“There’s a doggy! What does a doggy say? She says woof woof!”
Why does it still seem, in 2013, that male is the default and female is the other? It’s so insidious we don’t even notice most of the time. But usually, when we see an animal at the zoo, it’s a “he.” When we talk about a driver, or a pilot, or any other unseen person, it’s automatically a “he.” Last year at the UO rec center I remember seeing see a gigantic poster showing the muscles of the ‘human’ body. Right next to it, almost as an afterthought, was a much smaller poster showing the same of the female body. Come ON.
Just wander down a baby aisle at Target and look at all the animals. The gender neutral stuff is eerily similar to the boy stuff. For a monkey or a bear or a frog to be intended for girls, however, it must be sporting a pink bow and giant eyelashes or a purse. It’s either a girl monkey, or just a monkey.
I know I’ve stumbled into a huge issue here, one I have thought and read a lot about, and one which others have written extensively about much more eloquently than I will. Some will say I’m being too sensitive. But after much thought, I have to say I’m not. I’m really, really not. Because a monkey wearing a pink bow vs. not is sadly just the beginning of the crazy gendered messages that Evie will have to deal with pretty soon.
She’s going to have quite enough Patriarchal Bullshit thrown her way in her lifetime, and I’m damn well going to do my small part to counteract it.
When someone mistook her for a boy in her brown monkey outfit with no bows, there was no annoyance or frustration on my part. Instead, I was excited to have an opportunity to make someone think for half a second about why they assumed she was a boy – clearly it was the lack of pink. It’s not like she was even wearing a little blue construction worker onesie or anything. She was just dressed as a monkey.
I sincerely hope my daughter will grow up in a country where women are paid the same amount as men and are trusted to make their own healthcare decisions – frankly it’s embarrassing that we’re not there yet. But for now, sometimes I dress her like a monkey in an outfit that I got from the boys’ section. When we see or read about a new animal, it’s a ‘she’ (ok, if a lion has a mane, it’s a ‘he’). For every time I tell her how beautiful she is (because omg, she really is) I also tell her how smart and strong and funny and brave she is. And if she grows up to love sparkly pink princess dresses, fine – as long as it’s because they truly make her happy, and not because that’s what’s been foisted upon her.
I’m not expecting to change the world here, but maybe to expand my little part of it and the minds of the people who love Evie.
And YES, she’s only 4 months old. But raising a little feminist to buck society’s gender norm expectations and think for herself? That shit has to start early.