April 14, 2011

J. Crew Gets It Right!

by Kelly Clark

Have you seen the ad that is stirring up such “controversy”?  Jenna, the mom in the ad, feels lucky to have a little boy (about 5-years-old) whose favorite color is pink! She has painted his toenails neon pink and they are clearly enjoying a wonderful loving moment over it.

Hooray for J. Crew for daring to cross gender lines. Strict gender expectations are literally killing our children. How many suicides of bullied LGBT teens, mostly boys, hit the news last fall?  How quickly it seems we forget! These young men killed themselves after they were bullied because their personalities, likes, mannerisms, etc. did not fall along established societal norms for boys and men.  The bullying they endured was a form of peer pressure designed to force them to conform to gendered norms or be ostracized from the community.

The Jenna ad creates the perfect opportunity to ask, “Why do we expect the people to change instead of the norms?” Why can’t boys like pink? For that matter why is pink considered a feminine color? It is simply a color on the color-wheel.  Why can’t boys paint their bodies? Any 5-year-old, boy or girl, has got to think that painting your body is super cool!  Why should only girls be allowed to do it?  It is adults who have been conditioned to assign a gendered meaning to these otherwise human activities.  This week I heard one commentator say that having pink toes will no more define this boys gender identity than her digging in the mud when she was a little girl has defined hers.

The truth is all societal norms are arbitrary.  They change and evolve over time. They are different across cultures. They are different across ages and generations.  They are arbitrarily set by us! Or rather by those with the most social power.  We are living in interesting times. Current clashes over gender norms and LGBT rights reflect the socially powerful feeling the encroachment of those long considered socially weak.  The fact that multi-million dollar J. Crew has jumped into the middle of the pool along with its powerful marketing arm and brand recognition to break away from the dominant societal norm has made the socially powerful very uncomfortable.

So I say again – Hooray for J.Crew!

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December 6, 2010

by Kelly Clark

Roots

Today – a simple examination of the roots of misogyny in the USA.  Please let me know what you think!

The Biblical trope of woman as tempest is woven deep into our psyche.  The story of the first man’s slip into the sinful charms of the first woman has served to forever warn men of the need to keep vigilant in the presence of women while simultaneously suggesting women’s ultimate power over men; for Adam and Eve is as much a story of the power of the tempest as it is about the weakness of the tempted.  No doubt America’s Puritan ancestor’s were well versed in the Bible.  Disciplined reading of the Bible and strict adherence to is warnings and teachings was the glue that held early English settlements together. When one is embarrassed and made to feel weak a natural reaction may be to plot a course that insures never experiencing that feeling again.  Bullies are often born of this formula.  Thus misogyny may be said to be a bullying tactic.

We owe our pioneering spirit to yet another verse from Genesis, “Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the heavens, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”  Early Americans took this quite literally to mean tame the wilds of nature.  This same notion was also applied to people.  Those who seemed to be naturalistic or heathens; those who worshiped Mother Earth and Father Ski, the natives of the Americas and later slaves from Africa were quite literally subdued.  You might not be surprised to learn that women too were among this group that must be controlled. Women were seen as illogical creatures that relied on emotion and intuition. Women’s monthly cycles followed that of the moon thus eternally pegging them to nature, to the earth and her cycles.  This verse also laid out clear expectations for women in God’s plan, they were to be fruitful and multiply. Thus misogyny may be said to be a fascist tactic or one that seeks autocratic and dictatorial control over women.

Contempt, degradation, objectification, and ultimately hate and violence are all means by which to fiercely maintain the social order keeping men in power.  I don’t mean to imply that men have secret meetings quoting Genesis and other Bible verses to each other before nights of raping and pillaging. For the most part, these ideas are so old and so deeply woven into the fabric of who we are as a people, as a nation, that most cannot directly cite these roots. But they are our roots non-the-less and I do mean to imply that we are still playing them out.  How they twist and tangle with our notions of homosexuality and gender identity continue to be the focus of this blog.  Stay tuned.

November 28, 2010

My Hypothesis

by Kelly Clark

I have already shared with you my motivation for starting this blog. This week I share with you my hypothesis – the basic starting point of my exploration of homophobia and misogyny. I am open to the possibility that my reading, observations, writing and discussion with you may reinforce this hypothesis or lead me to completely trash it. Most important to me however, is the journey that I hope we can go on together.

My hypothesis is that as overt negative treatment of women and girls has become politically incorrect gay men and effeminate boys have become a more socially acceptable target of male misogyny.

Please don’t misunderstand me. My hypothesis is in no way meant to imply that we have seen an end to overt misogynist behavior. The fact that 90% of sexual assault victims are women, the vast majority of whom have been victimized by men, is more than proof of that. (The fact that women can and do rape and sexually assault other women is a whole other conversation about female misogyny that we will leave for another time.)

While I would not argue that American women have social power equal to that of American men, we have come a long way.  Thirty years of affirmative action in the workplace has seen women benefit more than any other protected class. In 2009, women made up 46.7% of the labor force and 51.4% of managerial, professional and related positions. Standards of behavior for the co-ed workplace have evolved during this time leading Fortune 500 companies to create zero tolerance policies for sexual harassment.

Decades of domestic violence activism, education and prevention programs have resulted in the criminalization of behaviors that for centuries men assumed they had the right to use against women. Now, some forty years after the first feminist cries about domestic violence, men’s voices have joined the chorus. The male movement to end violence against women includes organizations like Men Stopping Violence and the National Organization for Men Against Sexism, just two of dozens of national and campus based groups that focus men on male aggression toward women.

I would argue that simultaneously, LGBT visibility has increased perhaps to an all time high. Celebrities like Rosie O’Donnell, Ellen DeGeneres, Ricky Martin, Neil Patrick Harris and Cynthia Nixon are famously out of the closet. Television shows Will and Grace and Queer Eye for the Straight Guy have given way to entire cable networks like Logo TV. The LGBT civil rights struggle seems to be nearing a peak with demands for marriage equality, the end of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” hate crime legislation, increased student safety, non-discrimination in employment and housing, and transgender inclusion. People are coming out and declaring their sexual orientation at increasingly younger ages, a phenomenon that we are seeing as young as middle school. Parents of gender variant children are seeking support for children as young as 5 or 6 years old. While LGBT people have always held esteemed positions in society, some openly but most while also being closeted, today we are perhaps now more than ever openly declaring our sexuality and gender identity from where ever we find ourselves – state capitals, hospital operating rooms, elementary school classrooms and even church pulpits.

This increased visibility and new social acceptance on the part of some, has come with a cost. The winter edition of The Intelligence Report, published by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), asserts that hate crimes have and continue to be perpetrated against the LGBT community at rates as much as twice that of any racial minority. Could it be that men who would never engage in such extreme and violent behavior against a woman find it rather easy to be openly homophobic or even hostile and violent toward gay men? Might such men hide behind social and religious acceptance of overt homophobia to unknowingly and some even knowingly act out misogynist socialization?

These and other questions will be my focus on this blog. I invite you to follow me and join in the conversation!

November 28, 2010

My lap top is healthy again!

by Kelly Clark

Dear readers,

I have not been silent on purpose. Soon after posting my first few entries on He Throws Like a Girl, my lap top became ill.  After several weeks of doctor mom doctoring that ultimately didn’t work and a few more weeks shipped off to the lap top doctor, my baby is now healthy and I can get on with blogging!

Thanks for your patience!  Hope these thoughts were worth the wait!

MsKellyCF

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