6 comments on “Why Can’t Boys Like Girl Stuff? Sexism in Gender-Segregated Media

  1. Wow I am in love with this post. I have been uncomfortable with the whole “wah wah tomboys are more accepted than sissies” argument. Like, it’s true but I too have spent time trying to figure out why that is. The best I could come up with is something you touched on here, a girl taking on boyish traits can gain status points, she’s coming up in the world, whereas boys that like “girl things” are “stooping” to the level of girls. And yes, I too have been guilty of sticking my nose up at girly stuff and being one of the “girls that isn’t”.
    I am a little better about girly books/shows and such now, I enjoy some of it although I admit I often refer to those things as guilty pleasures. This is something I will be churning over in my head for a bit. Thank you!

  2. ‘Girly media is the lesser product.. ..until it acquires enough of a male fan base to “legitimize” it and remove its “femaleness” (like Star Trek…,).’
    “Star Trek” can hardly be classed as ‘Girly Media’ and I’m sure it never has been. On the contrary, in the early days the imbalance in the genders on board the Enterprise was criticized. Only two crew-members seemed to be women – The captain’s ‘secretary’ and the communications officer, who was after all, just a glorified telephonist in those days.
    I don’t think that things are as clear cut as you imply either. I’m sure there are as many girls frowned upon for reading books about wrestling or motor racing as there are boys for reading books about ballet.
    It’s a fact that generally, certain subjects attract males and others attract females. This isn’t active sexism: left to their own devices, boys and girls will generally gravitate to these areas. What is sexist is the way that people interpret this and the way that they react to it, both in the criticism of people who cross these boundaries, and in the highlighting of the free choice of people who don’t.

  3. I originally had a long-ish aside written up about Star Trek, and how the original audience of The Original Series was mostly women — the viewers were women, the people who wrote in to save the show after season 1 were women, the fans who wrote in to save Spock were women, the people who wrote stories and published fanzines and articles and early literature were women. The portrayal of gender and/or sexism in Star Trek has nothing to do with the fact that the fanbase was extremely woman-dominated for decades. Now, of course, it's so reversed that this fact has been forgotten.
    My point is not that girls aren't frowned upon for being tomboys — I was a tomboy, and I certainly got bullied for it (not that I cared). But parents don't make enraged phone calls at an image of a girl playing with an action figure the way people did over that mother painting her boy's toenails pink. Girls are stigmatized, but it is not to the same degree, not at all.
    I won't get into a debate on what happens to kids based on their own devices, because it is not a fact that they choose one or the other. There is no conclusive evidence on either side — just social scientists and anecdotal evidence givers, both with bias for either side, saying "When left alone, boys will invariably pick trucks!" or "When left alone, boys actually choose dolls half the time!"  There's no way to get proper information about this either way, not without raising a generation of kids in complete isolation from social mores (because parents, television, friends, media, etc DO condition kids to choose one way or another, without realizing) so it just ends up being a giant wank-fest.
    I know in my own personal experience, my sister, brother, cousins and I all played with toys and enjoyed movies equally along the gender line — dolls, trucks, ponies, princesses, action movies, whatever — and my friends in school did, too. But there are just as many people who will have their own experiences where this isn't so.

  4. I’ll take Missing The Point for 1000, Alex!
    Girls and boys do NOT naturally gravitate to these things. As Lora has said, sociological evidence pointing to this is, in general, rather suspect. Gender conditioning begins at birth and saying “well my kid is allowed to play with opposite sex toys” does not prove anything, because “my kid” is in school, around other kids, watching tv and if the parents are saying “x toy is for this gender” then it is apparent they are, somewhere in there, gender-enforcing.
    Friends see my son running and jumping and conjuring up elaborate imaginary adventures, and tell me he’s “all boy”. He also has long beautiful hair, and likes having two of his fingernails done if I happen to be doing mine. (Which is RARE, if a kid is gonna grow up girly it is not likely from my influence!) He also loves pink and has asked for a Princess toy (and received one) on more than one occasion. He play cooks, and he loves to scrub things. He’s cleaned the toilet of his own accord numerous times. He is not yet 4.
    Star Trek did have a massive female fanbase. Kirk was a total heart throb. My mom grew up watching it and went to conventions in her early 20’s. I think I am going to ask her what those were like gender-wise.

  5. I don’t know if you have noticed, but there is a large mostly male-based fandom expanding right now. And, it’s for My Little Pony!

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