Archive for the ‘stereotypes’ Category

1.  I saw a mother pushing a stroller down the street this morning. She had bright pink hair that stuck up all over her head, and she was covered with tattoos, most of which were red. She wore an orange dress with very big black boots.

2.  This afternoon, at a play place with a big bouncy thing, I watched a mother with two elementary-aged children. She was jumping higher and laughing harder than any child. Other parents sat in the convenient laptop and coffee section.


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My high school English teacher–the one who told me feminists could wear white robes–had a bulletin board in her classroom devoted to advertising. Not only did she display the ads, but she led close-reading/seeing discussions on the sexist and racist images and symbols in advertising–and once she clued us in to what we were seeing, we saw it everywhere. What could have been a better lesson for the girls and boys in her classroom than how to read their world along with their literature? Particularly when they learned to read the messages they didn’t even know were there.

We found and collected those images, picked them apart and vanquished them with our discussions, then relegated them to the corner of the room where they belonged.


This ad is on NOW’s Love Your Body page–go there to see it along with a dizzying array of other awful ads.

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Two high school seniors rush down to their English teacher’s classroom with a major problem. Each member of the graduating class would wear either a blue or white gown during the upcoming ceremony. Traditionally, a girl would wear white and a boy would wear blue. But, since that particular high school reflected its community’s progressive and nonsexist personality, the girls usually ended up wearing blue, too. No traditional gender roles for these girls.

But these two good young feminists had a problem: they preferred the white gowns. They just liked them better. Their English teacher didn’t even laugh when she reassured them that yes, feminists can wear white robes to graduation without compromising their ideals. Don’t let that traditional white robe fool you. Or the lipstick–they liked lipstick, pretty dresses, boys, playing field hockey, lacrosse, and softball, speaking out in class (or anywhere else), boys, their Women’s Collective group, doing their hair, and, well, more boys. But finding two stronger girls, even when in their pinkest lipstick and prettiest dress, would be difficult.

Fast-forward ten years to one of those girls, now with a baby, and now leaving her job to stay home with him. Then two babies, a cul-de-sac, a suburb, and then a minivan . . . She’s wearing that white robe again–she looks like that same ol’ “happy housewife” from the commercials for dishwashing detergent. But she’s not. No more than those high school girls fit into any easy gender stereotype.

Feminist can be quite a loaded term–it’s much more convenient for some people to pinpoint “feminists” as people who look and act and live a certain way. What’s the stereotype these days anyway? The cliché of the unshaven legs and shaven head? A man-hater? For people who are exasperated, angry, or bemused by the idea of feminism, it’s much easier to have an image like that because it cuts our numbers and makes a “feminist” an “other.” Definitely no feminists in that group–look at them with their double strollers and minivans. That would be a mistake. Some feminists are out there pushing strollers–and probably raising more feminists.

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This was advice from my dentist. I said, “I would be a lot more bored being a dentist.” OK, fine, I didn’t say it aloud. If he said it now, almost four years later, I would retort out loud. And probably, loudLY. Then, though, I just kind of shrugged. I was still pregnant, and I hadn’t really decided what to do. Maybe I would be bored. I sure thought I was going back to work after my maternity leave.

Fast-foward to the hospital room with the newborn baby in my arms. OK, now try to rip it from me. Impossible. Even doting grandparents had a hard time holding that baby. I’m not advocating these feelings as the healthiest or most desirable–evidenced by my first time out without the baby as I exclaimed to my sister, “Hey, look at us! Two girls out at night going to CVS! This is so awesome!”

Actually, I did get bored sometimes, especially when it was just me and nursing or sleeping baby hour after hour, but that’s not the kind of bored he meant. The message was loud and clear–that I was too smart, too capable, too into other things, to possibly give everything up to raise children full-time. I was too good for that.

And really, damn him and everyone else who think I live a soap-opera-and-sweatpants kind of life. But while I talk tough, I have to still admit that the stereotyping of mothers who are staying with their children gets to me. I got a publication from an academic honor society the other day, and at the back were car stickers, pendants, and key chains with their symbol. I have barely perused this magazine in the past; it’s from a long-ago college thing. I couldn’t care less about stuff like that. (I only remember the banquet because I was staring at my watch until the minute I could escape, then sprinting down the hall to make a Sarah McLachlan concert on time.) But now, I actually considered ordering some kind of key chain. With a sinking feeling, I realized that it would only be to say, “Hey, look, I’m smarter than you probably think I am! I could actually go back to doing smart and important things if I wanted to instead of being at this playground!” So even though I have not regretted giving up a paying career to stay home, and even though I am disgusted by insinuations that a parent taking care of children full-time is something to look down on, I guess I still let it get to me. Yuck.

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