Sweden Receives Its First Gender-Neutral Changing Room

transgenderAn LGBTQ organization at a school in Stockholm made headlines as they lobbied for and received an LGBTQ changing room, or a gender-neutral changing room, at their school. Two of the spokespeople for the organization said that they wanted a changing room for individuals who identify as LGBTQ. Last week the school held a ceremony celebrating the very first gender-neutral changing room in the nation.

We believe that this is a step in the right direction since there need to be spaces for LGBTQ individuals where they can feel safe and have access to accommodations that does not force them into stereotypical gender categories, or the categories of simply female or male.

At the same time, there is a lack of understanding of the LGBTQ community, as was demonstrated in discussions surrounding the opening of the gender neutral changing room. Rather than focusing on violence against LGBTQ individuals and their need for safe spaces the person who covered the story wondered how safe it would be to have both men and women change in the same room. The interviewer seems to assume that in an LGBTQ changing room the categories of male and female still rigidly apply, without being aware of the fact that many people within the LGBTQ community do not simply identify as male or female.   [Read more...]

Feminist Book List

Now that we are celebrating women’s history month we wanted to acknowledge and share some great books on different feminist related topics.

The Disability Rights Movement: From Charity to Confrontation (Updated Edition) Doris Zames Fleischer and Frieda Zames

This is a great book that discusses disability rights activism over the last few decades and describes the struggles of disabled individuals and their fights to gain access to a number of institutes and buildings. The Disability Rights Movement is at times truly disturbing and effectively highlights discrimination and prejudice.

Pray The Gay Away – The Extraordinary Lives of Bible Belt Gays – Bernadette Barton

Pray The Gay Away is an amazing book which critically discusses the impact of homophobia on the lives of homosexual individuals. Bernadette Barton has interviewed gay men and women across the Bible Belt and shows how devastating homophobia is on the well being of homosexual individuals. Pray The Gay Away is very critical of homophobia and the role that religious beliefs and Christianity play in the treatment of homosexual people.

Let’s Talk About Sex: Histories of Sexuality in Australia from Federation to the Pill – Lisa Featherstone

Featherstone traces the history of Australian sexuality from the “start of the new Australian nation in 1901” to when the pill came out  in Australia (in 1961). As such, Featherstone touches on the issues of gender, ethnicity, marriage, women’s reproductive rights, and just about everything surrounding sexuality in Australia. The book can at times be rather sexually graphic and detailed, but it is a very interesting read.

The Richer Sex: How the new majority of female breadwinners is transforming sex, love, and family – Liza Mundy

According to Mundy, the percentage of female breadwinners and stay at home dads is on the rise. Therefore, the changing nature of breadwinning brings about fundamental changes in the gender structure, with “role”switching occurring more often than before. Mundy uses research from the past decades to discuss female breadwinning. Even though we do not necessarily agree with everything Mundy says, the book is an interesting account of women’s changing roles.

When Mars Women Date – Paulette Kouffman Sherman

Even though we are not big into dating books, When Mars Women Date is quite different. It questions and takes a critical look at gender stereotypes and dating tips that are often aimed at women. Paulette Kouffman Sherman writes that: “These dating rules proposed by female authors include things like telling women not to talk too much, not to return a man’s calls or ask him out, only to see him twice a week, not to have sex too early, not to go dutch on dates, to ignore your dates and seem disinterested, never to be overweight, to always wear makeup”. (p. 36). The book is refreshing because it tells women that they do not need to “act” in order to find a good partner and that men do like strong, independent and successful women.

Mr. CEO and the Female Secretary

Gender stereotypes are everywhere, and they are enforced on children perhaps more often than adults. In many ways, this notion is biologically driven and assumes that boys and girls are different, and that this distinction has little to do with child-rearing and cultural assumptions about gender. Boys are often viewed as more driven, aggressive, and dominant, whereas girls are deemed more passive, nurturing, and sensitive.

Emily Kane, author of The Gender Trap: Parents and the Pitfalls of Raising Boys and Girls, found that depending on the anticipations parents had about gender (gender being biologically driven or socially constructed, as well as views in between), they either reinforced or contested traditional gender beliefs. Some parents who stated that their daughter was naturally more calm and passive reinforced such behavior more in girls than boys, by telling their daughter to either be still or be quiet. Girls were also more likely than boys to be reprimanded for being rowdy. Therefore, many girls were told at a young age to be calmer, quieter, and passive, even though parents attributed these traits to biological differences between girls and boys. At the same time, many boys indicated to their parents that they wanted to wear colors more commonly associated with girls, or play with Barbie dolls. Depending on the parent’s views about gender, these activities were either prohibited or encouraged. Therefore, parents’ cultural and biological beliefs about gender help maintain or challenge current gender roles. Kane concludes, “With concerted effort, we can reduce the force of the gender trap and open up the possibility of a better, less constrained, and more equitable world for our children and for ourselves.”

[Read more...]

What to Give Her, What to Buy for Him!

Gift giving can be tricky. And if you believe in the polarization of gender and biological determinism, be aware that you need to stick to highly feminine and masculine gifts that reinforce the belief in the segregation of women and men.

Red Envelope has a whole section of gifts for her, and for him. Subcategories for women (that are not included in the men’s section and vice versa) consist of “cooking and baking,” “flowers and plants,” and “gardening.” Subcategories for men include “sports” and “electronics and gadgets,” as well as “watches” (there’s a clear distinction between a watch and a piece of jewelry, right?) Some categories are similar, but assumed gender preferences are included. For example, for women there is a section called “for the home,” but for men this similar section is called “home & office.” For women, there is also a section titled “bar & wine”; the same section exists for men, with the addition of cigars. See, this is helpful because we would not want women smoking cigars in their offices and men to dirty their jewelry in the garden.

[Read more...]

The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same

As mentioned in previous posts, I have been cleaning out my garage and came across a wide selection of National Geographic magazines. As also mentioned before, I am very interested in how women and men (as well as girls and boys) are portrayed in the media. Therefore I have been looking through some of the magazines and found interesting examples of gender roles, stereotypes and gendered expectations.

As many of the magazines are from the 1950s to about 1980s, they may seem irrelevant, outdated and not so significant when discussing today’s issues. But it is interesting how much things can change, yet still stay the same. Take for example women’s portrayed roles in advertisements, something I am very passionate about. To summarize overall research; women are portrayed in more roles outside the home now than previously (including positions of power), but the sexual objectification of women in advertisement is also greater now (and more explicit) than it has ever been before. Basically, women are now “allowed” greater freedom in terms of life choices, but at the price of relentless sexual objectification.  [Read more...]

I Want to Be a Princess

I feel that everywhere I turn I see young girls dressed in pink from top to bottom, sporting tutus and idolizing Disney princesses. Walk into any department store and you find clothes targeting the princess frenzy. One minute I hear surprised adults marvel over their child’s fascination with princesses while the next they refer to their daughter as a princess and buying her every pastel colored item with a princess face on it. As “pretty” as princesses might be, they are typically not very independent. And how can they be? They are expected to wear ridiculous dresses, tiaras and glass shoes while waiting in patience for Prince Charming to rescue them. Once professing their love, they marry the next day, have children (approximately) nine months later and live happily ever after. My parents never referred to me as a princess and I never thought I was one either, so I never dressed like one, or acted “like a princess”. So is the fascination with being a princess inherent in female biology or are little girls encouraged to be princesses? Personally, I believe the latter. I also believe that we have a tendency to displace our wants, needs and beliefs onto our children, ignoring the influence we have over them, while stating that they have the free will to do as they please.

What are the consequences when we treat, dress and expect little girls to be princesses? We teach them to act like a princess should. When I worked with children aged 3 to 5, I regularly noticed the limitations of the princess-child. First, we have limitation of movement. As girls came to school in skirts, dresses, heels (yes heels) and flip-flops, they were unable to play, move and do other things that the boys regularly could. The girls wanted to, but they often got hurt. One girl kept tripping in her heels, so she was sent inside to play. Another girl kept falling and getting hurt because she could not run in her flip-flops. She was also encouraged to be inactive and to go inside.

Second, we have the policing of girl’s bodies. Young girls tend to be unaware that they often show their underwear when wearing skirts and dresses (especially during circle time). They are constantly told to not “spread their legs” but instead cross their legs, or fold their legs while they sit. Not only are we telling young girls that they need to be aware of how they portray their bodies in ways that we are not policing boys. The girls is told that she is “so cute” and that her dress “is adorable”, but at the same time, she is told that she needs to hide her body, be aware of how she portrays herself and inadvertently, “take up less space”. Remember to be feminine and small.

Girls who do not dress like princesses often have to endure policing of their clothing and accessories by other girls. Even though none of the girls I worked with were older than five, they were very knowledgeable about certain brands, and what acceptable clothing looked like. I doubt this is knowledge innate to being a little girl. I understand that our consumer culture and societal pressures of fitting in also influence what girls’ want to wear, and what they feel they “need” in order to fit in. At the same time, parents are the mediators between young children and society, and children cannot acquire items without the help of parents.


Photo uploaded by Flickr user John-Morgan and is shared under a creative commons license.

Friday News Roundup

A random hodge-podge of articles for you this week.

Celebrate Margaret Sanger’s Birthday – Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona
Margaret Sanger in Tucson: The Golden Years – Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona
10 Gender Stereotypes That Scientists Love – MCC.com
Dr. Tiller Works in the World – I Am Dr. Tiller
New York Abortion Access Fund Needs Your Help – Radical Doula
We Will Keep Our Clinics Open – Abortioneers

Big Boys Don’t Cry: Gender Stereotyping & Sonia Sotomayor

ap_sotomayor_090528_mnNPR ran a story on Monday that just made me cringe. Apparently, some lawyers think that Sonia Sotomayor is “a bully.” Boo hoo, cry me a river. Sometimes it’s hard to believe we’re living in the 21st Century when stereotypes like this are so pervasive. Here’s a direct quote from the NPR story:

“I just don’t like bully judges,” Graham says. “There are some judges that have an edge, that do not wear the robe well. I don’t like that. From what I can tell of her temperament and demeanor, she seems to be a very nice person. [Supreme Court Justice Antonin] Scalia is no shrinking violet. He’s tough, but there’s a difference between being tough and a bully.”

Let’s just be honest and say what’s really being said here – The difference between Justice Scalia and Sonia Sotomayor is gender. It’s considered admirable for a man to be aggressive in court, but a woman who behaves in the same fashion is a bitch or a bully. Fortunately, NPR called Senator Lindsay Graham out on it: [Read more...]