Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Gender Roles

I'm set up to start talking about college soon.  Definitely this month.  This week, though, I think I'll continue to talk about different things instead.

I got into Glee just last summer, which means that I've been processing 2.5 years of material in about 6-8 months, where most Gleeks have had that much time to think it over.  I'm beginning to think that those 1- 2- and 4-week hiatuses actually give people time to go back over the previous episodes and think about the implications.

I am... often... slow to declare my favorite shows and favorite characters in public.  With Star Trek: The Next Generation, it was Wesley Crusher.  Hey, I was a geeky teenage girl.  I've already said that my crushes were usually based on intelligence more than looks - though Wesley had both.  And maybe my father was just trying to protect his little girl... although how a fictional character could really be a threat to one's virtue, I do not know.  But my father made sure I know about every criticism his co-workers had.  How they wished the character would leave the show, one way or another.

What I learned was to keep my cards close to my chest.  That to talk about the things I liked the most, just brought on more criticism.  Perhaps they didn't mean to attack me by attacking the things I liked.  But neither did it encourage me to be myself.  So perhaps I am making a mistake one more time, when I talk about my favorite Glee character.

My favorite character on Glee is Kurt Hummel.  For a lot of reasons.  One being that I identify with him.  Not necessarily in the ways that are obvious.  In reality, I'm probably more like Coach Beiste, a straight adult woman working in a male-dominated profession.  But the show focuses on the kids, and they are still in the middle of the struggle to become who they want to be.

Because Kurt Hummel is, in a lot of ways, my foil.  The feminine boy to my tomboy girl.  While society is a little more accepting of tomboy girls than feminine boys, the struggle against gender roles is still there.  Monica Gallagher of the Huffington Post had an article recently, "On Praising Tomboys and Rejecting Feminine Boys," that wrote about this.

I would say that in preschool and the lower elementary grades, I was generally praised for my tomboy ways.  At least for being outdoorsy, outspoken, and dressing for rough play.  This was nearly 30 years before Katie the Star Wars Girl, and my liking Star Wars, Transformers, X-men and other science fiction shows was not as well-received.

Watching my son, in pre-school, I see vividly where Monica is correct, boys' "feminine" interests are rejected by society almost immediately.

I am not a huge fan of pink, and so I identify with this news article about stereotypes in toys.  In Illinois, my family became friends with a Mormon family two blocks over.  Their 5 boys were approximately the same spread of ages as the 4 of us.  Later, they also moved to Nebraska, and we would visit their house there.  I can remember they had a doll among their toys, and I asked my parents what  a family with 5 boys was doing with a doll.  My parents told me something similar to this video, about boys also needing to practice being fathers.

Despite my parent's words, I never remember my brothers being given dolls of their own.  Nor did I receive the Legos and model spaceships that I requested on my lists: #1, circled, starred, underlined.

My husband grew up listening to that album.  It's one of the reasons I married him, someone who could and would (and does) support my engineering career.  Even to the point of staying home for three years, taking care of our son.

It wasn't until our son was born that we bought a copy of that record on CD.  "Free to Be... You and Me."  I just about cried.  It's... a little dated now.  There are parts of it that I would argue with.  But in general, the message, that it's okay to be you, and have your own interests, is one I needed to hear.  And it is a message that I am doing my best to give my son.