Monday, May 11, 2009

happy gender role day!

I'm coming late to the game, but have you guys seen this picture book, I'M GLAD I'M A BOY, I'M GLAD I'M A GIRL!?

Wow, is all I have to say. I can't decide if I'm amused, sickened, glad we've come so far, or horrified how recently it was published. Help me process my emotions.

(Someone shared this link with me on Facebook, and I accidentally deleted it--I'm sorry! If you're reading this, let me know and I'll give you credit.)

62 comments:

Amanda said...

I'd have to go with horrified myself. Maybe I'd be more amused if that was published like in the 40s or 50s. But 1970?? Holy cow. That's just awful.

jimnduncan said...

Holy crap! 1970. That is a bit disturbing, though sadly, a fair chunk of our population still believes that's how it is or should be again.

Anna Claire said...

I felt queasy and wanted to laugh simultaneously while reading this. "Boys are Presidents. Girls are First Ladies." Gag. Puke.

Bradley Robb said...

Wow. I'm not a big fan of telling people they can do anything they want without a strong caveat about working really really hard, but closing the door on kids? That's just wrong.

Sarahlynn said...

Sort of the anti-Free To Be You and Me, no?

Ello said...

ERGH!!!!

Melissa said...

I'm with Ello on this one, "Ahhhhh!"

I suddenly feel the urge to read some feminist literature, then go out and vote.

Casey said...

"Girls need things fixed."

"Girls use what boys invent."

Gaaaaahhh!

Doug Lance said...

I, for one, miss these days. Women who have been masculinized by modern society are unattractive. Androgyny is a scary path for humanity to walk down.

We each carry masculine and feminine traits within us, but women are better at feminine and men at masculine. I want it to stay that way.

Do you guys want there to be no genders in the future?

moonrat said...

Doug--for me, personally, yes. I've never, ever been good at being a "girl." It was hardest as a kid, but I appreciate that I've found an adult life where it's easier and more acceptable not to fill roles.

Conni said...

Doug: Might I suggest reading the posts here (http://finallyfeminism101.wordpress.com/tag/essentialism/) and here (http://finallyfeminism101.wordpress.com/tag/gender/)?

angelle said...

i think the problem is not so much in acknowledging differences as it is in putting wide generalizations - as with any stereotypes. i think this idea of all people being "equal" is bullshit -- people are not "equal", we're just all similarly very different, if that makes any sense. the key is to celebrate differences and recognize differences without pigeon holing people. that includes making the girl who "cooks" while the boy "eats". but at the same time i don't believe that gender differences are entirely cultural either. however, a book like this is just simplifying the complexities of what makes people individual and is way too extreme.

Criss said...

The scary thing about this book is the comments sections of the blogs where it has been discussed. Some of us have come a long way, but others are still stuck in the dark ages. (I first heard about this book here: http://womensrights.change.org/blog/view/childrens_books_fcking_with_gender_roles_since_1970)

Doug, I think you miss the point. This book is aimed at children, and it tells them what they can and cannot do. This harms boys and girls; if a boy likes to cook, is he "girly"? If he less of a "boy"? Is there something wrong with him?

When this book presents the things boys do and the things girls do, it also sends the message that if you do not fit into this mold, there is something wrong with you. Children are sponges, they absorb everything. As a 31-year-old adult, I can read this and not care, but if you'd read this to me as a young girl, the message would have been received very differently.

I'm one of the girliest girls you will ever meet. I am VERY happy to be a girl. But I refuse to have anyone tell me what I can or cannot do because I am a girl. I CHOOSE to be a girly-girl, and I support any girl's right to be as "girly" or to be as "un-girly" as she wants. Same for any boy.

Jo said...

It didn't really get to me until the "Boys fix things" "Boys invent things"... pages and everything that followed after that. At least it had "Girls are heroines".
I think if I had read this as a young girl it might have influenced me as far as my goals and ambitions.
The saddest to me is that we have not had a female president yet.
It would be funny if we could look at each page and laugh and think how far we have come in 30 years but we haven't, not yet, and not all the way.

Karen C said...

My daughter loves to invent things.

And Johnny Depp looks better in eye liner than I do.

Gender doesn't matter any more than this silly book does. :)

lizzle said...

I was raised with this concept of gender roles -- hated it all along but felt so powerless and trapped in the role of womanhood. Did NOT raise my children with such limits. They're all chasing their real dreams, not just the ones relegated to their gender by outdated victorian philosophy.

moussiti said...

Oh my GOSH. That was so much worse than I envisioned.

wrion said...

Hi, Doug! Luckily, I could not give a damn whether my masculine qualities make me attractive to you.

Rick Daley said...

On one hand, I'm glad we live in a free society that allows the publication of such subjective works.

On the other hand, I am damn glad that book is not on my childrens' bookshelf.

Emily Cross said...
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Emily Cross said...

This reminds me of my friend, who brought in a 'home ec' book that her mother used when she was our age (1970s) - basically the book said what this picture book said except with additional useful tips such as 'how to keep the children quiet when their father comes home from work because he has so much on his mind, its best they be kept out of sight'

We all had quite a hoot reading it.

Keeping the kids quiet is what the nanny is supposed to do aint it?

H. L. Dyer said...

I read this book as a child (I believe my parents purchased it with a lot of books at a garage sale) and I ended up a doctor, not a nurse. Of course, I was never a go-along-with-the-crowd sort. *snort*

PurpleClover said...

Sadly in nursing school we still see a lot of the "old ways" of doing things and hear/see the gender role "definitions" enforced by society. I'd say we've come a long way...but not long enough.

The fact that the price of the book is so high is sickening.

Chris Eldin said...

You've been a prolific mousie! So many posts, so little time...

That book made me queasy. I'm sorry I couldn't find any humor in it.

Leigh Russell said...

Does the author of this book live in Stepford?

Litgirl01 said...

I don't even know what to say! :-/

Alps said...

I like the part where the boy is the inventor and the girl gets to use the inventions. Wow.

Ruth said...

"How far we've come..."

Hmmm. How many professional female football players and male cheerleaders are there?

The only male cheerleaders I can remember ever seeing were in "The Longest Yard"... and that's prison, I think the rules are different.

(Also: New Zealand has had two female Prime Ministers. We win for gender equality! ;)

But seriously, while the USA may not have had a female President, Ms Clinton was still proposed as a very viable option for President, which is still a big step forward - as was electing Barack Obama. From what I've heard of the States, racism is worse than sexism there, so electing Obama is pretty awesome.

Ebony McKenna. said...

ROFL Oh boy, that's funny!

Come on people, 1970 was like, so four decades ago.

There were some very good books published around that time as well. Where the Wild Things Are and The Very Hungry Caterpillar etc.

For every shiny, there's always plenty of slurm.

Elissa M said...

Anyone too young to have been a child in 1970 needs to understand that this really is the way it was. And it's this bad or worse in many countries today.

I predicted ages ago, when Geraldine Ferraro was running for VP, that a black man would be president before any woman. And my friends laughed, because they couldn't imagine either one.

David said...

Remember, 1970 was at the very beginning of the modern feminist movement, and this kind of book drove women (and lots of men) wild. The casual stereotypes expressed in this incredible children's book were not at all unusual. Nor was the hostility to anyone who would challenge them.

My wife often told students in her Introduction to Women's Studies class about one of the things that brought her to feminism. In 1972, our 8-year-old daughter was denied membership in the school chess club because she was a girl. My wife wrote a scathing letter to the principal, who called a few days later to complain about her and other "women's libbers" who caused problems for the schools. At the time she took the call, she told her students, "I was barefoot, pregnant, and making meatloaf in the kitchen."

Stereotype that!

Sarah Laurenson said...

I grew up in the 60's and 70's. My brother played with dolls and loved to cook. I loved making things in wood shop and metal shop. He was better at sports. We both excelled in math. And my mother, bless her, taught me I could be anything I wanted. I didn't get these kinds of messages.

That book is atrocious, but so was such things as Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer (sexist and racist) and most things that were on TV back then.

I_am_Tulsa said...

Well, I'm a girl and I'm not graceful...and I love to eat more than I love to cook and I'm pretty good at fixing things...

I feel a bit dizzy when I think that I was born only a year after this book was published. I am so glad I did not have to read it as a child.

Whirlochre said...

The worst part is that in several generations time, when the levitating allergy-hosts of the future have forgotten how or why this particular battle has been won, the willy/front-bottom divisiveness meme will come rolling down the hill like The Latest Thing without the need for hardened custodians.

fairyhedgehog said...

I was born in 1954 and I grew up in a society which found this kind of thing normal. I always hated it. Men and boys had freedoms that were denied to me and more than that: they were the default gender, the ones that we all existed to support.

When I was doing A levels and looking at careers it was suggested to me that I could use my skills in French as either an airline hostess or a bilingual secretary. Both of those were support roles to men.

So for me this is a sickening reminder of how things were and how some people would still like them to be.

BuffySquirrel said...

No, no, I think Doug has a point. For women to succeed in patriarchal society, they have to don the veneer of the dominant sex. What we need is a whole new society! (Sorry, Doug, there may not be a place in it for you, but we all have to make sacrifices, right?)

And yes, I remember those wonderful days, and my school that wouldn't let girls wear trousers however cold it got, but I had parents who encouraged me to climb trees, so, la.

Carrie said...

I have read elsewhere that this picture book was, in fact, intended to be a JOKE by the authors, but then it got picked up by another group that tried to use it seriously.

Jolie said...

AAAAAAAAGGGGGGHHHHHHHHH
That's all I have to say about that.

Jolie said...
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Jolie said...
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Jolie said...

(3rd try posting this comment--formatting keeps going nuts)

Omg, some of the comments on that post. My soul is shriveling. The commenters seem to think the book is merely descriptive when in fact it is covertly PREscriptive. (But I can't say that on the post because I doubt anyone would know what I'm talking about.)

"this is kind of sexist." *headdesk*

"Eh, I don't see why this is so offensive. Most of it is true.
Except for a couple pages that people probably got more upset over than they should have.
It's cute, and the ending is nice. :\"

"If you disagree your deluded. Fight against nature all you want."

"let us not be hypocrites. These generalisations are true, not mostly true but true."

"There's nothing sexist about gender roles. They occur naturally in the wild, why shouldn't they occur in human society. Perhaps some are a little excessive, but you tell me in a contest of strength when an average woman would beat an average man (there are always outliers, but not many)."

"Awesome book! I LOVE gender roles, and the fact that boys and girls are different. In our house, we celebrate and embrace our differences, as opposed to lumping both sexes into the same category. I'd read this book to my kids today."

"I am certain that if you have a partner one of you probably behaves in a more 'manly' role while the other is more 'feminine'."

"Stop digging for further meaning that you can take offense at. I personally love the book and wouldn't be afraid to pass it on to my grandchildren."

I can't read anymore. "We've come so far," my muscular buttocks.

WendyCinNYC said...

I remember this book in the library when I was a kid. My mom threw a fit! I think she even spoke to the librarian about it.

My mom totally wanted me to be President. Oh well, that didn't work out. But the sentiment was there.

Bill Greer said...

I'm old enough to remember this book, or if not this one exactly, hundreds more like it.

Sherri said...

This book came out in the year of my birth. Thank God I have a mother who always encouraged me to so whatever I wanted. No wonder I've had an identity crisis!

BuffySquirrel said...

Lancelot's a churl! Beaten by a girl!

(Edward Eager's books were among my favourites until then)

JenniferWriter said...

Wow. My feeling is that things haven't changed enough. We still have so far to go.

JenniferWriter said...

"Boys are presidents, girls are first ladies."

That one broke my heart a little bit.

tinkandalissa said...
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tinkandalissa said...

Um, yeah...I'm going to have to call bullshit on this one! Ick! Boys are doctors, girls are nurses?! Give me a break! Maybe it is just growing up with an extremely stong, self-sufficient woman in my life and no male figure that makes this kind of thing really chap my ass...

Alex Green said...

I personally don't have any issue with my gender. I don't think people are without gender. That's okay. Obviously, men don't need to be pigeon holed either. What about guys who are nurses? You think they're any happier about it than us ladies who are friggin' geniuses and doctors or aspiring presidents?

I get tremendous amusement out of the fact that it's only women who feel we've been assaulted with the gender thing. Don't worry. The feminist movement is starting to make it difficult (at times) to be a white male.

This book was definitely a joke though. Of course, women are at least as capable as men in most arenas. (Nope, I don't believe we make as adaquate fire-fighters)

Maree Anderson said...

I read it and winced....a similar reaction to when I watch many of the episodes of Mad Men and see the way women are treated and spoken down to. Not so long ago, really.

One of my kids was given a school reader only a couple of years back. It was the story of a boy who was picked on by a bully at school and punched in the nose. When he got home, his dad taught him how to defend himself. He went to school next day and punched out the bully. Dad was so proud!

I didn't know whether to be appalled or aplaud. Aplaud because goodness knows there's been times where I just wanted to tell my boy to smack some little begger right on the kisser for being so mean. Appalled because, if I taught my son to retaliate in kind, he'd be suspended by the Board of Trustees or expelled from his primary school.

Very relieved to know this featured book was actually intended as a satire. Unfortunately, the same couldn't be said about my son's primary school reader.

moonrat said...

wait, you guys really think the book is satirical? i didn't get there. there's too much earnest glorification in some of the points.

Doug Lance said...

Feminine traits are nurturing, caring, and passivity.

Masculine traits are aggression, resourcefulness, and dominance.

The "feminist" movement is really a sliding of the scale from feminine to masculine. It has nothing to do with the jobs people do to pay the bills.

If you are happy being a masculine woman with a feminine man, then more power to you.

Men are the best at being masculine and women are the best at being feminine. You were born as one or the other, deal with it. There are better outlets for rebellion other than gender.

Jolie said...

The blogger who posted it edited the post with this:

"UPDATE 5/12/09:
- Apparently this book was actually published as satire. A few people have mentioned this in the comments. It was published in 1970, which is late for this stuff, so that makes sense. I guess what happened is, Darrow published this as a joke and reviewers took it seriously. His obituary is here. It sounds like he was a pretty funny guy."

Okay, so he was a "gentle satirist," but I'm not sure what that says about this particular book. I'd like to see evidence that it wasn't meant seriously. It was published in 1970, when books like this could have been in earnest. I think we can see from the comments on that blog that even today, it could be published in earnest, although probably not by a major house.

P.S. Don't feed the troll, folks.

Criss said...

Oh, Doug... you should have left bad enough alone and not come back.

Women are not resourceful? Ever heard of motherhood? You try caring for a child and NOT being resourceful.

Agression, a male trait? Have you ever seen a mother whose child is threatened? (And I'm not speaking merely of physical danger.)

Passivity and dominance? Those are learned, not inborn traits. I don't even want to know what you call "dominance", because I'm sure I'd call it abuse (verbal, emotional, or physical).

@Alex Green, you're right, the ideas presented in this book limit and damage boys and girls. As a feminist, I'm offended by the gender roles it imposes on both sexes.

fairyhedgehog said...

Don't feed the troll, folks.But it's so tempting! OK, I'll refrain.

Doug Lance said...

As I said before:

We each carry masculine and feminine traits within us, but women are better at feminine and men at masculine.

Why fight against what has been successful for eons? It's like trying to reinvent the wheel in my opinion.

Sarah Laurenson said...

Troll - It's what's for dinner.

Doug Lance said...

Troll - In Internet slang, a troll is someone who posts controversial, inflammatory, irrelevant or off-topic messages in an online community, such as an online discussion forum or chat room, with the primary intent of provoking other users into an emotional response or to generally disrupt normal on-topic discussion.

Because I have an alternative viewpoint I am a troll? Uh huh...

Does anyone have beneficial input that could educate me above my current level? I have taken gender studies courses and I've read a lot about gender and biology. This is one my biggest interests in life, so keep calling me troll. It feeds my passion to educate the world.

Doug Lance said...

I can see you guys aren't open to new ideas so I will leave now and find another place to discuss this. Thanks.

Merry Monteleone said...

Holy crap, moonie, I miss so much when I don't stop over daily. Tell Emily I thought it was awesome!

Sarah Laurenson said...

Seems Canada is jumping on the bandwagon. It's not enough that male figure skaters are graceful - now they need to be more macho. Lee Wind wrote a post on it here.