Thursday, May 30, 2013

Spirit Week: Gender Bender Day

I honestly wonder if at some point we'll have a full-out, openly declared Cross-Dressing Day in Spirit Week. Sadly, it'll probably still be considered a bigger social risk for guys than girls. Today's Spirit Week gender bending was for girls to wear blue and boys to wear pink. 

With the growing recognition of Pink Shirt Day, observed on the last Wednesday of February (at least it is in Canada), which makes a stand against bullying in all its forms, you'd think (hope) that the colour pink would've be de-listed as an stereotyped indication of femininity. As a (female) child, I remember having a distinct dislike for pink myself. And I don't think I was the only girl to feel that way. Of course, being a girl, gender bending was, to a point, acceptable. I was a tomboy of a child for much of my school career to the point that my mother was once congratulated on having two healthy and strong sons AND I was once stopped from going into a ladies washroom at a restaurant. As a teen, I still preferred practical clothing to the fussiness of fashion-awareness.

The gender-fying of clothing has an interesting history. Like Coca-Cola's role in our modern day North American visual of Santa Claus (my favourite snippet from the Wiki entry: "Images of Santa Claus were further cemented through Haddon Sundblom's depiction of him for The Coca-Cola Company's Christmas advertising. The popularity of the image spawned urban legends that Santa Claus was in fact invented by Coca-Cola. Nevertheless, Santa Claus and Coca-Cola have been closely associated, except for 2005 when Santa was replaced in advertising by Coca-Cola's polar bears."), advertisers and marketers had a direct influence on assigning specific colours to girls and boys. The linked article from the Smithsonian is fascinating. I especially like the comment on the rising consumerism of children.

So my bluest shirt (that hasn't already been on this blog) is not only blue but features characters known specifically for being blue, yet happy, The Smurfs. The tee is a Kerri-gift and more than just retro thanks to a film reboot in 2011. Also, a tangential point on the theme of gender-fying, Smurfette is one of those anomalies in children's programming that few people think about unless it's in hindsight. (Mind you, I vaguely remember an episode where Smurfette's origin was revealed that she was a Pandora-like trap made by villain Gargamel to ensnare/corrupt the Smurfs. I could be making it up completely but if she was a Mark 1.0 Cylon Fembot reprogrammed by Brainy Smurf and assimilated into Smurf society, it does kind of explain a few things.)

Finally, because any discussion of gender needs a Whedon connection, and because this video fell out of the sky and onto my Facebook newsfeed just yesterday, (and because he really is my Big Damn Wordsmithing Hero), here is Joss Whedon addressing the 2013 commencement class of Wesleyan University from last Sunday. He doesn't exactly address gender issues but I'd like to think that in "accepting duality to earn identity" on a macro-level, we would all recognize the inherent strength and value in every member of society - no matter their gender, age, race or creed - and, instead, work to grow the connections that really define us as individuals, collectives and communities. Wouldn't that be Smurf-tastic?