Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Cheese Stands Alone

Sexism starts early in life.

I clad my baby in a brand of diapers that are adorned with cartoon characters. I use this brand because it offers decent leak protection and a nice little rewards program that lets me donate diapers to others.

These diapers are unisex. Some brands have a color-coded differentiation for boys and girls, which I find unfortunate. Can we give their genitals some time to actually develop before we cover them in pink and blue? Excuse me, pink OR blue.

But my brand may be worse. My brand isn't just telling babies that boys and girls are different, these diapers implicitly state that boys are better than girls.

The male cartoon characters are sometimes featured solo on the diaper, but the female characters appear only with their respective male partner or in a group. They never get to stand on their own.

It's fine for a baby girl to have Mickey Mouse smiling over her hooha, but it would be intolerable for a baby boy to wear a diaper with Minnie Mouse batting her eyelashes right over his pee-pee. Right?

No, this isn't right. This is how we indoctrinate our children right from the beginning that boys are supposed to be strong and independent and girls are supposed to be supportive and cooperative. Those all are good things to be, certainly, but when we start parsing them out on a gender basis we make the dividing line thicker and more damaging than it needs to be.

What's most troubling to me is that it's OK for a girl to wear boy things but not OK for a boy to wear girl things. Girls in overalls are cute but boys in a tutu are unacceptable.

Let's be quite clear: It's unacceptable not because it's just different but because it lessens the boy, it sucks away his manhood, it turns him into a weak girl. If a girl wants to step up and play with the big boys, that's admirable. But for a boy to parade around in a Minnie Mouse diaper would be an anathema.

I like it that girls and boys are different. I celebrate many of those differences in my womanhood, and I honor many of those differences in the manhood of my husband, male family members and other men I know. But none of those elements are harmful to the other person, none rob the other of basic personhood.

It boils down to girls being inferior to boys. When girls wear boy clothes, it's as if they are bettering themselves into being boys. When boys wear girl clothes, it's as if they are lowering themselves into being girls. It's acceptable for a girl to be like a boy because that is the ultimate way of being a person. It's unacceptable for a boy to be like a girl because that is giving up the best for just OK.

Damn shame, really. I'm kind of glad whenever Max poops all over it.