All clothes are not created equal. While you would think that the only difference between men’s and women’s clothing is the physical appearance of it, that just simply isn’t true. Clothing is meant to be a way to physically represent who we are, a symbol of our fights and struggles, and not a clear divide between the genders. Women’s fashion is held in a different opinion, made of cheaper materials, and is not designed with the needs of women in mind.
One of the first and most harmful ways in which female clothing is unequal is due to the public opinion and mindset of it. The female fashion industry is seen as superficial, and putting an emphasis on the clothing you wear is viewed as vain. And yet, not putting effort into looking the absolute best deems a woman a slacker, lazy, or simply unpretty. Feminist Naomi Wolf once wrote in her book The Beauty Myth that “The way we looked determined our value to society.” Those who dress in female marketed clothing are judged by whether or not they conform to how that garment should look. The public mindset of female clothing is predominately that a woman’s worth is intrinsically and unconsciously linked to her appearance. This is an opinion that is often reinforced by the media that we consume as a culture. How many shows have you seen where the female character spends an inordinate amount of time deciding what to wear? I bet if you stop to think about it, you’ll find yourself surprised by how many there are. But this does not hold true for male’s clothing. With the exception of high end fashion, the men’s fashion world is viewed as more acceptable. GQ, one of the world’s leading men’s fashion companies, claims in an article on the clothing price difference that “Men are thought to approach buying clothes with more pragmatism”. Whereas women’s clothing is viewed as a physical representation of their worth, men’s clothing is just clothing. And that’s not even digging into the issues of dress codes and the way they reflect on the clothing.
Parents tend to try to protect their female children from sexual assault by any means possible, which mostly means limiting their freedom. The same attitude does not tend to apply to male children because many parents feel that male children are stronger and will not be overtaken by female children. Further, they feel as if males will welcome any attention from females, and could not be raped or assaulted in the first place. This creates a double standard in the way that male and female children are raised. This double standard causes differences in the way that males and females are viewed, which cause societal issues in the way that genders are treated. This is especially true if someone is not a Cisgender male or female, in which they might be treated badly because they do not identify as the typical male or female.
This double standard continues into adulthood, where parents are still afraid for their daughters’ safety, but they do not worry so much about their sons’ safety when it comes to sexual assault. I know that when I went to college, I was given so many pink security accessories that I had nowhere to put them all. I had a pink, heart-shaped keychain accessory that when pressed, sounded an ear-shattering alarm. I had pink pepper spray that I had to take off my keychain because I was afraid it would go off in my purse. I had a little black Kubaton, which was a stick that you put on your keychain to use if you got attacked in a parking lot. All of these accessories were gifts from my parents for when I went to college. This isn’t unusual. Girls get pepper spray while boys get condoms.
This is because women are at a higher risk for sexual assault when on college campuses. 11.2% of all students experience it during their time at college. This why women are given rape whistles. Men, on the other hand, are given condoms because this is the time when they are expected to have more sex. Parents understand these two ideas, but they do not seem to link them together. They understand that their daughters are at higher risk of being assaulted, but not that their sons are at higher risk of being a perpetrator. Parents will try to protect their daughters from sexual assault by every method except teaching their children consent, self-control, and empathy. If parents taught their children these things, they could save someone else’s child from sexual assault, which in turn would save their own children.
This cognitive dissonance occurs when parents buy their daughters rape whistles and playfully give their sons condoms. Parents know that rape is statistically higher in college, but they only protect their daughters. They firstly do not understand that the statistic is for both children, but they also do not think that their sons would rape someone. I understand, because most parents know and raise their children from when they were small and innocent and they stay that way in parents’ minds. No parent ever wants to hear that their child committed a crime or hurt someone. No parent wants to believe that. Most of all, no parent wants to think that they were the reason their child hurt someone.
The #MeToo movement is just starting to shed light on how widespread sexual assault and sexual harassment are, and it is a topic that is finally getting some attention. Men and women are now able to tell their stories without being drowned out by those who support the perpetrator. The Harvey Weinstein conviction was a huge win for this movement, and was a step in the right direction in making sure perpetrators get justice. I feel that in past generations parents did not really understand why their children committed crimes like this. The link between these behaviors and how they were raised was unknown or ignored. Consent has only been a popular topic online recently, as many men and women did not understand it. Many people did not understand the difference between a consensual sexual encounter and sexual assault, which is terrifying.
Because consent is a new topic, many parents of college-aged adults or older did not have the chance to teach their kids about it. They may not have thought they needed to teach the concept, so their kids never learned it. Parents that are raising children now need to make consent a part of the sex talk. Make it a huge part of the sex talk. (We also need to expand sex education to make it comprehensive in order to take into account all parts of the spectrum and all -or most- situations, but that’s a whole other post.) The way that we can reduce these horrible statistics is to educate our children and other adults on topics like these. The future generation will be better for it and treat each other more considerately.
When I walk into nearly any store, I can’t help but gravitate towards the toy section. This may be because I am an aunt of two adorable kids whom I love to spoil, and it may also be because I am very in touch with my inner child. But when I step into that laughter filled area, I see a clear divide between what toys are deemed suitable for girls and which toys are considered appropriate for boys. Now, I want you to think of yourself in my position, imagine how I find myself standing between the two isles noting the clear difference between them. To the one side my eyes are assaulted with every shade of pink imaginable with spots of purple and soft greens. On the other side I find stark blacks and greys, bold blues and dark greens. On one side is soft fabrics, on the other hard metals. To my left I will find a wide array of kitchen sets and dolls, princess dresses and ponies. On the opposite side of the isle is cars and tool sets, Legos and plastic guns. On one side hangs a sign labeled ‘Girl Toys’ on the other a sign reading ‘Boy Toys’. And it’s not just in physical stores, even on major retailers’ websites there is a clean split between girl and boy toys with no option of toys for all. But why is this the case? Has it always been this way, or can we fix it? Is this the way it should be, or is the separation harmful for both girls and boys?
Contrary to many beliefs, the idea of splitting toys across gender lines is actually a fairly new concept. As recently as the 1970’s, a mere 50 years ago, the idea of having toys separated into boys’ and girls’ sections would have been ludicrous. According to Elizabeth Sweet, an assistant professor of psychology at SJSU, “In the Sears catalog ads from 1975, less than 2 percent of toys were explicitly marketed to either boys or girls”. In recent history, most toys could be found in a wide variety of bright and bold colors such as red, blue, yellow, and green. They were also advertised for all kids, showing both boys and girls playing together on the box. Toys were marketed not based on the gender of the kids playing with it, but what the toy could teach all children. Toys were separated within a single aisle based on whether they helped children develop social skills, fine motor skills, spacial skills, or emotional skills, attributes that are necessary for all children. In fact, the sorting of toys into gendered aisles didn’t become a thing till the 80’s and wasn’t as clear and prevailing of a split until the 90’s. So, the divide between girls’ and boys’ toys hasn’t always existed, but is it really a bad thing?
Studies have shown that the divide between toys can actually be very detrimental to young children. One of the primary ways that this is the case is due to the effect that marketing can have on kid’s interests. What is being advertised for kids to play with teaches them what is acceptable for them to be interested in. In a study completed by NPR, it was discovered that when computers were first released they were highly marketed towards boys, which resulted in a great decrease of women in fields like coding. This is because it was promoted that liking computers was for boys, so young girls were pushed away from being interested in going into computer jobs. This can also be seen on the reverse, where boys are pushed away from more ‘feminine’ jobs, such as early childhood teaching and cooking, due to toys like kitchen sets and baby dolls being marketed to girls. But the way in which interests develop isn’t the only way that dividing up the sections is harmful to kids. Many toys are designed to specifically target a certain attribute or skill. Professor Judith Elaine Blakemore at Indiana University said in an interview with the NAEYC that “moderately masculine toys have many positive qualities (spatial skills, science, building things, etc.) […] it is the same for some moderately feminine toys (nurturance, care for infants, developing skills in cooking and housework).” For example, Legos help young children develop fine motor skills, and for quite a while there was no girl equivalent to Legos to help young ladies develop these skills.
But what can we do about it? Many organizations are pushing for toy companies and sellers to stop dividing and marketing toys based on gender; the Let Toys Be Toys movement is one of these groups. They are a British group pushing for “the toy and publishing industries to stop limiting children’s interests by promoting some toys and books as only suitable for girls, and others only for boys.” On their website they give updates on what companies are doing to fix this problem, as well as giving recommendations of toys for every age group regardless of marketed gender. And many retailers themselves are working towards having gender neutral, or at least gender equal, marketing. This can be seen in Hasbro’s most recent string of commercials for their Nerf line, where both girls and boys are shown using their toys with no clear color divide, and Kirkbi, the owners of Legos, who have started promoting a wider variation of Legos for girls and Legos for all kids. The final thing that can be done, as consumers, is to look past the gender labels when shopping for toys. Ask the kid what they are interested in and shop based on what the toy can teach them. Don’t be confined to the rigid pink and blue, play kitchen and toy tool set, girl and boy divide. My nephew loves the color purple and my niece wants to grow up to be just like Bob the builder. Why should they be limited to only blue toys and only dolls?
Writing for this blog has opened me up to new thoughts and ideas. I am challenged to think critically about the issues surrounding women and humanity as a whole. I am a believer that in order to find solutions to problems, definitions are needed. What is woman? I told myself, “I know what it is to be a woman, at least I know that I am one.” Besides exploring my gender with science, I wanted to know what it means to be a woman from a philosophical point of view.
I recently went to a lecture about the nature of woman and was introduced to the works of Dr. Edith Stein. She was an early 20th century philosopher whose research focused on women, empathy, and “feminine” traits. As I researched her life and read her lectures, I found the explanation to what I hadn’t been able to put into words before.
The Jew, the Atheist, and the Believer
Stein was born in in 1891 in Breslua, Germany, which is now in modern-day Poland. She was the youngest of eleven children and her parents were devout Jews. She was very close to her mother and was considered her favourite. Life circumstances, including the death of her father, led her to become an atheist by her teens. “I consciously decided, of my own volition, to give up praying.”
Stein was academically brilliant, studying German and history at University of Breslua, and later philosophy at Gottingen University. She was particularly interested in women’s issues and was a self-described radical suffragette. The subject of women in a professional setting and religious living became her focus later on in life. In 1915, she served as a nurse in WWI, where she was deeply disturbed by the sickness and death she witnessed. After a year, Stein returned to school and earned her doctorate summa cum laude with her thesis “The Problem of Empathy.”
Who knew four words could be so subversive, so controversial? With those four words, Ariana Grande changed her career, probably forever. These words show us that when it comes to power, especially the extreme power of a deity, gender matters. Gender really matters. You can’t just ignore gender when it comes to gods, artists, or U.S. presidents. Those roles are reserved for men, and when you dare to say otherwise, there will be backlash.
Michelangelo’s “The Creation of Adam”
Ariana Grande’s version
If you have yet to see the music video for “God is a Woman” by Ariana Grande, I would recommend taking a moment to view it at this link before you continue to read. This video is filled with imagery empowering to women. In my personal favorite part of the music video, Grande literally breaks the glass ceiling with a giant metal hammer. The video also alludes to many classic artworks, recreating them with Grande at the helm instead of a man. For example, the last shot of the video shows a new version of Michaelangelo’s The Creation of Adam. There is also a depiction of The Thinker by Rodin, in which Grande sits in the same posture as the thinking man while men throw gendered slurs at her, trying to tear her down. It is through these gender-reversed images that the viewer begins the realize how infrequently women are shown in positions of power historically. It is almost difficult to recognize how little representation there is until you are confronted with images that you have, amazingly, never seen before.
By Sierra Rothermich A son and his father are in a horrible car accident. The father dies on impact and the son is rushed to the hospital with severe injuries. The surgeon looks at the son when he arrives at the hospital and says “I can’t operate on him, he’s my son.”