Monday, April 25, 2011

So Easy, a Toddler Can See It

My youngest two nieces are sisters, aged 2 and 12. (Hereinafter known as "2" and "12".) 12 is, like many 12 year old girls, deeply opposed to pink, flower patterns* and skirts. She apparently caused quite the scene by wearing a grey shirt and black capris to church with her and her stepfather's family. Her stepfather's mother was scandalized.

First of all, her stepfather's mother is an idiot and I wouldn't piss on her if she were on fire. Secondly, I know why 12 was wearing that outfit: to show off her new bangin black sandals. Seriously, these sandals redefine awesome. Thirdly, I know why 12 year old girls reject pink, flower patterns and skirts: they are rejecting the patriarchy.

"PF, c'mon now," you say. "What does a 12 year old know of the patriarchy?"

Well, that's the problem. 12 year olds aren't taught about the patriarchy and the kyriarchy and feminist theory. They do, however, live in our culture. They experience, first hand, how girls are treated, the expectations placed on girls, and what happens to girls who transgress against the patriarchy- but because they have no knowledge of the patriarchy and feminism, they have no means of processing and expressing how they feel about it all other than to reject obvious symbols of femininity: pink, flower patterns and skirts.

If you don't know what I'm talking about, consider the following incident: For about the first year of 2's life, she had the reddest skin I've ever seen, combined with blonde hair and blue eyes. Pink was, at best, unfortunate on her. It really accentuated the red of her skin. Of course, being a girl child, all 2 was dressed in was pink. This was because all the clothes given to her mother as gifts were pink because ZOMG!GIRL!

Anyway, we were at a family party that included 2's idiot grandmother and 2 was dressed in a lavender onesie. I commented to her mother that she looked much better in purple than in pink. Her mother replied that she was going to buy her blue clothes as they would look much better with her skin and nice with her blue eyes. Idiot grandmother proceeded to freak the fuck out about putting a 3 month old girl in blue because, and i quote, "People will think she's a boy!"

Yes, because the worst thing that could ever happen is that some random stranger not be able to immediately identify the sex of an infant.

I'm not innocent in this. I live in the patriarchy and it has seeped into my soul. I once spent 10 minutes on the bus trying to identify the sex of the person sitting across from me. Then I thought, "Why do I care? What does it matter?"

Oh, it matters. Your sex determines how I, and everyone else, will interact with you, and if we can't immediately identify your sex, what will we do?! Treating people as humans, treating women as we treat men, treating people who don't fall into the XX/XY dichotomy as we treat anyone else, just isn't in the patriarchy's plan.

Anyway, at the Easter party yesterday, 2 had the most logical reaction to it all that I've ever seen. She was wearing a cute yellow dress, liberally decorated with flowers, and grubby sneakers. We all commented on her cute dress and her mother said that it came with matching sandals, but 2 had apparently changed out of them and into the sneakers on the sly, because her mother didn't notice it until they got to church.

2 looked at us, jumped and said, "Gotta jump" with great finality and jumped off to find more jelly beans.

To translate from toddler: Look, I know the sandals are cute, but they weren't exactly practical. I like jumping and I see no need to stop jumping just so I can please everyone else by having my footwear match my dress.

So the next time the patriarchy demands something of you, something that makes women less, something that chains us to its oppression just a little bit more, remember, you gotta jump.

*I initially wrote "flowers", but she's not opposed to actual flowers, just depictions of flowers on her person.


  1. i think i'm big fans of ALL of your nieces and nephews - i have yet to hear a story of ANY of them that doesn't make me think "i wish *I* had been that cool at X age"

  2. "12 is, like many 12 year old girls, deeply opposed to pink, flower patterns* and skirts."

    It's definately a phenomena in our society, the Age-Pink Correlation. Terry Patchett mentioned half of it in Monsterous Regiment. Pink is the favorite colour of all girls at age 7, but some time between then and age 12 that love usually transforms into hate/loathing. Some girls come back around to liking/tolerating pink later, others never do. I'd never thought of this in terms of feminism before: but it makes sense: up until a certain age they're taught pinkgirlpinkgirlpink and they absorb this, not having learned to question things yet. This belief persists until they start questioning (~ age 7), at which point they begin to realise the horrible truth: pink rarely works on anything, anywhere. Pink is the anti-black. Need proof? Imagine your dream car. Now imagine your dream car in bright pink.*

    Mind you, I am firmly of the belief that nobody anywhere likes pink: it's all just a huge conspiricy to screw with our heads.

    *for the record, my dream car is a Lotus Elise, in lotus-yellow. Before it, I really liked the Mazda Miata MX-5, in deep-blue. Both extremely small, feminine cars. Psychologists field day right there.

  3. not to diss Terry Pratchett [cuz he ROCKS, as you well know] but i'd like to point out, for the record [not that i haven't BEFORE, and so have other people here...] that pre-WWII, PINK was considered a "masculine" color - it was "intense" and "bright" and something considered "too strong" for girls; BOYS and MEN worse the "richly-pigminted" pinl, while girls were stuck with the "subdued" and "submissive" BLUE.

    *just to go along, my dream car would be a 68 Stingray, cherry red - or a mustang of that year or 69. for more attainable, i HAD almost-my-dream-car - i HAD a 98 Mustang [until Pete totalled it 18 months ago. or rather, some idiotic 19-year-old college student who decided to drive 0-mph on a residential street with crossing alleys... grrr] the only thing wrong was the color - not that the color was BAD [so dark a green it was almost black] it wasn't, i'd be STUPID to buy and drive a red car. but it would have been the best car, EVER, if i could have gotten it painted copper. that's my current attainable dream car - a copper Mustang [but NOT one made 2000 - 05 or so *shudder* don't ask me HOW they made Mustangs look boxy, but they DID. sigh]

  4. that was *50MPH* sigh. corrected from 5- the first time to somehow 0. i don't know... sorry

  5. Kids absorb so many patriarchal messages and gender stereotypes. People don't know.

    My mom dropped off a box of stuff from my childhood a few years ago. I found a drawing in there that I made when I was about ten: two bipedal, humanoid rabbits. One was female and wearing a strappy sundress. The other was male and staring at her with his eyes glazed over and his tongue hanging out.

    At ten years old I already had the (pervasive but false) idea that men are stupified and powerless when they see an attractive woman.

    Later, I would try to stupify men with my extreme cuteness and they never acted the way they were "supposed" to. I assumed it was because I was ugly. After all, everyone knows that - given the chance - men will fuck a hole in the wall. So if men will fuck anything, but the man I wanted didn't want to fuck me, then logically...

    Gender stereotypes are sick and damaging to people of all sexes. :(


Comments are for you guys, not for me. Say what you will. Don't feel compelled to stay on topic, I enjoy it when comments enter Tangentville or veer off into Non Sequitur Town. Just keep it polite, okay?

I am attempting to use blogger's new comment spam feature. If you don't immediately see your comment, it is being held in spam, I will get it out next time I check the filter. Unless you are Dennis Markuze, in which case you're never seeing your comment.

Creative Commons License
Forever in Hell by Personal Failure is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at