Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Pink: The most controversial color?

My mom used to tell me "There are two kinds of guys: car guys or sports guys." There weren't categories for different "kinds" of girls.

Blue was my favorite color when I was a little girl, but even by age six it was firmly implanted that I should have to like pink (which was probably why I hated it) and that boys were not allowed to.

Our society does not confine women to such narrow definitions as far as what it is acceptable to be interested in or enjoy doing in the same way that men are. They can be interested in fishing, hunting, cars or sports, and the worst that could happen is that they are called a "tomboy," which is not really an insult. To be completely honest, I find myself thinking along the same narrow lines at times when I see a man wearing a light pink shirt and think "Wow! He is brave to be wearing pink...I wonder if his wife picked that shirt." My next thought is usually "Well why is it 'okay' for women to like and wear pink and not men?" It is just part of a constructed idea of gender, which Christopher Kilmartin defines as "a social pressure to behave and experience the self in ways that the culture considers appropriate for one's sex" (from The Masculine Self, p. 9).

These gender constructs are present everywhere in society, beginning at the moment we are born and swaddled in the "appropriate" blanket. However, there is a recent campaign that makes it acceptable for men to wear pink to promote breast cancer awareness. While I fully support cancer awareness and the idea behind "real men wear pink" campaign, I think it is unfortunate that it still limits men to liking one traditionally feminine color and it can only be worn in the context of supporting the cause.

Do you think that this campaign is positive? And why does breast cancer as a health issue for women receive so much support across genders while prostate and testicular cancer are rarely discussed?

Monday, July 28, 2014

TIMEs are changing...

I recently took a college course at UW Tacoma criticizing media, where one of our discussions was about the invisible battle going on in our society for transgendered individuals. Watching the film "Boys Don't Cry" for a sex & gender in film class opened my eyes to the disturbing attitude our society has towards people who have done nothing wrong, and you would be hard pressed to find any individual, gay or straight, who feels completely comfortable in their own skin.

Time magazine recently featured the very first transgender person on their cover, Laverne Cox, with the headline The Transgender Tipping Point. Although this is a great step forward for understanding and accepting transgender individuals in society, it barely grazes the surface of the issue.

My husband is not ignorant. He considers himself to be open-minded when it comes to gender, sexual orientation, race, religion, etc. But when a story about a person undergoing a sex-change operation, his mind closes right up. He is quick to judge if the man "makes an ugly chick" or "how weird/gross" the whole thing is. He also continued to call the individual "he" even though she was living as a woman and had undergone surgery to become one.

A woman who becomes a man is entertaining on television, but a man who becomes a woman is a deep threat to masculinity. It seems that as a straight man, being attracted to someone without knowing that they were not born female was a humiliating experience. A friend of my husband had something similar happen on an online dating site and is still being teased about it at work; it comes too close to the line of being homosexual, especially in a workplace that is entirely male in the department they work at.

I was quick to correct my husband and remind him that it is politically correct, and more respectful, to use the gendered pronoun that the person is living by, regardless of the gender they were born. . I referenced what I had learned in my UWT course, explaining that ‘sex’ referred to the biological gender we were born with but ‘gender’ was how we identified with. Most newspapers and magazines, including Time, follow this format as well.

What the media often fails to pick up on are the hate crimes aimed toward transgender people often by heterosexual males who feel threatened by this gray area between what is male or female. Although our society has made wonderful advancements in the LGB portion of LGBT, we have a long way to go before transgender individuals are accepted. Maybe a Time magazine cover will someday feature a transgender man or woman with a headline announcing their accomplishments as a person, not because of their sex/gender/lifestyle choices.