Getting bit right in the assumption

Basic Black

My nomination for most politically incorrect song title of all time: The show-stopper from the musical My Fair Lady entitled Why Can’t a Woman Be More like a Man?

Sure, it’s a50-year-old chestnut that was written tongue in cheek and actually takes the mickey out of macho, but tongue in cheek doesn’t play well in these earnest times.  Taken at face value, the title is provocatively incendiary; it’s calculated to set Maidenforms a-smoulder at 100 paces.

Gender equality has been a dicey business ever since Adam and Eve elected to turn over a new leaf. Then we had Jack and Jill mobilizing that bucket brigade ascent to the well on the hill, ostensibly in search of water. You’ll recall that it didn’t end well.

Which I guess is what the folks in charge of that preschool in Sweden are aiming for. The administrators at Egalia Preschool, near Stockholm have initiated a policy to “avoid instilling gender stereotypes in our students.”

Accordingly, kiddies at the school wear identical, shapeless blue vests. The boys are encouraged to play with kitchen utensils; the girls are urged to get down and dirty with the toy trucks and tractors.

“Society expects girls to be girlie, nice and pretty and boys to be manly, rough and outgoing,” says Jenny Johnsson, a 31-year-old teacher. “Egalia gives them a fantastic opportunity to be whoever they want to be.”

Which is fair enough I guess, given that Walmart has announced plans to market a full line of makeup including mascara, sheer lip gloss, pink blush and purple eye shadow — aimed at eight-year-old children.

People fight the marketing machine any way they can.  It’s not surprising that a Toronto couple became a publicity sensation — not so much because they named their new baby Storm, but because they declined to announce whether Storm was a boy or a girl. The father declared that he found it obnoxious to identify a child’s gender on the basis of his/her/its genitalia.

“If you really want to get to know someone,” said David Stocker, “you don’t ask what’s between their legs.”

Then mom and dad announced their child’s gender would be revealed “only when Storm decides Storm would like to share.”

The world went nuts.

The parents were deluged, denounced and roundly proselytized upon.  Cynics were absolutely certain it was an attention-getting media con a la Octomom or the boy in the supposedly runaway weather balloon.

Not true. In a letter to the editor of the Ottawa Citizen, Storm’s mother Kathy explained: “The strong, lightning-fast, vitriolic response was a shock… To protect our children from the media frenzy we did not anticipate, we have declined interviews from all over the world… We have learning to do, parks to visit and butterflies to care for.”

We’ve been down this gender bender road before. Almost three centuries ago. Let me introduce you to a pair of the blood thirstiest pirates ever to sail the waters of the Caribbean. One was a nasty piece of work named Read; the other was a savage, tattooed brute who answered to Bonny. In 1721, a Jamaican warship cornered their pirate galleon and a bloody battle ensued. The pirates were finally defeated. Read and Bonny were the last to drop their cutlasses. British justice was swift and final. The entire pirate crew was tried, pronounced guilty and hanged. Except for Read and Bonny who were spared.

They were pregnant, you see.  Bonny’s first name was Anne; Read’s was Mary. That’s the thing about gender stereotypes. They have a tendency to turn around and bite you.

Right in the assumption.


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