<![CDATA[Gender Mystique - Blog]]>Sun, 31 Jan 2016 11:16:11 -0500Weebly<![CDATA[Hostile echos: from Beatle bangs to man braids]]>Sun, 24 Jan 2016 16:42:51 GMThttp://www.pinkisforboys.org/blog/hostile-echos-from-beatle-bangs-to-man-braidsFirst, it was "man buns", then the snarkfest shifted to "man braids".  Making fun of men who adopt "feminine" hairstyles? Do you REALLY want to sound like someone's stodgy old grandpa in 1965?

Fifty years ago, the older generation (and young conservatives) were making fun of guys with long hair. They cast aspersions on their manhood, called them fags, and tried to hold them down and forcibly cut their hair. They threw them out of school.

Today, long hair and ponytails are no big deal but OMG buns and braids!!!! Get a grip, people. Spare us the pearl-clutching. It's just hair.

<![CDATA[Pink for boys, blue for girls (and vice versa)]]>Thu, 14 Jan 2016 00:45:08 GMThttp://www.pinkisforboys.org/blog/pink-for-boys-blue-for-girls-and-vice-versaSome wonderful Wikipedian has created a spectacularly well-researched page on the use of pink and blue as gendered colors. I have a few more citations to contribute, but for now enjoy!]]><![CDATA[Looking for women of a certain age...]]>Wed, 13 Jan 2016 01:30:01 GMThttp://www.pinkisforboys.org/blog/looking-for-women-of-a-certain-age​My current project is about how women in American learn to perform femininity and how they define it for themselves from childhood to the brink of old age. If you are a woman born in 1949 (or graduated from high school in 1967) and willing to share your experiences in a private Facebook group, contact me.

    Tell me more about the women of 1949

<![CDATA[remember cotton plaid school dresses?]]>Tue, 12 Jan 2016 14:41:57 GMThttp://www.pinkisforboys.org/blog/remember-cotton-plaid-school-dresses
That's me, age 6, enjoying the slide in North Platte, Nebraska in 1955. This was a school dress, but I may have also worn it to church. (Cody Park was a favorite after-church destination for our family.) I had several similar plaid cotton dresses with white collars, in shades of dark blue, dark green, and red. The Sears has a similar style (1955 Fall catalog, below). I never owned any of the girlier styles on the page -- no "full circle" skirts or ruffled dresses. 
​Looking through my old photos raises some questions about the origins of my personal sense of style. My mother chose or made most of my school clothes, and I don't recall having much say about them until later elementary school (probably fifth or sixth grade). I am not sure why she didn't pick pastels, or why my clothes were so tailored, but it probably had to do with her taste as well as her perception of me. 
<![CDATA[ANYONE can ... and should ... wear skirts]]>Tue, 05 Jan 2016 16:29:04 GMThttp://www.pinkisforboys.org/blog/anyone-can-and-should-wear-skirtsJaden Smith is in the news again for modelling a skirt in a Louis Vuitton ad. They've worn skirts before, but I won't bother with the links and references because Google exists for a reason. I am assuming they will again, and hope that the day will come that it won't be news.
Aside: Yes, I meant THEY. We have been using "you" for singular and plural for how long? (Except for "y'all", which is also blessedly neutral.) So IMHO, a neutral third person is long overdue.
 (Men used to wear skirts/dresses/robes all the time, nearly everywhere. (Except in cultures where they wore trousers, and in those cultures women often wore trousers, too.) Kilts, tunics, houppelandes, gowns, cassocks -- call them what you will, but they were all skirts in one form or another. Agamemnon. Alexander the Great. Jesus of Nazareth. Julius Caesar. Charlemagne. Jamie Fraser. (Okay, he's not real, but didn't he look fine in a skirt?) Skirt-wearing dudes for millennia.

People should wear skirts -- and/or trousers -- when they need or want to wear them. I am a trousers-in-cold-weather, skirts-in-hot-weather sort of person. I do break that rule, of course, because it is NOT A RULE, just a pattern. 

The next question should be whether or not everyone who wears a skirt needs to shave their legs. (I vote no.)

<![CDATA[Yes, I saw the Pantone thing.]]>Thu, 03 Dec 2015 20:37:24 GMThttp://www.pinkisforboys.org/blog/yes-i-saw-the-pantene-thingKill me now.
<![CDATA[Buttons, Babies, and Swords, Oh My!]]>Sat, 28 Nov 2015 15:13:41 GMThttp://www.pinkisforboys.org/blog/buttons-babies-and-swords-oh-myCultural history is rife with folklore. Popular origin stories make the rounds on a regular basis, amusing readers and tormenting cultural historians with charming, simple tales of how It All Started. The latest to pollute my timeline is a Smithsonian article about why men's and women's clothes button differently.
It's one thing when the subject pops up on Quora or a thread on Snopes, but both Atlantic.com and Smithsonian.com have featured articles about buttoning in the last year. The one thing they have in common is a summary of other similar speculative articles, none based on primary research by real costume historians (they do exist).
So, in an effort to counter some of the fanciful explanations making the rounds, here is the opinion of a costume historian who decided to do some RESEARCH to test some of them. (Full post is here and worth reading, especially if you are a journalist thinking of pitching this lame idea to some hapless editor.)
Until the late 18th century, buttons are rare on women's dress. In the few earlier pictures, the direction often can't be determined. At least I've found one 14th century example where the buttons seem to sit in the right-hand edge (i.e. the "male" side), and two ditto examples from the 17th century. In the late 18th century, we find buttons on female dress relatively often, e.g. on comperes, jackets and redingote dresses. In every case, the buttons sit on the right side. In the 1830s, buttons are rare on women's clothes and evenly distributed between right and left, then nothing until the 1850s. During the 1850s, left sligthtly outweighs right. From the late 1860s on, buttons are quite common on women's dress - all left.
So the changeover from "mostly right" to "mostly left" must have taken place between 1810 and 1860, with nothing definitely decided yet until 1860. Since the middle of the 18th century, the production of women's clothes was largely in the hands of female artisans - would they have taken part in a scam that degrades women as in the second theory? And if they did, why did they stick with the "male" right-side buttoning for over 50 years? Maids did exist in the 18th century as mich as they did later, so why did it take 100 years until the buttoning was switched (according to the first theory) for their sake? Why should anyone do anything for the sake of the servants, anyway? Moreover, in the 17th and 18th century, there should have been as many men who had a manservant as there were ladies who had a maid. With the many buttons on the waistcoats and coats of the time - the closing of the lower ones required the wearer to bend -, one should assume that men, too, had help for dressing. If the buttoning was switched for the sake of the servants, why was it done for the maids, who may have had to close a few buttons every now and then, but not for the manservants, who had to close dozens of buttons every day for sure?
Finally, the author speculates (and helpfully labels it as theory).
This leads me to a completely new* theory: Since female clothing took on more and more features of male clothing in order to express emancipation (a process that, I'd like to point out, most contemporaries were not aware of), it became necessary to establish a feature that signalled that an item of clothing was, despite its male appearance, nevertheless female. Otherwise someone could be led to believe that the lady wore a man's coat, a man's shirt etc., and use that as a a moral handhold against her since wearing the clothing of the opposite sex was immoral. The closer female clothing got to male clothing, the more important the "little difference" of buttoning became. At the end of the 20th century, the buttoning was often the only thing that differentiated a female blouse from a male shirt.
My personal theory, therefore, is that the right-left-differentiation is a result of the gradual approximation of female and male dress and the resulting necessity of distinction.
To which I append my own, rather boring modification. If the author's sense of the timing of this is correct (and it seems good to me, based on my own knowledge of 19th and early 20th century clothing), then there may be a very practical reason for the difference. Having a clear distinction between male and female versions of the same garment (shirts, for example) that was visible even when they were folded would have been very helpful for people  who had to package, stock, and display them. I have done no research on the question, nor do I intend to.

I am much more interested in why these origin myths about gender differences are so persistent.
<![CDATA[Sneak Preview of "Age Appropriate"]]>Wed, 18 Nov 2015 16:54:43 GMThttp://www.pinkisforboys.org/blog/sneak-preview-of-age-appropriateI know it has been quiet here. Forgive me. Besides the usual day job distractions, I have a new role as undergraduate director in my department. Thankfully, it is temporary; I am just filling in for a colleague who is on leave. But it not only eats into my writing time, it also shatters my attention into tiny splinters. I can get little things done, but the big things tend to drift.

While I have not been writing, I have been reading and thinking. The "Age Appropriate" book is taking shape and there are now little sprouts of organization. By spring, I hope to have a proposal and a couple of chapters ready to share with my publisher, with full-time writing to commence over the summer. (Autumn promises a sabbatical leave and a true descent into the writing rabbit hole.)

At any rate, here are the little chapter seedlings. They already have roots -- articles, books, and media that inform them. Would love to hear your thoughts about this direction.
<![CDATA[Was pink once a boys color?]]>Thu, 27 Aug 2015 18:30:58 GMThttp://www.pinkisforboys.org/blog/was-pink-once-a-boys-colorI get quite a few questions something like this:




The short answer is "not quite". Yes, boys used to wear pink, and there were even places in Europe (Belgium, for example) that reversed the gendered use of pink and blue. But it was never as universally considered a "boy color" in the way that pink has been a "girl color" since the mid-1980s. I use that date because as late as the 1970s it was possible to find places in the US where pink was either used for boys or used along with blue as "baby colors" in a neutral way.

Consider this note found in a documentation file I was cleaning today:
<![CDATA["Masculine" and "Feminine": Descriptive or lazy?]]>Tue, 25 Aug 2015 21:16:57 GMThttp://www.pinkisforboys.org/blog/masculine-and-feminine-descriptive-or-lazy
Bless Pam Keuber over at retro renovation.  She boldly posted an open thread discussion of the question that has been cooking in my brain for months, if not years:

Should we use the terms “feminine” and “masculine” to describe decorating styles?

Or clothing, for that matter? Or personality traits? "Masculine" and "feminine" are sort of passive descriptors, which don't actually tell you anything about how something looks, but point to cultural stereotypes. In my opinion, "urban", "tribal" and "exotic" are used in similar ways. In order to "get" the meaning of the word, you have to be familiar with the cultural reference. (If your brain translated those to into stereotyped images of African Americans, sub-Saharan African design or Southeast Asians, congratulations! Your consumer culture wiring is working as media producers and marketers hoped it would!)

As my research on the history of pink symbolism shows, pink is only "feminine" in a specific recent cultural context. The same is true of nearly all of the details we think of as "girly". To use "feminine" to describe something as "pink" or "elaborately decorative" is meaningful only in that narrow context. But beyond that context, it is not a terribly useful word. Describing both the boy and the girl in the paintings below as "feminine" is lazy (not to mention historically inaccurate). 
"The Pink Boy", Thomas Gainsborough, 1782
"Pinkie", Sir Thomas Lawrence, 1794

This is not political and it certainly isn't "politically correct". It's two things I care deeply about: good writing and placing individual differences over categorical differences. If your son is reading two years above grade level, would you want to see him placed in a special boys' reading group because "boys don't read as well as girls"? Hell, no! Should your daughter automatically get the princess toothbrush at the dentist instead of the one with the rocket ship because "most girls like princesses"? Again, no. Does your son's reading ability make him feminine? Is your daughter's love of space science "mannish"? No, no, no, NO! Is Serena William's body "masculine"? Don't even go there.

So don't be lazy. Use your active adjectives! 

Instead of "masculine", try tailored, functional. or understated. If by "feminine", you mean delicate, ruffled, or pastel, just say so!