Not sure what Facebook's nipple police will think, but I love it!
Although I have been buried in copy edits, the latest media explosion about a transgender child has been a hard story to ignore. Here is the video about 7-year-old Ryland Whittington, which has gone viral:
Here is a very short article about them posted to the "Good Morning, America" website. And here is one of the many (many) negative, judgemental reactions to the video and their story.
One of my (very astute) former students nudged me on Twitter, wondering about my stake on the story. As I am fond of pointing out, I am a historian, not a psychologist. I am going to take the lazy way out and post a long quote from the last chapter of my book.
So what's all this about a second book? Yes, I am about halfway through the copy edits on my second book on gender and clothing, which means you can expect to be able to pre-order it from Indiana University Press sometime this fall.
Sex and Unisex: Fashion, Feminism and the Sexual Revolution grew out of the last two chapters of Pink and Blue, particularly the one on unisex clothing of the late sixties through the mid-1980s. I was puzzled by how that period seemed to be headed in one direction, but then suddenly reversed course. In 1970, designer Rudi Gernreich was predicting miniskirts and caftans for everyone, and a futurist author was declaring the death of the gray flannel suit. But by 1980, preppy was all the rage and not only were men still wearing suits, but women were wearing them as well.
My research began there, and led me in what seemed like a hundred different directions. Eventually, I ended up considering the present, because so much of our current cultural landscape is unfinished business from the 1970s. Along the way, there are chapters on
It was great fun to research, and more than a little confusing to write, and I am looking forward to the reaction when it comes out later this year!
There's been quite of bit of back-and-forth about pink lately, Researcher Rebecca Hains summarizes it very neatly:
“What’s the problem with pink, anyway?” griped Yael Kohen in New York. Then, building upon Kohen’s piece, Slate senior editor Allison Benedikt demanded: ”What is it with you moms of girls? I have never met a single one of you who isn’t tortured about pink and princesses.”
Over at Pigtail Palls, Melissa Wardy lays out the counterargument:
There is a difference between being anti-pink and being anti-limitation, and as someone who educates thousands of parents every week on this issue I feel most parents fall into the second camp. We are not anti-pink. We are anti-limitation.
Anyone who studies -- and critiques -- gender distinctions can expect to be accused of one of two things:
Countering the first assertion is a matter of evidence, both scientific and cultural. Biological sex is not either-or. There are as many variations on gender codes as there are cultures in human history. Of course, like other modern controversies, from climate change to vaccination, evidence can not sway the committed unbeliever. My research is aimed at the persuadable reader, and at the embattled advocates for gender equality and acceptance who need the ammunition.
The second accusation is more problematic. People who espouse this view often claim to embrace a more inclusive and accepting view of gender variations. They want their boys to be free to be artists and their girls to be engineers. But gosh-darn-it all this fuss about pink is so TRIVIAL!
Here is where I will take the liberty of substituting "pinkification" for "pink", because it isn't about the color pink itself, but about the cultural pattern of offering children a strongly stereotypical version of gender. Pinkification is what I will call this pattern. Here's why it isn't trivial:
Happy Proofreading Citations Day! The final book manuscript is nearly ready to ship to IU Press, and I am tackling the very last task today: checking all of my citations for accuracy and format.
To celebrate, I'm posting a video shared by reader Amanda. It's about musician George Leonard/Georgie Porgie the plaintiff in one of the earliest long hair cases in the 1960s. (See my original post about him.) He is still working, and still rocking the long hair. In the immortal words of Frank Zappa, "Who cares if hair is long or short or sprayed or partly grayed? We know that hair ain't where it's at." Indeed.
Google "Why do girls wear pink" and you will immediately see that it is a popular question. Thirty years ago, I started looking for the answer and a few years back -- thanks to Peggy Orenstein, Kate Rowold, and the wonderful folks at Indiana University Press -- the result was my first book. I was kinda hoping that if I answered the question things would get better.
They have. There are lots of really smart, determined people out there who are challenging rigid, stereotyped marketing of clothing and toys for kids.
This next book -- Sex and Unisex -- is an answer to questions no one is asking. Well, I am, obviously. For sometime I have been wondering how a bunch of wild and crazy teenagers ended up igniting fifty years of culture wars, when all they really wanted was love, sweet love.
First, a quick apology. It's been a long, long time since I last posted. The semester swallowed me up pretty quickly after I finished the book draft. But now I am back and will be posting more regularly.
It's a rare occasion when someone throws a birthday party for a dress. But in the case of Diane Von Furstenberg's 1974 wrap dress, it is well-deserved. The adjective "iconic" is abused and overused, but certainly appropriate in this case.
The DVF wrap dress was influential because it was not just great design, it was also perfectly timed, . Women’s fashions were acquiring a vintage sensuality, propelled by nostalgia for the 1930s in popular culture and design. I believe that Von Furstenberg also found the elusive "sweet spot" between clothing that was flattering and empowering.
With the first draft of Book 2 (Sex and Unisex) complete, I want to take a few minutes to express my gratitude. Karin Bohleke of the Fashion Archives and Museum at Shippensburg (PA) University let me spend two days looking for images, and has been sending additional lagniappes all summer. My Facebook and Twitter communities have been supportive and generous with comments and encouragement. None has been more of a champ than Eliza, a sister in microbrew love who offered to read the (very rough) draft and contributed valuable comments, questions and corrections. My friends and family in real life have been patient beyond belief, given that my writing mode is pretty antisocial. (Special shoutout to Jim, Katie, MaryBeth and Sandy, the stalwarts of the Franklin's Regulars). The folks at Indiana University Press are awesome, full stop. Every author should be so lucky as to work with such pros.
I also want to thank the software wizards behind the tools that make my writing life a joy. I would be completely lost without Scrivener, Index Card and Zotero. No lie.
The draft heads to IUPress and out for review. In a few months, I'll get reviewers' comments and revise the draft. Hopefully, Sex and Unisex will be out in early 2015. In the meantime, watch this space for more posts about gender and appearance, ranging from news items to snippets that were left out of books 1 and 2 to previews of Book 3 (oh yes!). The working title is Age Appropriate, and it will be about how women over 50 deal with gendered cultural expectations. Stick with me!
This is an absolutely fantastic analysis of "unisex" garments on the American Apparel website by Swedish blogger Emilie Frida Eriksson. She compares the photos of men and women in several different button-down shirts (Warning! NSFW!) and concludes, "No. I think I’ll give this shirt a miss. Cos I kinda think I want to wear pants with it."
Unisex is ungendered on sexually ambiguous bodies in ungendered poses. Outside of those limits, it can be damn sexy!
(Great idea for a book, don't you think?)