Another Example of Constructing Gender

23 11 2010

As a scholar who examines gender in the context of sport I’m always interested in the ways the media arbitrarily construct gender–meaning the images we see in the media tell “us” what it means to be a girl or boy, and what is appropriately feminine and masculine.

I have a long disdain for the “pink-ifying” of girls and the non-stop Princess narrative which bombards girls from the youngest ages. I’ve followed the blog PinkStinks for awhile and love their content. PinkStinks is a campaign and social enterprise that challenges the ‘culture of pink’ which invades every area of girls’ lives. A friend and colleague recently sent me this picture which depicts the dichotomous nature of how gender is constructed in the media. Her rhetorical question to me was: Why does it have to be “versus’ and not ‘and’? Can’t a girl be both a princess AND and tomboy?

According to Star, Girl Princesses wear bling and like to be pampered, while it is unladylike to be violent, wear clothes associated with boys, and have an interest in dead things. My point here is: Who got to decide these behaviors are appropriate or not for girls? Is this really newsworthy? (I suppose you could argue Star really isn’t news)

What message does this send young girls? We need more Princess Free Zones (PFZ) that allow girls the freedom to express all parts of who they are and want to be without sanction from society, peers, and parents. I would also argue the behaviors for what is means to be a boy should be more inclusive and broadened. Here is a Anti-Princess Reading List.

I would argue sport has the potential to be a great PFZ, but only if coaches and parents allow free expressions of gender and resist using stereotyping language that reinforces outdated gender dichotomies.

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5 responses

23 11 2010
Erika @ Dr.TriRunner

As an athletic young woman who always chose the Hot Wheels in the Happy Meal, took ballet and did gymnastics for ten years, changes my own tires, and feels as comfortable in the squat rack as I do in Nordstrom’s Rack… seeing magazine covers like this is *frustrating*. It’s exactly what you said – why does it have to be “versus” and not “and”??

It’s that black and white thinking that discourages kids from trying different activities and just following their heart. Whether it’s through sport or not, I seriously hope more and more parents can encourage their kids to follow their hearts, whether that’s dance or hockey, male or female.

23 11 2010
Sam

Spot on. Although I was appalled to hear that some behaviours that I would personally encourage in my kids could be considered symptoms of Gender Identity Disorder as defined in the DSM IV.

We are now diagnosing kids as mentally ill if they do not conform to an identity that we socially constructed in the first place. How is that fair?

24 11 2010
nmlavoi

Sam,
This concerns me as well! A LOT. -nml

24 11 2010
Janis Meredith

I want my daughters, who are both athletes, to feel free to wear whatever the heck color and style they want. If it’s pink they love, so be it…if it’s camo, so be it. It’s what is inside their hearts that really matters anyway.

24 11 2010
nmlavoi

Janis,
I couldn’t agree more! -nml

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