Saturday, March 11, 2006

More Interesting Gender Phenomena

Gender is another pet subject of mine. I am simply fascinated by the cultural transmission and expression of gender in different societies, its nature and nurture dimensions, and the crossovers between gender, sex, and sexuality.

Tonight was a first for me.

At a friend's house we met a young girl who, essentially, liked to cross-dress.

I know this sounds strange in our world as we know it. I mean, women wear pants, etc.

But clothes are coded very differently for young girls than they are for older girls and particularly vis-a-vis women [I can dress in a very non-gender-specific way and noone cares or notices. Look at Ellen as an example]. And they are extremely gender-specific.

I posted about the prevalence of young boys in our lives that do this back in December of 2004.

Anyway, so, I had never seen a girl like this. Well, I shouldn't say that. Of course, I've seen girls like this before -- essentially I am one of them. Let me clarify: I have never seen a five-year-old girl like this before.

She was wearing a short sleeve t-shirt over the top of a long sleeve t-shirt that said, in block letters B-A-S-E-B-A-L-L!, and pants that her mom called "skater pants" which seemed to be kahki's that looked to me like pants one would get at REI for hiking.

She was beautiful!

I commented wistfully to her mom about it, pointing out that our SYO would never wear such clothes and she started telling me how this girl had become extremely aware of gender over the last two years and has very attuned antenae about gendered cues in clothes and manners.

It was like hearing myself describe the SYO, but in reverse, somehow. Like the negative. It was like that episode of Seinfeld where they met 'bizarro Jerry'.

Apparently this girl notices all of the slight differences in girl-wear--the tiny stitching around the edges of t-shirts, capped sleeves, larger necks, etc.--and refuses to wear them!

She's obsessed with spiderman paraphernalia.

She was wearing skater pants!

And, to top it all off, her mom showed me that she was wearing little boy undies: Ninja Turtles!


The mom of this rock star and I had a great conversation about gender and how it plays out with these young girls. For the girls of our SYO's variety, the marketers inundate them with these princess and barbie images which one cannot help but think will have a negative impact on their self-esteem and body image. This is not even including the misogynistic disney films that portray evil women antagonists (who are described as "ugly" to boot!) and beautiful and wealthy women protagonists who, ultimately, are saved by some (usually dapper) prince.

I won't even go into the Barbie debate.

I told her some of the myriad manifestations of this in our SYO including her expression to become a "bride" when she grows up.

I suggested to her, too, that such an extreme expression of gender (one way or another, really) has no direct connection to sexuality, although I have my suspicions for this spry one.

Surrepticiously, I did the "finger test" to see if it would match my suspicions. I mention this test in this post as it related to's personality test. What I did not mention in that post, is that lesbians are more likely than heterosexual women to exhibit the same pattern of finger length as heterosexual men. See this link for details of the study.

Anyway, needless to say, this girl's finger's were a lot more akin to mine and BioMom's than they were to our own hyper-feminine SYO's.

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