Thursday, June 7, 2012

Sears ad, gender stereotypes

from the blog Hot Rods For Girls (click photo for link)
I was flipping between the Stanley Cup game and the NBA playoffs last night, interspersed with various other channel flips, and rather annoyed that because of a contract dispute between my cable company and the local Fox affiliate's owners that I couldn't watch So You Think You Can Dance... where was I?  Oh yes, I saw a commercial for the Father's Day tool sale at Sears.  There's a Dad asking for a wrench from under a car that he's working on, and his daughter hands him a new Craftsman wrench with a bow on it.  The commercial ends with both of them under the car, and you see their legs sticking out side by side.  Cute, right?  Helps to break the gender stereotypes that little girls shouldn't be interested in messy mechanical things like cars, right?

So how come we don't see the flip side of that commercial on Mother's Day?  A little boy sewing a dress on a new sewing machine with mom, or something like that?  As always, it's about society seeing traditionally male activities as valuable and something to aspire to for a boy or a girl, while traditionally female activities are thought of as more frivolous, and therefore a step down for a boy to do.  It's really amazing to me that despite all the talk of gender equality and even all the real accomplishments of women's rights activists for centuries, that pervasive, insidious, and infectious thread of females (and female ideas, activities, etc) being inferior still has such a grip on all of us.  It can never be eradicated, but I wonder if it can at least be diminished to a minority view?

I (presenting as male) coach girls sports.  I see my players run the gamut from "girly-girl" to decidedly anti-feminine.  My approach to trying to establish that feminine does not necessarily mean weak or less sports-able, is to incorporate ideas, movements, and metaphors from both more masculine and more feminine arenas.  I might make allusions to football one day and ballet the next.  Hopefully, in some tiny way, this helps them to understand that whatever kind of girl/woman they are or want to be, whatever profession they go into, nothing about those decisions is any less valuable or valid because they are women.