Today’s Found on Facebook – the princess effect

June 28, 2016

Lots of articles about it now but I’ll use the Time one I saw first:

A new study from Brigham Young University found that engaging with Disney princess culture could make young children more susceptible to gender stereotypes.

The small study, by family-life professor Sarah M. Coyne, looked at how much 198 preschoolers interacted with Disney princesses—through movies, toys and merchandise—and then assessed their behavior through reports from parents and teachers and a task in which the children were asked to rank their favorite toys among stereotypical “girl” options such as dolls, stereotypical “boy” options such as tool sets and gender-neutral options such as puzzles.

Now, from The Mic, people are pissed over the stereotypical portrayal of Maui in the new Disney movie Moana:

While Disney’s upcoming animated film Moana — in which Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson voices the boisterous Polynesian demigod Maui, who helps guide the young protagonist Moana to completing her coming-of-age quest — has been heralded for its diversity, it’s also now come under fire for what some people feel is a racist depiction of Polynesians.

Critics said Maui’s larger physique is misrepresentative to real Polynesian culture, and instead reinforces harmful stereotypes of Polynesians being obese.

Point being, it’s not just the ladies, ladies and gents. Think of Gaston. Think of Arial’s dad. Giant men, intended to be thought of as heroic and brave, if not the actual heroes of the films. Think of Belle’s dad. Think of Jasmine’s dad. Short, squat, prone to flights of fancy and silly behaviour. Adored by their only daughters, but hard to imagine they were ever sensible enough to get the bills paid or run a country.

Back to the princess study –

The researches found that 96% of girls and 87% of boys had viewed Disney princess media, and more than 61% of girls played with princess toys at least once a week, compared to 4% of boys. For both boys and girls, engagement with Disney princesses was associated with more female gender-stereotypical behavior a year later.

A New York Times blogger goes into more detail. Part of the concern is the future effect of princess mentality affecting girls in what could be considered negative ways, versus boys benefiting from a push toward traits and abilities long thought to be best suited to women. It’s useful for a boy to know how to care for a baby or cook meals or clean house, as it were.

The overall takeaway from this study has more to do with encouraging parents and guardians to be less passive about what kids are interested in. If a girl likes Belle, perhaps emphasize the intelligence and love of learning she has and the bravery and family love she shows. She’s not just a pretty face with a pretty dress on.

Which reminds me of this picture:

hotdog princess

Maybe the family is a fan of Adventure Time?


Weighing in on a sexism issue

February 18, 2011

There’s been a discussion/airing of grievances going on regarding a recent panel discussion at an atheist conference and the treatment of women there and elsewhere. Things got testy after some suggestions were made about women and men, and how each acts and reacts to certain behaviours. You can read the original post at Blag Hag that started this most recent round of debates on the issue, or this one from the same site trying to clarify the original article, or this one at Butterflies and Wheels that comments on video taken from that conference or even P.Z. Myers’ recent “shut up and listen to the women” post and the comments it inspired.

One of the gals in my Freethinker group has decided to start a Reasonable Women group and her decision has been met with mixed reviews. Some think it’s sexist to start a women-only meet but I’ve decided to give it a try because I’m often the only girl who turns up at pub nights and while the guys have interesting conversations, it’d be nice to talk to women, too, who might have other interests or approaches to topics that guys might not consider.

Now onto what I really wanted to write about. I’m wondering how much of the trouble between the sexes is caused by language and how each gender has been socialized to interpret it.

For example, I’m a big fan of FARK. I’m in there on a daily basis reading whatever gets posted as news, often finding myself amused by the word play used for the headline submissions. Sometimes I’m more disgusted than amused, though. Read the rest of this entry »

I think people get too worked up over “gender bias”

September 5, 2010

Maybe I’m a weird woman but I don’t feel compelled to insist people change the spelling to womyn instead and rid the word of any “masculine” kinship it currently has. I’m not bothered by the generic “He” that gets used everywhere, either. I’m fine with person, mankind, humankind. I don’t see a reason to change any of that. I think it’s a waste of breath and brain time to even suggest it, let alone try and implement it.

So, here I find a story about a church in Scotland that has gone so far as to suggest priests completely avoid masculine references and make their sermons more fair and politically correct for womyn in their pews.

The church’s Liturgy Committee in consultation with the Faith and Order Board of General Synod and the College of Bishops has produced the new order of service, which can be used by priests if they have difficulties with a male God.

However, some senior religious figures have objected to the new form of words.

“It is political correctness,” the Scotsman quoted Rev Stuart Hall of the Scottish Prayer Book Society as saying.

“It is quite unnecessary. The word man in English – especially among scientists – is inclusive of both sexes.

“Those who try to minimise references to God as the Father and Christ as his Son have great difficulties, because the New Testament is shot through with these references,” he said.

It’s always been a paternal religion so to pretend it could be anything else is ludicrous, no matter how much they might want to try. Fathers, and men in general, were always the ones in charge of everything deemed important and always had control of everything to do with women, wives, and children. It doesn’t matter how touchy-feely-I-heart-Jesus! priests and pastors might want to make Christianity now, there’s no denying its dark, violent and oppressive past and its influence on culture and traditions and law making today.

The new vampires – too good is too bad?

October 24, 2009

Vampires sure are the thing these days, aren’t they? Esquire has an interesting take on their popularity in terms of mainstreaming gay love, specifically in the show True Blood. Neil Gaiman’s article also makes some good points in relation to pop culture, his own writing, and why the mythic vampire persists in so many guises.

Several feminist writers have pounced on Stephanie Meyer’s writing to illustrate everything that’s wrong with her series and its portrayal of obsessive love and twisted desires.

At least Buffy wanted to kill the damn things. Angel was a special case (cursed with a soul) and Spike, well, who hasn’t felt like having a fling with a bad boy once in a while to escape a monotonous drudge? She never had to wonder how he felt about her either. He was very clear when it came to expressing desire. Plus, she had just come back from the dead and who else was around who could understand what that was like? Spike may have manipulated her into it, but Buffy is the one who made all the rules and forced him to follow them. It was the only way she’d play the dark secret sex game Spike was craving. He needed that connection to someone else as much as she did so he complied with every one of her secretive demands.

I read and saved around two hundred Buffy studies articles from Slayage and other sources as and when I could find them. They run the gamut of topics, too, from language to philosophy, religion, culture, sexuality, fashion, whatever. For any discourse a scholar can suggest, I think a Buffy scholar could pull a reference to Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Besides tracking the number of times vampire teeth touched human beings, Paul Shapiro’s piece also examines work by several other writers so you may as well start with his. A tidbit to whet the appetite:

Since vampires exist along a border of life and death, vacillating between human and monster, Stater (1997:1) argues that there is no real reason for a vampire to obey traditional gender roles. She says, “Social constructs such as sexuality cease to be of such importance when the possessor of that sexuality, more importantly than defying ideas of what sexuality ought to be, defies the very laws of life and death.” This is interesting because even with the freedom of being “dead,” “soulless,” or “evil,” the vampires in Buffy the Vampire Slayer appear to mostly follow traditional gender lines and heterosexual norms–at least when it comes to their biting patterns. It is beyond the scope of this paper to debate the larger overall questions about whether or not Buffy the Vampire Slayer violates heterosexual gender norms. [Arwen (2002) and Alessio (2001) say it does challenge gender categorization and shatters female stereotypes; while Levine and Schneider (2003) and Owens (2003) say the show reinforces hetero-normal sexual and gender stereotypes.]


Oregon town elects first ever transgender mayor

November 9, 2008

How’s that for good news? Stu Rasmussen was recently on Good Morning America talking about this, according to the article from ABC:

Rasmussen told “Good Morning America” that the town went through the transition with him.

“Obviously, it was shocking to them,” he said. “We all kind of went through it together. It was pretty obvious I was making a change, it had to happen in my head. They were ready before I was.”

In a world where politicians can catch serious criticism for simply not wearing an American flag lapel pin, Rasmussen knew he was going to face a challenge.

“I think the first courageous act was coming out in the first place,” he said. “The community was very receptive and accepting, with a few exceptions.”

There’s always exceptions, but I’m glad s/he got the votes and the support. It looks like this is the second term for Rasmussen so obviously they feel s/he’s capable of getting the job done no matter what s/he looks like.

It’s a small step on a very long road, but at least some people want to move forward…

“God made a mistake”

October 27, 2008

I’d think a story like this would put the kibosh on the whole “choosing to be gay” argument. This boy, Brandon, has been drawn to “girl” toys and activities since he was a toddler.

Both Tina and Brandon’s father had served in the Army, and she thought their son might identify with the toys. A photo from that day shows him wearing a towel around his head, a bandanna around his waist, and a glum expression. The Army set sits unopened at his feet. Tina recalls his joy, by contrast, on a day later that year. One afternoon, while Tina was on the phone, Brandon climbed out of the bathtub. When she found him, he was dancing in front of the mirror with his penis tucked between his legs. “Look, Mom, I’m a girl,” he told her. “Happy as can be,” she recalls.

“Brandon, God made you a boy for a special reason,” she told him before they said prayers one night when he was 5, the first part of a speech she’d prepared. But he cut her off: “God made a mistake,” he said.

The article makes it sound like both Tina and her son have the same army father, but I’m assuming that’s a typo.

I don’t know a whole lot about theories on gender and identity. I know it’s been argued that people should resist the urge to segregate their children into “boy” and “girl” toy groups. Remember when Mattel brought out the child’s personal computer and the whole brouhaha over programs included? The boy machine was Hot Wheels blue and included all kinds of educational games with the fun stuff. The girl machine was silver with Barbie pink accents and had less education and more Barbie fun games on it. I also have a distant recollection of a study being done where people were allowed time to play with a baby and some were told the baby was a girl and others were told the baby was a boy and depending on what gender the person thought they were holding, they played differently – were generally rougher when they thought it was a boy.

Anyway, according to this Atlantic article, it’s possible to start young kids on puberty blockers if parents decide there’s a need for it. The value of that is not needing a whole lot of medical work to achieve the same goal. It’s also possible to reboot puberty later if necessary, just by stopping the treatment. But, does every kid who feels a conflict need the drugs, or, like a study found in 1987, does their predilection for feminine behaviours just mean they’re gay?

“We can’t tell a pre-gay from a pre-transsexual at 8,” says Green, who recently retired from running the adult gender-identity clinic in England. “Are you helping or hurting a kid by allowing them to live as the other gender? If everyone is caught up in facilitating the thing, then there may be a hell of a lot of pressure to remain that way, regardless of how strongly the kid still feels gender-dysphoric. Who knows? That’s a study that hasn’t found its investigator yet.”

Brandon’s stepfather voiced some concerns to the journalist:

He was worried about Tina’s stepfather, who would never accept this. He was worried that Brandon’s father might find out and demand custody. He was worried about Brandon’s best friend, whose parents were strict evangelical Christians. He was worried about their own pastor, who had sternly advised them to take away all of Brandon’s girl-toys and girl-clothes. “Maybe if we just pray hard enough,” Bill had told Tina.

I don’t think prayer can change minds. I think what they’ll have to do is change friends and probably change churches, too. They’ll have aim to have Brandon surrounded by supportive people who’ll accept the new him without thinking he’s a freak for wanting to dress like a girl.

On the flip side is Dr. Zucker, who believes that intensive therapy could make a kid feel comfortable in his or her own skin. He blames it on parents not pushing proper gender identities on their children from birth, that “biology is not destiny.”

Zucker has compared young children who believe they are meant to live as the other sex to people who want to amputate healthy limbs, or who believe they are cats, or those with something called ethnic-identity disorder. “If a 5-year-old black kid came into the clinic and said he wanted to be white, would we endorse that?” he told me. “I don’t think so. What we would want to do is say, ‘What’s going on with this kid that’s making him feel that it would be better to be white?’”

I disagree with him, here. I don’t think switching genders is the same as wanting to chop a limb off. I don’t really think the white/black stereotype works as an argument either, but I’m have trouble explaining just why. I know there was once a very real desire to “pass” as white and products were sold that advertised their effectiveness, including bleach. Some people felt there was a very real need to pass, as well. It wasn’t just for cosmetic “beauty” reasons, although some still place more value on lighter skin tones. I guess I can see the point he makes here, about trying to help a kid understand and appreciate what he looks like, but skin colour is skin deep. Gender is far more complicated.

Catherine Tuerk runs a support group in Washington D.C.

Tuerk was thrilled when the pendulum swung from nurture toward nature; “I can tell you the exact spot where I was, in Chevy Chase Circle, when someone said the words to me: ‘There’s a guy in Baltimore, and he thinks people are born gay.’” But she now thinks the pendulum may have swung too far. For the minority who are truly transgender, “the sooner they get into the right clothes, the less they’re going to suffer. But for the rest? I’m not sure if we’re helping or hurting them by pushing them in this direction.”

I can see that, and I think she’s made a valid point. Zucker has too, in terms of declaring that a five year old is incapable of abstract reasoning. I think that would be too young to say for sure that a boy’s love of dolls means he should be a girl. But, Zucker’s methods of stopping a boy from playing with girl toys leaves much to be desired:

They boxed up all of John’s girl-toys and videos and replaced them with neutral ones. Whenever John cried for his girl-toys, they would ask him, “Do you think playing with those would make you feel better about being a boy?” and then would distract him with an offer to ride bikes or take a walk. They turned their house into a 1950s kitchen-sink drama, intended to inculcate respect for patriarchy, in the crudest and simplest terms: “Boys don’t wear pink, they wear blue,” they would tell him, or “Daddy is smarter than Mommy—ask him.” If John called for Mommy in the middle of the night, Daddy went, every time.

Once-Brandon-now-Bridget has switched schools but Tina faces opposition and disgust from friends and family, especially from the Evangelical parents of one of Bridget’s friends who no longer lets the kids play together. Tina hopes her son’s life as a girl gets smoother.

I’d like to see a follow up on this in ten years or so and see how the family turns out. See if Brandon remains as Bridget or changes back. See if he manages to forge some quality relationships with people who know his history but don’t make it an issue or concern. I think it would be interesting.