gender swag

… clever and suggestive? Does the expected backlash merely enhance notoriety and reinforce the values the critics see. It does remind of the sports athlete whose career is over because of concussion syndrome. There was no one specific hit, but the footballer had taken over 600 hits to the head in a year. The collective social psyche, the absence of reaction, the deviations of memory and the creeping juncture of madness and paralysis are all incrementally advanced by pop culture violence which in sum, inexorably crushes resistance while appealing to values of individualism within the cult of personality, the celebrity and the idealized desire to be found in the fetish object, no matter how banal and ephemeral, even a stupid hamburger.

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There is a certain vulgarity to the whole charade. This mitigation of reality through fantasy, and much of it comes back to an old ideological war played out in advertising since Edward Bernays began manipulating women to smoke, calling cancer sticks, “torches of freedom.” That is, the people with money, the great wealth, want us to believe that the economy, our society is fueled by money and therefore the individual’s value it totally objectifiable. If the opposite position held sway, a society and business cultures driven by labor, popular culture and advertising would receive an Arthur Rimbaud style disruption of the senses. Walter Benjamin’s The Shock of the New, could be potentially emancipatory.

Burger King. Are women really looking for a whopper? At what point is voyeurism part of the public discourse. Picasso broke the rules so to speak with Filles D'Avignon, merely a reflection of things to come in an age of mass dissemination.

Instead, what we get are finished objects masquerading as people, and as polished and smooth as Christmas tree decorations. Life dollows the Shirley Temple template, of the formula, the harmless, and submissive to the most conservative canons that corporate ideology can knit and present to us as the new.

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…So, yeah, on one hand, every month brings a new egregious example of sexualization or gender hyper-segmentation. There was the Abercrombie & Fitch bikini with the push-up bra for 7 year olds; the Walmart makeup line for 8 year olds; the J.C. Penney t-shirt that said, “I’m too pretty to do HOMEWORK so my brother has to do it for me”; the apparent plans to make a Kim Kardashian Barbie; the rise of Monster High dolls, which are kind of like undead street walkers. There is LEGO’s new Friends line for girls with the tag line “Building is Beautiful” and its build-a-beauty-salon and café kits. All that is out there.

But there are also parents putting their collective foot down and saying “oh no you don’t.” So Abercrombie and J.C. Penney had to pull those clothing items because parents protested. Thirty-five thousand people have signed a petition to ask LEGO to rethink its Friends line. [As of this posting, the petition had garnered more than 50,000 signatures]

And companies, they’re in it to make money, so if they think they can do it with a broader spectrum, more imaginative idea of what it means to be a girl or with toys that allow more cross-sex play, well, they will. We just have to let them know. Read More:



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…I don’t think I really promote neutrality, per se. I promote the idea that boys and girls should be encouraged, when possible, to play together because that’s how they learn to get along together over the long haul. There’s compelling research that shows that cross-sex play in the early years has cognitive value for both sexes. And that it improves relationships.

That said, I also recognized that kids will naturally play with their own sex more often than the other one. Which is fine. Also, that girls and boys in an over-arching way do play differently in the early years. But I think we have to look more at similarities and less at differences. We have to look not at nature vs. nurture but the way nurture becomes nature. Because if you see it that way, then the emphasis, magnification and creation of gender difference is problematic.

And you can say, “Well, some girls like princesses and some like something else.” Maybe so. Maybe we’d find that in a vacuum. But when you have billions and billions of dollars aimed at telling your child she should like this ONE THING and see femininity this ONE WAY it’s hard to claim she’s making some kind of free choice. If that were true, girls would have always been as obsessed with pink and princess as they are today. But if you look at your own childhood, I bet you weren’t.

So, I’d say I’m less about neutrality than about freedom for kids to explore the range of behavior, the range of potential, the range of friendships especially while their brains are at their most malleable.Read More:

Samantha Ettus:Would it surprise you to hear that a future CEO had the following background? She enjoyed weekly manicures with her mother starting at age four, spent her days playing princess dress-up, was not regularly around professional women, and was not told she could achieve anything she put her mind to. Surprised? Yes, it would surprise me too.

In her speech at World Economic Forum at Davos, Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s COO, one of the most powerful women and working moms in the world, talked of an “ambition gap” in how we are raising young girls versus boys. She didn’t point her fingers at corporations or at advertisers, but at parents and how we are raising our daughters and sons.

I can’t stop thinking about this – not because it is new – but because of Sandberg’s brilliant label for what is unfolding around us. What are we doing to contribute to the ambition gap and what are we doing to halt it? Read More:

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