De-gendering the Rainbow

Ethan Gach

I write about comics, video games and American politics. I fear death above all things. Just below that is waking up in the morning to go to work. You can follow me on Twitter at @ethangach or at my blog, And though my opinions aren’t for hire, my virtue is.

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65 Responses

  1. LeeEsq says:

    Does being an eccentric and ecclectic in your tastes really make you gender queer? My tastes in toys growing up was pretty stereotypical for a boy but I never liked sports. I don’t think this was enough to make me qualify as gender-queer even by a half of a percent. We need better definitions of what constitutes gender-queerism.Report

  2. Kazzy says:

    “Two, I find the schools behavior, to the extent that the reader accurately portrays it, to be disgusting, but also not surprising.”

    Ummm…. whatever you do, don’t watch the documentary “Bully”.

    I agree that I’m thrown off a bit by the language, especially given that we are discussing an 8-year-old. I also confess to not always being up-to-date or fully understanding of the language, generally accepting whatever terms people choose for themselves.Report

  3. NewDealer says:

    On Okcupid in the Bay Area and in San Francisco in general, you see a lot of people who identify as gender-queer.

    As far as I can tell, you need to identify as genderqueer to be genderqueer. Like you, I don’t think a boy who puts on nail polish in second grade is gener-queer. But from a more real point, he might as well be. Obviously his classmates rejected him and bullied him because he defied whatever second-grade boys (and girls) think of as appropriate behavior and signalling for second-grade boy. He shouldn’t be bullied for putting on nailpolish or wearing pink especially not to the point where transferring schools was necessary.

    I visited my best friend from undergrad over December. She and her partner took me to a Hannukah party. The party was put on by people who identify as gender-queer. They warned me that I might be the only “biological male” at the party but not the only person who identified as male. This ended up not being true and I did fine at the party but gender-queerness still perplexes me. There were a few “non-biological males” at the party and as far as I can tell they had no intent to transition. It seems to be about taking gender seriously by not taking it seriously at all and high-lighting the absurdity of various gender tropes and norms.Report

  4. BlaiseP says:

    Many cultures have a place for berdache, which seems fairly close to gender queer, if not an exact match. For some reason, most of my friends were girls, growing up. The boys were interesting but I caught a fair bit of flak for hanging out with girls. Animus/anima — boys always seemed repressed, confined to certain stereotypes. They weren’t allowed to be sensitive and they tended to abuse each other if any such emotions appeared. A fair number of my gay peers befriended me and I caught a lot of flak for those friendships, too, especially from my parents. Set me on the track to what I’ve since become. Now, when I’m confronted by bigotry, I make the bigot suffer.

    But that was long ago. Kids aren’t quite so repressed now. It’s easier to be gay these days, or so it seems. But I can’t imagine it’s any easier to be a sensitive boy these days.Report

  5. NewDealer says:

    Also, I think when parents describe their kids as gender-queer, it says more about the parents than the kids.

    Then again, I have a firm stance about kids being used as political props and/or being taken to rallies.Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to NewDealer says:

      What if they can’t find a baby-sitter? I’m with you against using kids as political props or sociological experiments. I’m not really sure if taking a kid to a political rally is any worse than taking them to a religious meeting. Parents are naturally going to want to teach their kids their values and are going to use institutions to reinforce this. Sometimes the instittuion is religious, other times its a political rally.Report

      • Kim in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Or to a sports rally.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to LeeEsq says:

        I think it is one thing if they bring their child along and say, “This is something mommy/daddy believes in and I’d like you to see how it works.”
        I think it is quite another to have a 5-year-old march with a sign he can’t read. Not only is it unfair to the 5-year-old, but it is potentially emotionally manipulation of the audience.

        How this compares to sporting events I will say makes an interesting discussion.Report

  6. Burt Likko says:

    I’m not good at this taxonomy. A while back I stepped in it by muddling “sex,” “gender,” and “orientation.” So before I opine further can someone give a quick definition of “queer” and “genderqueer” so I don’t muck this up? Is this young man actually “genderqueer”?Report

    • NewDealer in reply to Burt Likko says:

      That’s my question. I think the labeling says more about the parent than the kid.Report

    • Fnord in reply to Burt Likko says:

      The term queer is, by its nature, a bit vague and catch-all.

      Nevertheless, it’s probably not quite correct to say this kid is genderqueer (based solely on this description, at least). This kid has is out of the norm (“queer”, if you like) in gender presentation. There’s not really a one-word label for that place; it’s usually described, as on of the comments in Sullivan’s previous post does, as non gender-conforming. People who are actually on the trans* spectrum, which is generally where genderqueer is put, don’t (just) have a problem with presentation and social expectation, but an actual problem with their bodies. Like an amputee with phantom limb, the mental map of their body doesn’t match the body they actually have.

      This is not to minimize the issues this kid is going through at all, which are absolutely a serious problem. It’s simply, as you say, a matter of taxonomy.Report

  7. NoPublic says:

    In the lingua franca of certain subcultures, exhibiting any non cis-male behaviour or dress patterns when nataly male equates to being genderqueer. Or in less dense patois, if you were born a boy (and generally that would mean being XY with external primary sexual organs though not always) and you like non-boy things or wear non-boy clothes or body decor you are exhibiting some degree of genderqueerness.Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to NoPublic says:

      This defintition is too sloppy to be useful.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to NoPublic says:

      While I think you have it right, I’ve always struggled with this. To me, it would seem better to say that your interests do not determine your gender. A boy who wishes Optimum Prime came in pink shouldn’t be told he isn’t a boy. The people who are telling him as much should be told to STFU.

      I recognize that there are people who genuinely feel that their internal sense of gender does not mesh with their external genitalia, but it is my understanding that this happens on a deeper, more psychological level than interests and aesthetic preferences.Report

      • NoPublic in reply to Kazzy says:

        This is where a lot of the definitional issues come into play. What exactly is cis-gendered behaviour or dress or affect? It differs from culture to culture. I grew up kissing my older male relatives on the lips as a greeting. There are many (many) places where I could get beaten and/or they could be jailed if the wrong people saw that.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

        With my students (4/5-year-olds), when such conversations creep up, about boy things and girl things, I typically take the following tack…

        “It seems some kids think that X is only for boys. I’m curious. Raise your hand if you like X.” Invariably, at least one girl will raise her hand. “Is so-and-so a boy?” “Noooooooooo.” “So it seems like you don’t have to be a boy to like it.”

        It helped that I had long hair for a couple of years. One outtake:
        “You have long hair! Like a girl!”
        [furrows brow, rubs BEARD] “Hmmmmm…”
        “You have a beard! Like a boy!”
        [furrows brow, strokes long hair] “Hmmmm…”
        “Let’s go play LEGOs.”Report

  8. NotMe says:

    Let me see if I understand this correctly. The parents let the kid paint his nails for Halloween and even after the bad reaction they let him do it it again and push things further and yet after all of that it is all the school’s fault? Don’t the parents share some responsibility?Report

    • Shazbot3 in reply to NotMe says:

      The parent’s of the bullying kids deserve some responsibility. But given that the kid did something that is not at all wrong and the kids wrongly bullied him, he and his parents share no fault at all. End of story.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Shazbot3 says:

        People’s willingness to blame the victim when the victim seems “other” can be nauseating.

        If only the little fruit hadn’t been so damn punchable.Report

      • NotMe in reply to Shazbot3 says:

        I’m not blaming the kid just his moron parents who encouraged his acts of rebellion and the associated consequences. Why would you set your kid up for the consequences? I don’t want my kid to suffer, do you? Would you encourage your kid to do something that you know would result in something unpleasant? Be a rebel if you want but don’t complain when the world doesn’t welcome you with open arms. I saw the same thing in high school with the goth or art kids that went out of their way to be different and then didn’t like it when folks treated them different.Report

      • Chris in reply to Shazbot3 says:

        Definitely! We should not let kids express themselves until they’re at least 18, maybe 21, and then only in the privacy of their own homes!

        Also, goth kids wear too much black.Report

      • greginak in reply to Shazbot3 says:

        Most schools don’t really do much to contain bullying. Sad but true. The school is wrong. The parents had a real dilemma with no easy answers, But you send you child out into the world that is, not the world you wish was there. No kid should be bullied, but some kids are going to be the target of bullies even in a school that is far better than this one. How you deal with that with your kids is often tough and definitely tough for parents of kids that don’t conform.Report

    • Stillwater in reply to NotMe says:

      I’m kinda on your side of things, Just Me. If the kid is being bullied, and he knows precisely why he’s being bulllied, then the parents (in addition to the kid) have identified a very clear, instrumental, probably sufficient path to eliminate the bullying, then why not pursue it? If the ending the bullying is the issue, that is.

      Seems to me, tho, that ending the bullying isn’t the issue. The issue is that the kid should be able to act however he wants to – and at this point, his behavior is deliberately antagonistic, no? – and have the teachers somehow (magically?) end the bullying he receives. How is that supposed to happen?Report

      • Will Truman in reply to Stillwater says:

        Is the kid being deliberately antagonistic, though? How reasonable is the antagonism? Should school protection of its students be based on what others find antagonistic? It’s one thing to do something deliberately antagonistic, like wearing a Confederate Flag on Juneteenth (or perhaps any other time…). But I’d argue the primary question is how reasonable the original behavior is. Maybe I am missing some of the deliberatism behind the antagonistic behavior, but I am pretty squarely on the side of the kid and the parents. In their shoes, I would respond differently. But I wouldn’t think it’s my obligation to in order for my kid not to be bullied.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Stillwater says:


        Take that logic to it’s inevitable conclusion: If so-and-so knew what was good for them, they’d just stay away. It’s not long ago that “so-and-so” was black folks. In many ways, it remains gay folks today.

        You’re victim blaming, plain and simple. The kid was told (or showed) he’d get punched if he wore nail polish. You’re saying, “You’ve been warned, kid.” Really? The issue isn’t the nail polish. It’s the punching.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Stillwater says:

        Why in the hell is your offense my problem?

        That said, if a manager said “Customers are put off by your nails… if you keep painting your nails, I’m going to have to find another position for you in the company or let you go”, I’d probably take the side of the manager.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Stillwater says:

        Going further…

        I teach my kids that they don’t have to be friends with everyone, but they do have to be decent. Bully McPuncherson doesn’t have to invite Ned Nailpolish to his birthday or ask him to join them at lunch. But he doesn’t have the right to punch him or deny him access to the kickball field or his table of choice in the lunchroom. He can choose to ignore him, can choose to generally avoid him, and choose to think what he will about him. But he can’t interfere with his full engagement of school. Full stop.

        What right does Bully McPuncherson have to set the rules for who does and doesn’t get to do things the school has decided everyone gets to do? The school says everyone can play kickball, but BMcP decides that only non-nail polished boys can? Sorry… that doesn’t fly. BMcP doesn’t make the rules, even if a majority of society likes those rules.Report

  9. Burt Likko says:

    It seems that “queer” or “genderqueer” are too uncertain as definitions, and dependent upon a malleable notion of the “norm,” to be all that useful as a label. So I’m going to discard the label altogether. Because there’s another label that is more interesting to me here: “bullying.”

    You’ve got the kid who is deviating from the norm in his personal appearance. And you’ve got all the other kids in the school. One of the other kids punches the first kid in the balls. But that’s the only violence described in the post. I don’t want to domesticate that. The kid who punched needs to be punished and the school needs to make clear that there is no problem that can arise on school grounds that is properly resolved with violence.

    The rest of what they’re describing, and indeed seemingly the bulk of the complaint, is something else, something that because it does not involve violence makes me hesitate to use the word “bullying” to describe it. What I see here is ostracism resulting from deviation from a social norm.

    If the kid had come to school wearing a t-shirt with Nazi symbols and racist slogans, that too would be a deviation from the norm. Ostracism and shunning would be the predictable result of such outward personal expressions. But we’d probably feel differently about that. Consider, for instance, the Doc’s recent post about a guy who walked in to the E.R. wearing an offensive T-shirt. Consider also Will’s recent post about adhering to norms in dress and personal appearance that change as one ages.

    I’m rather strongly with Will on age-appropriate norms in dress and personal appearance. Why, then, ought I to side with the kid wearing nail polish and dresses here? When we talk about freedom of speech — freedom of expression — we are generally careful to point out that one’s freedom to express oneself comes only with a guarantee that the government will not punish you for your expression, but it does not come with a guarantee of agreement or acceptance. Freedom of speech does not mean freedom from criticism.

    It should surprise no one that a social structure should enforce its own norms. When we agree with those norms, and the values that those norms express, we like that society in general enforces them. When we disagree with those norms, though, similar principles should apply.

    Which is all to say that I know I’m inviting a claim that I’m blaming the victim here. Because, to some extent, I am. I’m not endorsing the violence in any way. But I’m not sure I want to be swift in condemning the other kids who find their classmate odd and out of the norm, or the school officials, who perceive that someone is poking a social norm in the eye (even his parents describe the kid as having a rebellious streak) and that they are both powerless to change those social norms and uncertain-to-reluctant to even try.

    Obviously, some norms need to change. And for that to happen, there need to be pioneers willing to risk the ostracism that inevitably results from challenging them. But I’m not sure that norms applicable to dress and personal appearance are harmful or repressive enough that what we read about here is worthy of anxiety: those who challenge a norm that needs challenging are heroes, yes, but those who challenge norms that are either beneficial or at least neutral, I’m afraid, don’t draw a lot of admiration from me.Report

    • Fnord in reply to Burt Likko says:

      As a thought experiment, reverse the genders. Imagine it was a girl with some traditionally male interests, and some traditionally male patterns of dress. Do you feel in that case that it’s just a harmless, neutral norm, and that the girl trying to push against her assigned gender role is the one worth blaming?Report

      • Burt Likko in reply to Fnord says:

        Doesn’t change my assessment of the situation a bit. If it’s a boy experimenting with traditionally girly modes of dress and behavior, or a girl experimenting with traditionally boyish modes, a norm is being challenged. It happens that in a lot of these norms, we’ve gone out of our way as a society to make a wider variety of dressing patterns and activities accessible to women on an equal footing to men. Historically, this hasn’t always been the case. So if a woman wants to shoot guns or play football or wear a codpiece, we may hesitate to overtly criticize her — but that doesn’t mean we don’t think she’s weird. We might hesitate to point out that opinion more in the case of a woman than a man, but the unease of being around a norm-violator will be pretty much the same regardless of the sex of the person in question.

        Ostracism results in response to the behavior which invites it. If we are going to be critical of the ostracism, we need to have a reason to attack the norm that impels it; if we are to be supportive of the ostracism, we need to have a reason to defend the norm.

        In the example Kazzy cites, I don’t see a reason to be all that critical of norms of dress, so I don’t see a lot of point in challenging the norm. Consequently, I’m less critical of the ostracism. The violence, I hasten to repeat, is indefensible. But you’re asking a lot of grade school kids to tell them that they have to befriend a kid who intentionally acts in a fashion they think is strange. And this isn’t a fight I’d have picked. How much better a place will the world be if boys can wear mini-skirts just like the girls? (They may well be good physiological reasons why pubescent boys ought not wear mini-skirts.)Report

      • Fnord in reply to Fnord says:

        Doesn’t change my assessment of the situation a bit. If it’s a boy experimenting with traditionally girly modes of dress and behavior, or a girl experimenting with traditionally boyish modes, a norm is being challenged. It happens that in a lot of these norms, we’ve gone out of our way as a society to make a wider variety of dressing patterns and activities accessible to women on an equal footing to men.

        So you think that the way that society has moved to make a wider variety of activities and dressing patterns available to women than was the case historically is basically a neutral change? That the social norms about what activities and patterns of dress were appropriate for women (say) 100 years ago are just as reasonable and acceptable as the broader norms we have today?Report

      • Burt Likko in reply to Fnord says:

        To the extent that we’re talking about fashion — the notion of whether a woman looks good in a hooped dress and whalebone corset, for instance — that’s pretty superficial so changes over time of what women “ought” to wear don’t matter all that much.

        To the extent that clothing has utility — pants are clearly more practical than skirts, at least in certain kinds of activities, and high heel shoes are not the most practical footwear available — then I think there’s been a benefit over time.Report

      • Fnord in reply to Fnord says:

        The issue of “girl books” seems to be a not-insignificant part of this controversy. So is a norm that considers certain kinds of literature unsuitable for one gender or the other a matter of fashion or utility?Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Fnord says:


        Bullying need not involve physical violence. I sometimes worry about the way that word gets thrown around too loosely; I’ve had parents accuse 4-year-olds of it. And it has become such a buzz word that being labeled a bully can be a death sentence.

        All that said, I still think the school ought to intervene, at least if it wants to claim that it believes in true gender equality. That doesn’t mean punish, but involve itself in search of a resolution. This is a “teachable moment” if there ever was one. And while no one should be forced to be friends with anyone, there are certain things at a school which ought to be open to the entirety of a community. If there is one kickball field and a group of kids are playing on it, they should not be allowed to exclude anyone from that field unless they interfere with the playing of kickball. Likewise with a lunch table. You are welcome to ignore the kid, tell him what you think of him (within reason), and pick him last. But you can’t make the kickball field or the lunch table off-limits.

        But that doesn’t mean everything must be tolerated equally. A shirt with a Swastika on it is not the same as nail polish on a boy. A Swastika communicates a message, a hostile one, an emotionally and mentally violent one. Would we let a student screaming, “Death to niggers!” act uninterrupted on school grounds? No. There need to be limits, but the limits shouldn’t be matters of preference, they should be matters of function. The primary purpose of a school is education. Actions that grossly interfere with that should be rightly barred. The “Death to niggers!” kid certainly does so, with little value to his actions beyond exercising his freedom of speech, so punishing his actions seems reasonable. Likewise a Swastika shirt, though it is not a “active” an act as the shouting. Whom does the nail polish harm? How does it interfere with education? To whatever extent it might, is that because of the actions of the wearer or the actions of the observer?

        All of this matters. Open up a dialogue. The Jewish kids don’t want to sit with Swastika boy? Why? Is their discomfort warranted? Why or why not?
        The boys-boys don’t want to sit with nail polish kid? Why? Is their discomfort warranted?

        There was a time where being black in a wealthy neighborhood was the violation of a social norm. Thankfully, we’ve (mostly?) moved away from that.

        The school ought to create its own social norms. As I discussed at great length, schools SHOULD be teaching social norms. They should identify that which they think is important and instill that in the children. This is more difficult in a public school with a public purpose, but is no less important. If the school does not embrace gender equality, so be it. But they have to own that.Report

      • Burt Likko in reply to Fnord says:

        I’ve conceded from the beginning of this thought that a) the school should create, teach, and enforce its own social norms, and b) that there are certain norms in larger society that are worth challenging.

        I’ve also pointed out that c) you have to pick your fights. The potential-cost-to-potential-benefit ratio of addressing gender norms in dress does not seem very high to me, at least not as set forth here. To the extent that we substantively disagree, it would be in regards to this point — it seems you think that this is a fight that is worth fighting. It takes little imagination to think of other ways that bilateral gender equality can be demonstrated that will both produce more benefit and risk less harm to the people who challenge those norms, and I don’t think that economic and social status have been sufficiently equalized that addressing the relatively superficial norms of dress and appearance are a priority.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Fnord says:


        Who is the “you” to which you refer?

        Kazzy the guy? Kazzy the dad? Kazzy the teacher?

        Each of those would respond differently.

        As a parent, I would support my child’s gender expression, no matter what it were. I’d do my best to prepare him for the realities of the world, including the oppression and stigmatization he might face.

        As a teacher, I would respond as necessary when these situations emerge. There would be proactive instruction as necessary and when appropriate.

        It isn’t a fight I’d seek out. If these parents encouraged their son to do so with an eye towards being transgressive, I’d want to have a word or 100 with them. I would never do that to my child. Children aren’t political or social causes. They are individuals deserving of their own worth and dignity.

        As for asking children to pick their battles, that is difficult to expect from a young kid. Saying, “Sometimes you have to choose between dressing as you like and having friends,” doesn’t always make sense to young kids. Silly little buggers, they don’t see those as mutually exclusive.Report

      • Burt Likko in reply to Fnord says:

        The “you” was intended to be more generic than Kazzy in any of the roles described, referring to anyone in general and no one in particular. Substitute the generic third-person “one” for the generic second-person “you” if you prefer.

        To the substantive point: sometimes one does have to choose between dressing as one likes and having friends. I realize this may be a tough thing to tell a kid. But there are situations in which one does a disservice to a child by not addressing a tough and even an unfair reality. Just as another example from recent memory, African-American parents take it upon themselves to have “The Talk” with their children. It’s not fair that young African-American men are treated with greater suspicion by other people in society generally and the police specifically; we can all agree that they ought not to have to go through that heightened scrutiny. Yet it is nevertheless the tough and unfair reality that they are subject to heightened scrutiny and increased suspicion, so not having “The Talk” does that child a disservice.

        The equivalent of “The Talk” here is exactly the lesson you refer to — dressing as you like instead of as society expects may cause you to become unpopular. Is that a price you’re willing to pay?Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Fnord says:

        I’m understanding you much better now. Thanks for taking the time to clarify.

        As I always say, there is teaching children for the world as we wish it were and teaching children for the world as it is. I think the ideal approach is to find a middle ground, informing children of the world as it is while not making them feel hidebound to its limitations. “Yes, the world might judge you for what you do with your fingernails. But we know that’s wrong. And, it seems, more people seem to think that is wrong every day*. However, as it stands now, you might endure ridicule for your choice. We’ll support you no matter what you choose, but want you to make an informed choice. Hopefully, when people like you are in charge, the world will be a better place.”

        * Of course, only say this if it is reasonably true.Report

      • Shazbot3 in reply to Fnord says:

        Kazzy and Burt,

        It is important to tell the child he might or will be picked on or ostracized -something I suspect the child knew anyway- but he must be taught that it is deeply wrong that anyone would ostracize him or hit him for how he dressed. The children who do the ostracizing and hitting should be spoken to and punished if need be.Report

      • Shazbot3 in reply to Fnord says:

        “I’ve also pointed out that c) you have to pick your fights. The potential-cost-to-potential-benefit ratio of addressing gender norms in dress does not seem very high to me, at least not as set forth here. To the extent that we substantively disagree, it would be in regards to this point — it seems you think that this is a fight that is worth fighting. It takes little imagination to think of other ways that bilateral gender equality can be demonstrated that will both produce more benefit and risk less harm to the people who challenge those norms, and I don’t think that economic and social status have been sufficiently equalized that addressing the relatively superficial norms of dress and appearance are a priority.”

        Either I’ve misunderstood you or I thoroughly disagree.

        The cost of not addressing this bullying and ostracizing is an i creased sense of mental anguish in the boy bullied and all those children who witness the bullying and who feel (or one day will feel) an impulse to be gender bending or gay. That is a huge cost, or conversely a huge benefit if it is addressed.

        The cost of addressing this seems incredibly small: talking to the children and the parents involved and getting them to stop. A brief bit of mediation. Given that we already should be watching the kids for homophobic actions, it hardly seems like any cost at all to extend our actions against homophobic bullying to this sort of bullying. Indeed, I would say the cost is nearly zero.

        So the benefit of taking action is to minimize great pain and the cost is nearly nothing. Thus the cost to benefit ratio makes this action worth doing.


      • Burt Likko in reply to Fnord says:

        If you’re telling me that you basically agree with my theoretical framework but see a substantially greater benefit to challenging the norms, @Shazbot3, so be it. What advice would you give a young person telling you that she wanted to tell her very religious parents that she was an atheist, or that she was gay? Would you tell her to come out of the closet during prayers at Thanksgiving dinner with the bluntest statement possible? I don’t see this as a whole lot different — it’s a caution to consider the likely consequences of an action before doing it. What good thing does this kid expect to happen if he wears nail polish to school? Because here are the bad things that can be reasonably expected. If the good outweighs the bad, then maybe you go for it and you challenge the norm.

        Does this eight-year-old kid see himself as a pioneer of an incipient movement to challenge gender norms in dress and encourage greater equality for all? Then maybe he thinks it’s worth it. But I don’t get that impression from the quoted passage. The impression I get is that he’s doing it because it pleases him to do so, nothing more. If I’m an authority figure counseling him, I would ask him to carefully consider the negative social consequences and compare that to the pleasure he’d get from his actions.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to Fnord says:

        Or, what Burt said way upthread there.Report

  10. zic says:

    You know, this would not be an issue at all if we just let people be people and didn’t make things non-masculine as, somehow, weaker and of less value.

    I’ve been going on about this a good bit. But: pink is just a color, and a rather nice one, at that. Nail polish is just nail polish. I know some phenomenal guitarists; masculine by any sense of the word. They get their nails manicured on a regular basis, including polish (generally, french manicures) and false nails because the use those nails to pluck the strings. I know many women who wear way too much makeup and many men who’d benefit from some makeup and better skin-care.

    The whole rubbish of gender-appropriate is just that — rubbish. And while women have made great strides here, they can wear pants, drive trucks, and run fork lifts nowadays, men have a tougher time when they want to be nurses, hair dressers, wear skirts, makeup, or paint their nails; when they want to partake in the things commonly reserved for women. Short of pregnancy, labor, and lactation, the notions of ‘gender appropriate’ stink. I pity men, because a lot of the stuff considered ‘womanly,’ is pretty damned awesome, else women wouldn’t waste their time on it.

    So it’s not just the children who find themselves stuck and branded because we cling to these old notions of what’s feminine, what’s masculine, and most particularly, to the worn-out idea that men shouldn’t do feminine things. It’s men, too. Dads can read bedtime stories, cook dinner, sew on a button, or bandage a booboo just as well as Moms. Women can change tires, spark plugs, drive trucks, and drink beer. Hell, some women even like to watch football. Men are missing out with their self-imposed notions of masculinity. Pity.Report

    • Shazbot3 in reply to zic says:

      I have started using a purse and find that I still get gender stereotypes used against me and they do -when I am not thinking- hit me fairly hard psychologically. (And this is a small thing, really.)

      People want to call it a “man-purse” or a “bag” or a “satchel” but it is just a purse and I now call it such.

      For a while, I tried to use brief cases or big gigantic bags that didn’t look like a purse, but nothing is better than a small purse to carry your stuff. I literally was making my life less comfortable and more difficult (carrying bags that were too heavy) because of this ridiculous stereotype that men shouldn’t wear anything that looks to much like a woman’s purse.Report

      • Glyph in reply to Shazbot3 says:

        I figured you just carried things in your chest “compartment of mystery”.

        I never understood why everyone who needs extra portable storage doesn’t just carry a small backpack. Leaves your hands free when needed, will carry more weight more comfortably/balanced when needed, non-gendered. I always take mine if I need to carry extra stuff.Report

      • Burt Likko in reply to Shazbot3 says:

        A camera bag works well for me. Men seem to be allowed to carry cameras, even in bags slung over their shoulders.

        My friend’s idea is that we should revive the bandolier, with sealable pouches instead of holders for ammunition. It seems funny, but it could be very practical.Report

      • Kim in reply to Shazbot3 says:

        no, that’d probably jingle too much. If you must hide cash on yourself, one apt place to do so is in your shoes. Then carry a wallet with fake ids.Report

      • Glyph in reply to Shazbot3 says:

        Or the Bat-utility-belt.Report

      • Shazbot3 in reply to Shazbot3 says:

        A backpack is just not comfortable for me. And tough to access in that you have to take it off. I am a purse man all the way, now.

        The compartment of mystery is filled with NSA documents, my collection of Cheetos bags throughout the 80’s, a soiled manual for a 1974 Maytag washing mashine, and some Pogs.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Shazbot3 says:

        My Timbuktu messenger bag has served me well for 8-plus years. Ironically, my then-girlfriend bought it for me because it was more “grown up” than a backpack.

        I object to our current diaper bag not because it is purse-y but because the straps are awkward… to long to hold in your hand and too short for my shoulders. I want a messenger-type bag. If Zazzy wants it to be pink, so be it.Report

      • Kim in reply to Shazbot3 says:

        My work bought me a backpack.Report

      • ~trumwill in reply to Shazbot3 says:

        @glyph, why isn’t every belt a utility belt?

        @shazbot3, you could disguise it by using a laptop bag.Report

      • zic in reply to Shazbot3 says:

        Excellent example. My sweetie also carries a purse (but he’s always hauling gear, instruments, and sheet music around,) and uses several bags I’ve knit and felted. He also wears very nice hats that I’ve made for him in very bright, sometimes ‘feminine’ colors.

        Personally, as a fashion statement, I’d like to see more lace and ruffles like dudes wore back in the Colonial & before times; particularly on the chest. Many women don’t need enhancement there; and many men would benefit from it and have the expanse necessary to show beautiful hand work. It’s a look that doesn’t need to be left to aging rockers who wear it with leather. But I’m probably pushing the fashion envelope with visions like that.Report

      • Glyph in reply to Shazbot3 says:

        Unfortunately Lt. John Pike has made Bat-spray deeply unfashionable.Report

      • Shazbot3 in reply to Shazbot3 says:

        Kazzy and Will,

        That is just it. Laptop bags and messenger bags are attempts to hide the fact that you really want or are really using a purse. (I am guessing you aren’t actually a bike messenger, and Will has suggested a laptop bag with no laptop, which is insane, when you think about it.) I no longer feel any need to hide that I need and use a purse. It is my greatest contribution to society, with the exception of my anti square dancing campaign.

        After all, what is wrong with carrying a purse? How did purses become female? And if they are feminine, why should that deter me from carrying one? What is wrong with more feminine. The whole thing is absurd and I am trying not to let it affect my behavior or my thinking anymore. You get over the weirdness of talking about your purse very quickly, BTW.

        I’ll tell you another story. It is still hard for me to wear shorts, of almost any sort: baggy, casual, sporty, short, long, whatever. My dad and uncles and their cohort (rural cowboy types) would only wear shorts in very narrow circumstances (swimming or for playing a game in an arena where shorts were near mandatory: say a track event.) Shorts were for women, little boys, and only for men in very specific arenas, or so I was told. But of course this is ridiculous. There is nothing childish or feminine about shorts. They are ideal for lots of occasions. So it is also with purses.

        I have also often thought that I would like to paint my toe nails a nice navy blue. My feet are objectively disgusting and could use some beautification.Report

      • Shazbot3 in reply to Shazbot3 says:

        Yeah I agree, zic.

        But I think your aim is slowly coming to realization in fashion. Slowly.

        Also, the make in many species is more bright and ornate. And lots of traditional cultures for humans have men dress more brightly and ornately.Report

      • BlaiseP in reply to Shazbot3 says:

        I carry this bad boy. I’ve had lots of computer bags and satchels and other contraptions, none compare. I need to carry a laptop, my chargers and wires, my accordion folder and a paper portfolio. I won’t carry a briefcase any more, I want to carry everything over one shoulder, or with both shoulders if I’m rolling luggage.Report

      • NewDealer in reply to Shazbot3 says:

        My preferred terms is Pilgrim’s sack or Messenger Bag

        Glyph: It messes up a suit or jacket and makes you look like an awkward junior high school student. Again this is East Coast lawyer speaking.

        Zic: I’m not much for the ren faire/pirate lookReport

      • Kazzy in reply to Shazbot3 says:


        The purses I’ve seen aren’t big enough for what I tote, which usually includes at least several binders. It also doubles as an overnight bag. Part of my objection to something smaller is I’m more likely to lose it. I like the messenger bag because it goes over the shoulder and across the chest, distributing the weight really well. If you want to call my bag a purse, I wouldn’t care. Ultimately, the distinction is meaningless. I call it a messenger bag because the existing nomenclature describes it as such.

        My wife and I can’t use the same bags primarily because we are of different body types and are used to carrying bags differently. She can do the one shoulder carry with the diaper bag but it always slips off mine.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Shazbot3 says:

        I should also note that when I more regularly took pub tran into the city on weekends, I considered a purse. I like to read on the train. A Kindle or other such device doesn’t fit a pocket and only smaller soft covers can be curled into one. I didn’t want to lug my bigger bag in for just a book/device, but feared a smaller one would get left behind once drinks started to flow. But I had no issue with a purse on principle, just practical.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Shazbot3 says:

        And, again, assuming they still make them the same way, I can’t say enough good things about TimBuk2’s bags. They’re pricey, but the one I use to this day is one I got 8 years ago, with the only signs of use some slightly frayed velcro. It’s waterproof, machine washable, and comes in a variety of configurations, some of which can be color customized. They’re pricier (mine was probably around $100 in 2005 dollars), but 8 years later and still kicking, it feels like a bargain.Report