Tuesday, January 12, 2016

An alternative view of pink and blue

I am very much enjoying "Woman: an Intimate Geography" by Natalie Angier, a prize-winning science author.  She radiates intelligence and wit.  But I think she makes a mis-step with her explanation why women and girls can wear men's stuff but not the reverse.  

So what exactly are we afraid of when we fear polluting a boy with pink? Are we worried that we might turn him gay? The evidence strongly suggests that sexual orientation has little or nothing to do with one's upbringing, and in any event gay sons love their mothers, so what's the problem there? Is it the usual misogyny, the association of masculine with "fully human" and "quality controlled," and feminine with "circa human," the "chipped goods on the remainder table"? In part, yes, we're still very much a misogynist culture, and therefore the boys' stuff is good enough for girls— it may even, when used judiciously on daughters, reflect a certain parental panache— but never, ever vice versa. Girl goods are too silly, too icky, and, let's not mince our words, too inferior for a boy.

Angier, Natalie (1999-04-06). Woman: An Intimate Geography (p. 41). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.

I say that pink on little boys is looked down upon for the same reason many dads bristle at little boys playing with dolls.  It is not that girl cooties are so dangerous.  What it is, is that the life force makes it hard to go into battle, whether it is hockey game or the army.  And yet, the girls, the elderly, the nation want to depend on the male for defense.  I realize that women can now be Army Rangers but most women have not been told they are less womanly if they don't fight.  Boys are usually told that under certain circumstance, fighting back is expected, honorable, required.

Look at the scene in the 1999 movie Tea with Mussolini where a young British boy is utterly tired of being disguised as a girl, whether it puts him in danger or not.  See the book "Sex and Fantasy: Patterns of Male and Female Development" for a look at the basic drives of males, which include a strong drive to fight, to win, to stand out, to defeat others.

In "The Face of Battle" - John Keegan explains that historically generals of armies of hand-to-hand soldiers want no women at the battle scene, having seen too many times that men can decide to leave the battle and go off in the company of their sweethearts and wives.

In "Fighting for Life" - Walter Ong shows that men, much like male cattle or apes, are expendable and need to wrestle a place for themselves in life.  As is often pointed out, in nature, only a few mammal males are needed.  The basics of male life are that you must win, you must stand out or wither away shamefully and painfully.  Granted, men are good at finding unusual places for their kingdoms.  They can lead in painting or dance.  It doesn't have to be actual gladiator combat but it can be.  Wherever the battle is, it may well call for grit and ferocity.  The fear of girliness is just trying to give the boy a sturdy start.

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