Archive for August, 2012
Not getting a forward delivery for your mail when you move can have tragic consequences as this Swedish ad reminds us. Like missing out on a happy life with the hit guy you once met in Paris…
The text reads “Today Kjell lives with Britt-Marie. Don’t miss any important mail. Make sure to get forward delivery when you move." (Found on reddit)
The night before Susan and Rob allowed their son to go to preschool in a dress, they sent an e-mail to parents of his classmates. Alex, they wrote, “has been gender-fluid for as long as we can remember, and at the moment he is equally passionate about and identified with soccer players and princesses, superheroes and ballerinas (not to mention lava and unicorns, dinosaurs and glitter rainbows).” They explained that Alex had recently become inconsolable about his parents’ ban on wearing dresses beyond dress-up time. After consulting their paediatrician, a psychologist and parents of other gender-nonconforming children, they concluded that “the important thing was to teach him not to be ashamed of who he feels he is.” Thus, the purple-pink-and-yellow-striped dress he would be wearing that next morning. For good measure, their e-mail included a link to information on gender-variant children.
When Alex was 4, he pronounced himself “a boy and a girl,” but in the two years since, he has been fairly clear that he is simply a boy who sometimes likes to dress and play in conventionally feminine ways. Some days at home he wears dresses, paints his fingernails and plays with dolls; other days, he roughhouses, rams his toys together or pretends to be Spider-Man. Even his movements ricochet between parodies of gender: on days he puts on a dress, he is graceful, almost dancerlike, and his sentences rise in pitch at the end. On days he opts for only “boy” wear, he heads off with a little swagger. Of course, had Alex been a girl who sometimes dressed or played in boyish ways, no e-mail to parents would have been necessary; no one would raise an eyebrow at a girl who likes throwing a football or wearing a Spider-Man T-shirt.
There have always been people who defy gender norms. Late-19th-century medical literature described female “inverts” as appallingly straightforward, with a “dislike and sometimes incapacity for needlework” and “an inclination and taste for the sciences”; male inverts were “entirely averse to outdoor games.” By the mid-20th century, doctors were trying “corrective therapy” to extinguish atypical gender behaviors. The goal was preventing children from becoming gay or transgender, a term for those who feel they were born in the wrong body.
Many parents and clinicians now reject corrective therapy, making this the first generation to allow boys to openly play and dress (to varying degrees) in ways previously restricted to girls — to exist in what one psychologist called “that middle space” between traditional boyhood and traditional girlhood. These parents have drawn courage from a burgeoning Internet community of like-minded folk whose sons identify as boys but wear tiaras and tote unicorn backpacks. Even transgender people preserve the traditional binary gender division: born in one and belonging in the other. But the parents of boys in that middle space argue that gender is a spectrum rather than two opposing categories, neither of which any real man or woman precisely fits.
“It might make your world more tidy to have two neat and separate gender possibilities,” one North Carolina mother wrote last year on her blog, “but when you squish out the space between, you do not accurately represent lived reality. More than that, you’re trying to ‘squish out’ my kid.”
The impassioned author of that blog, Pink Is for Boys, is careful to conceal her son’s identity, as were the other parents interviewed for this article. As much as these parents want to nurture and defend what makes their children unique and happy, they also fear it will expose their sons to rejection. Some have switched schools, changed churches and even moved to try to shield their children. That tension between yielding to conformity or encouraging self-expression is felt by parents of any child who differs from the norm. But parents of so-called pink boys feel another layer of anxiety: given how central gender is to identity, they fear the wrong parenting decision could devastate their child’s social or emotional well-being. The fact that there is still substantial disagreement among prominent psychological professionals about whether to squelch unconventional behaviour or support it makes those decisions even more wrenching.
Many of the parents who allow their children to occupy that “middle space” were socially liberal even before they had a pink boy, quick to defend gay rights and women’s equality and to question the confines of traditional masculinity and femininity. But when their sons upend conventional norms, even they feel disoriented. How could my own child’s play — something ordinarily so joyous to watch — stir up such discomfort? And why does it bother me that he wants to wear a dress?
Despite the confident tone of the letter Alex’s parents wrote to the preschool parents, Susan was terrified. She feared Alex’s fascination with femininity would make him a target of bullying, even in the progressive New England town where they live. She felt tortured by statistics that indicated gay and transgender teenagers, either of which she figured Alex might become, were much more likely to take drugs and commit suicide. She began having panic attacks. “The whole thing was vertiginous,” she said. “It’s hard to put a finger on why gender identity makes such a difference to our sense of who a person is, but it does. As a parent, it’s really destabilizing when that’s pulled out from under you. And I worried that if I was having a hard time wrapping my mind around my kid, and I love him more than life itself, then how would the rest of the world react to him?” Read on…
Using the sex appeal of women showing as much skin as you can without getting into trouble is anything but a new concept to the advertisement industry. No matter what they’re trying to sell, it all too often comes with the not-so-subtle promise that naked ladies are somehow involved. The Japanese car company Toyota added a twist to this common plot line by casting a special model many of us adore for their latest ad. But see for yourself in the video below…
Lenore Skenazy wrote this opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal last year.
Last week, the lieutenant governor of Massachusetts, Timothy Murray, noticed smoke coming out of a minivan in his hometown of Worcester. He raced over and pulled out two small children, moments before the van’s tire exploded into flames. At which point, according to the AP account, the kids’ grandmother, who had been driving, nearly punched our hero in the face. Why? Mr. Murray said she told him she thought he might be a kidnapper.
And so it goes these days, when almost any man who has anything to do with a child can find himself suspected of being a creep. I call it "Worst-First" thinking: Gripped by paedophile panic, we jump to the very worst, even least likely, conclusion first. Then we congratulate ourselves for being so vigilant.
Consider the Iowa daycare center where Nichole Adkins works. The one male aide employed there, she told me in an interview, is not allowed to change diapers. "In fact," Ms. Adkins said, "he has been asked to leave the classroom when diapering was happening." Now, a guy turned on by diaper changes has got to be even rarer than a guy turned on by Sponge Bob. But "Worst-First" thinking means suspecting the motives of any man who chooses to work around kids.
Maybe the daycare center felt it had to be extra cautious, to avoid lawsuits. But regular folk are suspicious, too. Last February, a woman followed a man around at a store berating him for clutching a pile of girls’ panties. "I can’t believe this! You’re disgusting. This is a public place, you pervert!" she said—until the guy, who posted about the episode on a website, fished out his ID. He was a clerk restocking the underwear department.
Given the level of distrust, is it any wonder that, as the London Telegraph reported last month, the British Musicians’ Union warned its members they are no longer to touch a child’s fingers, even to position them correctly on the keys? Or that a public pool in Sydney, Australia last fall prohibited boys from changing in the same locker room as the men? (According to the Daily Telegraph in Sydney, the men demanded this, fearing false accusations.)
What’s really ironic about all this emphasis on perverts is that it’s making us think like them. Remember the story that broke right before Christmas? The FBI warned law-enforcement agencies that the new Video Barbie could be used to make kiddie porn. The warning was not intended for the public but it leaked out. TV news celebrated the joy of the season by telling parents that any man nice enough to play dolls with their daughters could really be videotaping "under their little skirts!" as one Fox News reporter said.
This queasy climate is making men think twice about things they used to do unselfconsciously. A friend of mine, Eric Kozak, was working for a while as a courier. Driving around an unfamiliar neighborhood, he says, "I got lost. I saw a couple kids by the side of the road and rolled down my window to ask, ‘Where is such-and-such road?’ They ran off screaming."
Another dad told me about taking his three-year-old to play football in the local park, where he’d help organize the slightly older kids into a game. Over time, one of the kids started to look up to him. "He wanted to stand close to me, wanted approval, Dad stuff, I guess. And because of this whole ‘stranger danger’ mentality, I could sense this sort of wary disapproval from the few other parents at the playground. So I just stopped going."
And that’s not the worst. In England in 2006, BBC News reported the story of a bricklayer who spotted a toddler at the side of the road. As he later testified at a hearing, he didn’t stop to help for fear he’d be accused of trying to abduct her. You know: A man driving around with a little girl in his car? She ended up at a pond and drowned.
We think we’re protecting our kids by treating all men as potential predators. But that’s not a society that’s safe. Just sick.
Ezra Miller was always a pro-equality advocate who talked openly about his “happy ending sleepovers” as a kid and took sexually unorthodox and queer roles like the ones of an adolescent chubby chaser in 2009’s City Island, a gay boy in 2010’s Every Day or the gay brother of Emma Watson in the upcoming The Perks of Being a Wallflower (trailer below) in which he’s the boyfriend of his High School’s quarterback and now we know why he had no problems whatsoever fitting into these roles: Because he is, indeed, queer.