A few gender-related photos from the past few weeks. The first two I took. One is of a unique unisex bathroom sign at a DC bar called The Boardroom (which is awesome, by the way. They have drinks and board games galore and you can order pizza delivered to you from the place next door...). The other is a photo of a baffling bookmark I saw in the checkout line at Barnes and Noble. The third is an advertisement from the Swedish toy company that was compelled by the Swedish government to make its promotions "gender neutral." The photo is linked to a fantastic related blog post about toy "gender apartheid."
When I first saw the story about the 13-year-old who challenged the makers of the Easy Bake Oven to offer the toy in colors other than pink and purple (and to feature boys as well as girls in their advertising and packaging) for the sake of her younger brother and other boys who wanted one, I was impressed by her initiative. I was also confused, because while I didn't have an Easy Bake Oven as a child, I had friends who did and I have no particular memory of them being super pink or purple. My experience with the ovens are limited so my memories are likely fuzzy, but I seem to remember the thing just being kind of metallic and plain, looking something like this:
Apparently, my faded memory is not too far off, as Hasbro, the company that makes Easy Bake, acknowledges that they used to make what they called "gender neutral" options in the past, but after conducting market research which showed that most interest in the toys were from girls, they pinked and purpled it up. (Read more here). They now look more like this:
This all seems to have been roughly concurrent with the pink-and-purple sparkly princess craze that began its hold on America within the last ten or fifteen years.
The rest of my confusion stems from my lack of understanding of why Easy Bake ovens as they are currently aren't already "gender neutral." Despite social anxiety about it, there's no prohibition against boys playing with pink and purple stuff. Girls play with toys in colors besides pink and purple all the time, to no one's surprise. Why is something that comes in colors that are considered appropriate for boys "gender neutral" while something that comes in colors considered appropriate for girls is not? Just because something is pink or purple doesn't mean that it can't be for boys. Nor does it mean that because something is supposedly more appealing to female children than to male children that it has to be pink or purple, as Hasbro has suggested. I really appreciate the conversation the quest for the "gender neutral" Easy Bake oven has sparked because at its core is a challenge to the notion that only girls are interested in domestic-themed toys. Still, I can't help but be frustrated by the reinforcement of the idea that pink and purple automatically means something can't be "gender neutral," or that all girls would want a pink or purple oven (thus the only reason to make blue or red or green or white ones would be because boys want them). I know plenty of girls who probably would rather not have pink or purple if other options were available. I also know a few boys who would be happy with hot pink.
At any rate, Hasbro announced its intention to unveil a "gender neutral" Easy Bake sometime in the new year. I'll applaud this as an effort to provide more options and impose fewer limitations on kids, and will also encourage any boy who wants a pink oven, or any girl who wants a blue one, to have at it. I also hope they take to heart the suggestion that they feature boys when promoting the toy - regardless of the color.
Marriage is on a lot of people's minds these days. It was a "hot issue" during the most recent elections and remains a frequent topic of conversation on social media for both LGBT folks, our allies, and our "opponents," for lack of a better word. I don't actually care a lot about marriage, though I am legally married to my spouse according to the District of Columbia, and looking forward to celebrating that union with family and friends next year. In many ways, I think marriage reinforces a lot of things I don't agree with - for instance, that couples ought to be privileged over single people, or that poly-amorous people shouldn't have legal recognition of their relationships, or that one must be married in order to be viewed as fully adult. I think any two (or more) consenting adults should have the right to enter into a legal commitment together as they see fit. Marriage as it exists currently has a lot of baggage.
Still, I want it. And I am forced to care a lot about it because not having it directly interferes with how my partner and I live our lives. It affects our finances, our access to health insurance, our legal rights as parents of future children, and about ten bajillion other things that straight married folks take for granted. A college acquaintance of mine recently posted a comment on Facebook about how Christians should vote their values in the election. She provided justifications for voting against marriage equality, and folks who commented in support of her remarks said lots of things to the effect of "love the sinner, not the sin" and standing by "God's plan" for marriage. I stayed out of the discussion as this individual and I are not close, and other friends of hers had challenged her views with arguments similar to ones I would have made, but the whole thing made my blood boil and weeks later I find myself still angry about it. I thought about writing her a personal message where I could tell her about day I first knew I loved my partner, or how many of our friends - queer and straight - are becoming parents and what a wonderful job they're doing, or how at the wedding reception of two lesbian friends who have been together since high school, their families stood together and sang "Going to the Chapel" a capella to them. I thought I would tell her about my friends whose ability to live in the same country as their partners is threatened because their partners can't sponsor them for American citizenship or residency. I thought I'd tell her how the idea that some states might prevent my partner or my friends from becoming parents makes my heart catch in my throat and keeps me up at night. Or about the lovely day last June when my partner tearfully recited her vows to me at the DC courthouse. And then I thought that these things probably wouldn't move her because she has friends who are LGBT allies and likely knows gay people and has to have heard stories just like these before.
So I'll say this: People have varying religious views. That's great. Many people feel strongly about their religious views. That's also great. Some churches perform marriages for same-sex couples and some do not. That's nice, and obviously within the prerogative of each religious community. I fail to see what this has to do with me and my partner. We do not regularly attend church, though I would say we share some supposedly "Christian" values like loving your neighbor, treating others like you'd want to be treated, engaging in active solidarity with the oppressed, and not hoarding wealth. I do understand that religious views shape political views and that all of this informs how people vote on candidates and issues. What I do not understand is how my government - both various governments of states I have resided in, and the federal government of the country of which I am a full-fledged citizen same as my straight marriage-loving friend on Facebook - can tell me that I may not enter into legal kinship with my partner and that the reason for this is some people think I am an abomination to their God. I don't believe in that same God and by the rights bestowed upon me by our Constitution, I am not required to, so again, I fail to see why any of us, regardless of religion or political party, or personal view on the issue of marriage should accept this as a reason to deny legal partnership to some people and still call the United States "free."
Interesting that despite the sign's acknowledgement that people may have varying gender identities, in the image itself - the "male" (indicated by pants-wearing) and the "female" (indicated by dress-wearing) are distinguished by an actual line down the middle. Still, I love this and look forward to seeing how other images and language evolve as the world starts to become less obsessed with enforcing rigid binary gender.