Despite the explosion in categories of gender and sexuality, it makes me sad when I read of the difficulties that young people can still have when they fail to fit their particularly allotted stereotype.
I don’t have many gender issues – I’m sure I’m not the only woman who feels that she is in drag when she dresses up to go to a wedding but I’m fairly happy in my skin, albeit a bit baggy, and I’ve never really been convinced that being born female has held me back — I’m still a tomboy but more often than not I’ve had more pressing problems than the trappings of gender. I’m just relieved to have been born in my time and place and to have had the privilege of a career and a house full of children.
In the early days I rather enjoyed being a novelty – for that is all I was — an ostensibly normal woman (looking quite young) practising a traditionally male profession reasonably competently – not some sort of child prodigy or weird intersex.
I think I’m saying that not fitting a stereotype should be a pleasure and not an unavoidable burden, laced with self-doubt and loathing, but the pressure to conform may be getting greater with all the gender crap (this is a medical term) that bombards us daily.
My understanding of sexual attraction is that it is mainly related to features associated with fitness to breed but women’s magazines project anorexic models as the norm — women who surely never ovulate naturally. I used to think that fashion photographers must all be gay (perhaps they are) and were promoting an android and defeminised image of women to gratify their own sensibilities — you really do wonder who their target audience is. The adolescent boyish look has given way to pale childlike look so that you wonder about the demographic of the person who finds it attractive — the paedophile or the necrophile? What is going on here – is the heroin-addict look really so attractive in a woman?
Image is all. The normal woman promoted in the media is still seriously under weight but now almost universally has large, firm and strangely inappropriate bosoms–
— it was a novelty on Strictly Come Dancing to spot a single pair of small, normally jiggling breasts, ones that might, sometime in the future, actually lactate! The owner would be mortified.
Fourteen year old boys display their abs on Facebook and will soon be complaining about their short stature due to premature fusion of their long-bone ends and acne caused by their anabolic food supplements.
Buying clothes for teenage girls was never easy – the wrangle over school shoes, and it’s no comfort, when years later they proudly display their bunions, to say ‘I told you so!’
I worry about the sexualised wardrobe of many very young girls –Boob-tubes and Cuban heels for six-year olds, not to mention lewd and provocative statements emblazoned across their chests. I worry about what this says about these innocents to men of more traditional cultures. Fourteen year old girls may run rings around boys of their own age and culture but they are still innocents in the real world.
A woman in her twenties with a normal Body Mass Index ( not media-skinny or food-industry-obese) who chooses not to wear sexualised clothes is not weird or threatening. She is normal by her own parameters and probably a lot more healthy and sexually attractive ( fit to breed!) than the Barbie doll look-alikes that our image-makers and advertisers foist upon us.
This Christmas I had great difficulty selecting a gift from a local supermarket for a two year old – to my surprise, the shop had two sections for this age group – one, camouflaged, for little boys with rockets and guns and action men and construction sets with pictures of little boys building bridges with their Dads ( so they must have been taken on a Wednesday or an alternate week-end). In the fluorescent pink, girl’s department, there were tea sets and pots and pans, little plastic microwaves that pinged, ovens and kitchens, severed plastic heads to make-up, Barbies and little princesses with tiara’s. I felt ill.
I know I really just needed to find a better, independent toy-shop. Time was short and the only safe gift for any child, it seemed, was a cuddly creature, a zoo or a farm – but even the dinosaurs had been castrated! What gender confusion will that create in our two-year-old’s psyche?
Thanks to David for his image of Joan of Arc from Meridan Hill (Malcolm X) Park (CC DY 4.0)