange and pink. They looked so bright and cheery. I had a sudden flashback to memories of my mom planting tulips along the side of our house. I adored those tulips. But that sweet memory gets polluted by another, adjacent, memory of the man who sexually abused me. He brought me tulips once, because they were my favorite. And I have felt a little ill whenever I see a tulip ever since. But on this day in the grocery store, standing still in front of the pots of flowers, I just marveled at the beauty even as the conflicting and terrible memories washed over me. Maybe tulips could have been one bright memory with my mother, but it got destroyed by someone else. And then I had a little inner dialogue with myself. Maybe I could reclaim them. Look at how pretty they are! But if I bought them and brought them home and all I thought about was the pain every time I saw them — that’s like bringing pain right into my house. Why do that? I couldn’t decide if I was strong enough to reclaim it. And I wasn’t willing to take that chance. So I walked away.

That’s the thing about troubled childhoods. Those memories and pains bubble up to the surface all the time, no matter what day it is. There are these little moments all the time. Being the survivor of sexual abuse, I know that all too well. I mean, how innocent are tulips? And yet, if I see them, I feel angry. I’ve been through a lot of therapy and read lots of books. I could probably do some kind of reverse-aversion therapy to tulips. I’m sure over time I could condition my mind to make new memories and welcome them back in again. But sometimes I just have to give myself a pass. I have so many other, more important things, to tackle. Maybe I just have to let little things like tulips slide by.

Unfortunately for me, one of the bigger things I have to deal with is that Mother’s Day is not going away. And now that I’m a mom, I want to embrace this holiday. I want to build new, better, happy memories. I want to focus on the positive. So that is the reverse-aversion therapy I’m focusing on today.

I wish I was alone in this, but I know I’m not. I know some of you are going through the same things. And I didn’t even touch on those who lost their mother; the women who wanted to have a baby and couldn’t; and so many others. Mother’s Day might be about celebrating moms, but that idea can be a painful one to a silently suffering minority. We watch your joy and we bide our time until it’s over.

My wish for everyone out there is that we can all find some peace. I hear people say, “Let go of the past.” And I wonder, how do I get it to let go of me? I have forgiven all I am capable of forgiving. I have let go of all I can un-grasp. But there’s no walking away from the scars. Like a bad knee that aches when it rains, the scars hurt sometimes. To deny that hurt is a lie. But I think it is possible to somehow find a kind of peace with it. We can acknowledge it. We can sit with it. And I think at the point when we stop judging ourselves for the pain we feel (why can’t I just let this go?) then a kind of peace can settle in.

In the meantime, I’m going to go hug my daughter. And I’m going to try and “like” all the happy mom memories I see today. Because I am glad that there are so many good moms out there. That’s a good thing. It gives me hope.

I organized this hate crimes event because I’m a mom

Cross-posted from The Sin City Siren:

Are you ready for the NOH8 in Las Vegas hate crimes event? I can’t believe it’s almost here! You can still RSVP here.

And all this planning has me thinking about the first time I organized an event for Erin Davies and her “fag bug.” I spent most of the summer of 2007 organizing two events for the fag bug — a caravan down the Strip and an event at the Beauty Bar on July 26, 2007. (If you remember those posts, you are an SCS Super Fan! xoxo) I even roped family and friends into helping me distribute fliers at First Friday in July. If you live in Las Vegas, you know that is proof that my family and friends love me!

When I organized the first fag bug event I was in a much different place in my life. I had just left my stable, full-time job as a staff writer at Las Vegas CityLife to strike out on my own. I had started The Sin City Siren just a few months earlier — May 6, 2007 to be exact. (Say, it looks like there’s an anniversary coming up…) In a lot of ways, I feel like the history of Erin Davies’ fag bug dovetails with that of SCS. Her car was vandalized with anti-gay hate speech on the National Day of Silence in April 2007, right around the same time I was mulling jumping into the online journalism/blogging landscape. And through organizing that first Las Vegas event in 2007, Erin and I have forged a friendship sealed by activism and our inexplicable shared idealism that the world is not as evil as all the bad news leads us to believe.

Erin Davies inside her "fag bug" car at the Beauty Bar on July 26, 2007. Photo by Bill Hughes

Erin Davies inside her “fag bug” car at the Beauty Bar on July 26, 2007. Photo by Bill Hughes

In truth, I would say that organizing Erin’s fag bug event in 2007 was a turning point in my life and career. I had just spent nearly 10 years in traditional print journalism and was feeling beat down by the weight of cynicism that pervades newsrooms. I was known as a Pollyanna because I had an unusual ability to see the good in people, despite my daily job reporting quite the opposite. Unusual for the vocation. Maybe unusual for all I know to be true in this world even today — as I sadly continue to write and report on rape culture and attacks (figurative and literal) on women’s rights these past six years on SCS.

How is it possible that I still see the good in people or our world? In a word: fagbug.

When I set about to organize the 2007 fag bug events I hadn’t done any organizing in 10 years (or since I was in college, for those keeping track at home). But I know a lot of people in this town and I just decided that if I could get unwilling sources to open up on the record, how hard could it be to call in a few favors to do some good? It turns out, it was both more work and surprisingly easy all at the same time. It took a while to get momentum rolling but when I lucked into a women’s HRC meeting exploring the idea of creating an off-shoot group (it became Women’s Empowerment Network), it was like the hand of destiny was tapping us all. They needed an event to get people to organize around and get engaged in a new group, I needed people who could help. There are many things about Las Vegas I don’t like, but one thing that is great about this town is the deep generosity that lies just below the surface. By the time we had our last volunteer meeting it was not just standing room only, we ended up shutting down a rather large Starbucks because we went over building occupancy!

And that was just the preview to what ended up being a really inspiring, dynamic, fun event at the Beauty Bar. We packed that place with so many LGBTQ Las Vegans, we practically turned the venue pink for the night! So many people stepped up and donated time and money and resources — from comped rooms on the Strip, to a take at the door, to local musicians playing for free, to a local Volkswagen dealer giving Erin’s car a free tune-up (which actually indirectly led to VW sponsoring her trip later on) — it was all so amazing to me. After covering this town for years as a journalist, I thought I knew what Las Vegas was. But that night, I finally got to see the real heart and soul of Las Vegas. And that couldn’t have come at a better time; a time when I was beginning to lose faith in the humanity of people and my Pollyanna spirit was draining out of me. That night gave me the courage to go on as a journalist, a blogger, and as it turns out, an activist.

Erin Davies and I pose in front of her fag bug at the Beauty Bar on July 26, 2007. Photo by Bill Hughes

So when Erin sent me a message a few months ago asking about coming to Las Vegas… How could I say no?

Even as I started organizing the event for tomorrow — Friday, 7pm, 101 S. Rancho Drive — I began to wonder if this is coming into my life again for a reason. After nearly six years doing The Sin City Siren, I’m feeling the frayed edges of burn-out creeping in. How many more times do I have to write about no justice for rape survivors? How many more stories about women being threatened out of their rights do I need to write? How much more misogyny, homophobia, and racism can I take?! But as I talked with Erin and started reaching out to organizations and organizers, I started to feel that old spark again.

Could that be hope returning?

This time around my motivations are different, more personal. Now I’m somebody’s mother. And that somebody is linked to Las Vegas for life, because she was born here. This is my daughter’s home town. And for all the bitching I do about all the failings of Las Vegas, specifically, and Nevada in general — and let’s face it that is a loooong list — it just begs the question: What are you going to do about it?

As I have been planning the NOH8 in Las Vegas hate crimes event, featuring Erin Davies, I have been thinking about all the ways our society is designed to discriminate, limit, and box-in my child. She’s only two and society is already teaching her that some things are “for boys” and some are “for girls.” She’s already getting indoctrinated in the gender-binary of a life defined by being a gender that is “opposite” the one and only other gender. And because our society labels the female gender as weak, all this gender-coding is already putting road-blocks in the way of her future success. She will someday have to argue the  point that she is qualified and worth equal pay. And that’s only after she navigates an educational system so burdened with patriarchal systems of oppression (not to mention racism and classicism) that she will have to prove her worth to be treated equally to math, science, technology, and if she is skilled for it like her father, engineering classes. And we haven’t even talked about sports…

My daughter is already growing up in a world that wants to limit who she is. It wants to define who she is. And it wants to take away opportunities, based on nothing more than archaic systems of oppression labeled “tradition.” What if she is not heterosexual? What if she is transgender? What if she one day falls in love with a person of color and that coupling faces discrimination and racism? As a mother, I can’t protect her from everything. I can’t walk ahead of her through her life and punch all those assholes in the face. (That’s hyperbole, not an actual threat, mind you.) I am doing my best to dismantle what I can and to give her the tools I hope will help her to do the same — more even.

But that’s not all I can do. I know how to organize. I still have a lot of friends. (Love you!) And for whatever reason or act of God, my name still has some credibility attached to it, a political chip I’m willing to cash in if it means I can inch my daughter’s home town just that much closer to a fair and equitable place to grow up. More than that, it’s worth all this work — and yes, time away from my munchkin lately — because so many other people’s sons and daughters are getting victimized by hate and discrimination every single day. What kind of mother would I be if I didn’t stand in solidarity with them? Because if there’s anything being a parent has taught me is that we really do need a village because this shit is hard work.

Hatred and acts of hate don’t just anger me, they hurt us all. Every time someone paints hate speech on a block wall to scare and silence their neighbor; every time a rape victim is taunted by cyber-bullies until she takes her own life just to escape the torture; every time a mom has to drive her kids to school in their minivan covered in “dyke” and “fag;” every time a legislator is threatened with bodily harm because she talks about having an abortion … every single time things like this happen, we are all harmed. We can’t separate out these hates as different or unique. These are all rooted in the same bigotry, intolerance, and fear that feed into such a deep reservoir of hate. And that hate will undo us all. It will take us all down. It will destroy our spirit and the ones we love, if we let it.

The hate crimes event tomorrow is my line in the sand. No more hate! Whether it’s acted out like racism, homophobia, misogyny, or any other form of bigotry — it’s all hate! And just like so many have rallied around Boston as a show of support and a symbol of how much bigger love is than hate, we must all unite and rally to stand against hate everywhere — like right here in Las Vegas.

Alright Las Vegas, I’ll see you there.

NOH8 in Las Vegas_fagbug

TMF: Spidey Sense tingling!

Copyright: The Tired Feminist

It doesn’t get more obviously gendered then the toddler underwear aisle.

Now this particular TMF: Tired Marketing Fail hits closer to home than most because Andrea Shindeldecker of Oak Park, Illinois is a mom after my own heart. You see, her five-year-old daughter LOVES Spiderman! Sure, other superheroes are great and all, but Spidey is tops. Sound like another little girl you’ve heard about on this blog before? Yep, as I’ve said before, my toddler is one of Spidey’s biggest fans. So, when this Change.org petition hit my inbox with the simple title Spiderman Underpants… well, you had me at Spiderman.

This TMF goes out to all the little girls who love superheroes and find no love at their local department stores. I’ll let Andrea explain:

Where to begin? My name is Andrea Shindeldecker and I’m many things, but as we say in the business, I am first and foremost, a mother. A mother to two amazing girls. I tell them every day that they are awesome and that they can accomplish whatever they strive for and that boys and girls, men and women are equal. The lessons they’re learning in the store aisles, reflect that my sincerest lesson, may hold a kernel of falsehood.

My first-born, Charlotte will be 5 in 2 days. She LOVES Spider-Man. All the superheros, but Spidey is her one, truest love. She has begged, since she was beginning to potty train, for Spidey undies. We even tried the boys. While buying out of the boys department works for t-shirts and pajamas, alas, not for underwear. Today, she got mad. She told me that it’s NOT FAIR. That she loves Spider-Man and knows more about him than lots of kids. It’s not fair that she can’t have the Spidey undies and it makes her SO MAD. If she’s not allowed to have something as silly as the underwear, what else can’t she have? A very good question indeed.

It’s not just Spider-Man that she can’t have. It happens with all the children’s characters. A boy who loves Dora or Cinderella, a little girl that wants both Thor and Foofa underwear. Every day, they’re told told that what they want is only for children of the opposite gender. It seems like such a small thing, but what we are telling small children, on their first MAJOR transition out of babyhood is that their favorite character is not for them. That they are wrong. What a terrible message. Kids can and do like whatever they want. Heroes and princesses alike, are for all children. And if a favored hero can be worn on a day they are nervous such as a recital or a first day at a new school; then why should we deny them that small comfort!? Why should we tell our kids they can only want the characters on one side of the store aisle?
It’s a big world, and we tell our kids they are free to be themselves and pursue their own paths. However, we tell them from a young age that they can’t be themselves, they can be pink or blue. I want my kids to feel free to embrace all their facets of their diamond personalities, to dream of being like strong heroes and courageous princesses, to be every color of the rainbow. I wish that for your kids too.

Let’s start with the underwear, and we’ll work our way out to the outermost layers of clothing.

This is a classic example of tired marketing failing our kids! Frankly, it’s a classic example of capitalism failing, if you get right down to it. I mean, isn’t the idea of capitalism all about supply and demand? Well, our little girls are demanding Spiderman underpants! Where are their Spiderman underpants?!

I must admit, when I first saw this email in my inbox, I got excited that maybe someone was finally making girl-style superhero underwear. Because my toddler is closing in on three-years-old and we’re right in the middle of the Age of Potty Training. And one of the things that delighted her was discovering she could have Spiderman underwear. I went ahead and bought her the boy-style briefs, but they proved uncomfortable for her and she would quickly take them off. And now, every time she looks at them, there’s a little disappointment on her cherubic face.

And just like that, my two-year-old has had her first experience with gender conformity. Society is telling her in not-so-subtle terms that Spidey is not for girls. Those underpants are not for you. And that fucking sucks!

And like Andrea, I have no desire to leave the boys out of this game because they are getting screwed here, too. If you’re little boy likes Dora the Explorer, Hello Kitty, princesses, or even just the color pink… fuggitaboutit. Not only will he face open mockery for his choice, but those girl-style panties won’t comfortably fit his needs anymore than the Spideys did for my daughter.

Honestly, we live in a time when comic book movies are enjoyed be people of all genders. I went to see Iron Man 2 one week before I gave birth to my daughter. That’s how much I wanted to see that movie! If you have ever been pregnant or known someone in the late-stages of pregnancy, you have to have some sense of the discomfort quotient I was willingly putting up with to see a comic book movie. (And I would do it again.)

So, if we all agree that girls and women can like comic books and watch comic book movies and be all up in the superhero business… then what’s the hold up on delivering what little girls want? And let’s not delivery this underpants-style equality in batches. Let’s de-segregate the underwear aisle!

And let’s not stop there… Because it ain’t any better in the diaper aisle:

Copyright: The Tired Feminist

Is there a reason why diapers are ONLY pink and blue in the major brands?

The Girl Scouts: On leadership, inclusiveness, and cookies

With the news that The Boy Scouts of America is toying with ending its discriminatory policy against GBT (and presumably L) people, I can’t help but compare them to The Girl Scouts of the USA. In fairness, I must admit up front that I am an alum of the organization. But that’s not enough to completely cloud what truly are stark differences between the two organizations.

Girl Scouts encourage activities — such as sports, camping and outdoor adventures, and pursuing interest in STEM — long considered “for the boys” according to sexist cultural mores. And that was just when I was a kid in the 1980s. They’ve come a long way since then. The Girl Scouts excel in promoting and providing opportunities for leadership. It turns out that 60 percent of the women in Congress — House and Senate — were in the youth program. Considering only about eight percent of the general female population has ever been a Girl Scout, this is pretty significant news.

Not only are the Girls more inclusive in their policies toward LGBT individuals, but when certain troop leaders have, well, gone rogue, the Girl Scouts have shown a history of acting swiftly to resolve those issues. Meanwhile, GSUSA does a lot to help make sure that girls who might otherwise slip through the cracks, or not have access, find a home in a troop of their own. From holding troop meetings during school lunch periods in at-risk schools, to welcoming kids with special needs, to the Girl Scouts Behind Bars program (giving girls time with their mothers who are in jail), Girl Scouts is adept at meeting the needs of kids in a complicated world.

Likewise, when a girl from their own ranks, working on an ecological badge, noticed that one of the main ingredients (palm oil) in many Girl Scout cookies was an ecological nightmare to harvest (let alone its links to obesity), the organization listened and implemented a plan to roll-out newly sourced palm oil while the ingredients in the cookies are changed.

Indeed, the Girl Scouts’ willingness to be nimble in a modern world may be its greatest strength. After all, what screams stuck-in-the-dark-ages more than a strict adherence to bigotry rooted in nothing more than “tradition” and ignorance?

I’m not saying that the Girl Scouts are perfect. No organization, especially one as big as they are, could be. … But I will say this: They have not one but two vegan cookies (one of them is the beloved Thin Mints!). And in its own way, that speaks volumes. I mean, what do the Boy Scouts have? Pop corn? Seriously?