Let’s talk about… Gender – Part II

As I stated in the Part I of this post, everything that I have to say about gender falls into two categories:

  • Things I have learned and believe as a result of being the parent of two children
  • Things I have learned and believe as a result of my own experience as a human being

Turns out that I didn’t cover all of the things that I’ve learned about gender in that post so here is another installment…

A is just about to finish up his first year in school. This can’t possibly be. It seems like the first day was just last week.

imag3621.jpg
First Day
20160901_081332.jpg
He’s pumped

Not long after the school year started, we started to notice the influence that school had on him when it came to gender. Now before I go on, let me just say that he goes to a very open and accepting school. A school where he is not the only child of two lesbian parents. A school where kids can dye their hair whatever color pleases them. A school that doesn’t box kids in based on anything, let alone gender. But, inevitably he started to make comments about gender that seemed to be influenced by an outside source. Things like only boys can do certain things. Only boys are allowed in his room (being the only boy in the house, that didn’t got over too well for him). You get the idea.

We didn’t freak out. We knew it was coming. The influence of gender roles in our society is strong. So, we took this opportunity to talk about gender more with the goal being to help him frame the things that he heard at school. We gave examples of boys that he knows with long hair and girls with short hair. We talked about our family structure and other families that we know. We asked him questions about his own gender and preferences. He is clear (for now) that he is male. He wants people to know he is a boy and he makes choices that are consistent with that. For example, he prefers short hair (at least on the sides and back, his new thing is “long in the middle” which he now clips or wears in a unicorn style ponytail or multiple Mohawk style spikes).

When asked about his sister (who currently identifies as “princess”), he says that she is a girl. When asked about Mama-that-stays-home (a.k.a. my wife), he says that she is a girl. When asked about Mama-that-goes-to-work, he says, “something in between.”

Something in between! Can we just stop all the fuss around the world about gender identity and let kids solve the labels problem for us? Kids are great because they don’t take offense to gender or see why someone should be offended by being misgendered (take for example a conversation I had with a little girl at Disney World many years ago: Walt Disney World Gay Days 2010). People are what they are. Some people are this or that and some are something in between. Okay, fine. Who cares?

I remember the first time we posed the question to A. Both mamas were reading him a bedtime story (most likely as a way to have some discussion around the new found gender stereotypes that he was expressing). This is where the conversation went:

A: I like Mama [M] better.

Mama[A]: Why?

A: Because she’s in between a mom and a dad.

Obviously, this was just about the best answer possible. I was not at all offended by this statement. Both because it was an innocent statement and because it is entirely accurate. I carried him (and his sister) in my belly. I gave birth to them. I breastfed them both beyond two years. But, I also am the Mama that goes to work. I wear ties and bow-ties. I play video games and read comic books with him. Something in between pretty much covers it.

img_20170416_093232188.jpg

 

woman and young girt standing in front of steps and holding hands
J visiting Mama-that-goes-to-work
258-32259662-other-peter-pan-3-fw-24750_gpr.jpg
I’m the one in Blue

On Wonder Woman

I am freshly returned from the movie theater where I took in Wonder Woman. No jokes, please. I don’t often go to the movies. There are lots of reasons. Mostly, the movies that are made these days are less than interesting. Watching stories written, produced, and about white men is not so appealing and that is mostly what exists… (Read this: ACLU Article, side note, this article did not entice me to go to see the Wonder Woman, I was literally in the theater, 30 minutes in, when my wife emailed it to me.)

Spoiler alert, Wonder Woman is a strong, powerful, thoughtful woman and the message of the movie is one of the power of love, good vs. evil, and women kick ass. As the movie starts out, you see a lush island, Themyscira, full of partially (scantily, shall I say) clothed women sparring with weapons. If you’re like me, you’ll swoon, and that is before you realize that Claire, I mean Robin Wright, is among them…

download

And that is just the beginning. Sure, the heroine falls in love with the male co-star, and there is lots of fighting, exploding, and several male ‘helpers’ in her journey to save the world (there is a message about teamwork and everyone having value somewhere in there). But, ultimately, she is a woman in a world surrounded by men, men in power, men telling her what to do and what not to do, and she gives zero fucks. At one point, there is outrage as she slips into a room filled with men discussing uber important things and the simple point is made, “what do you mean women cannot go into the Parliament?” Unacceptable. Then she’s walking through the front line bunkers and encounters a woman and baby that no one is helping, she stops, shrugs off the men around her telling her to focus, climbs out of the bunker, walks across the field, and takes the other side. Seriously, no fucks.

There are elements of feminism throughout and moments where even now I’m left replaying the scenes and connecting the feminist dots. There are moments where she questions herself and her abilities (I guess it’s not just me, female superheros are not immune to impostor syndrome either). Moments where she folds to her emotions, and moments where she outwits, outfights, and out-everythings the men around her.

wonder woman 2017 film poster which wonder woman running and holding arm up to shield bullets flying towards herNo, this movie does not fix all of our problems. It does not make women equal in the workplace, narrow the pay gap, or change the attitudes of the many people that perpetuate gender stereotypes and notions that women are somehow less valuable or capable than men. Nothing will fix these problems overnight, certainly not one motion picture. However, Wonder Woman, a big budget film directed by an actual woman, provides an image and a story line of a strong female lead saving the world. And more than that, she sets off to save the world without sacrificing her femininity, emotions, morals or her sense of self. This is the message that we all need to hear. Now and always.

Did you see the movie yet? What did you think?