n. the pervasive and systemic belief in male/masculine and female/feminine as the only true, natural and correct gender identities and expressions

gender normativity n. the privileged state lived - whether momentarily or perpetually - by those whose genders perceptibly 'fit' with locally-derived and understood expressions of masculinity (for men) and femininity (for women)

gender non-normativity n. the oppressed state lived - whether momentarily or perpetually - by those whose genders do not perceptibly fit, as above

Monday, March 16, 2009

In response to the 'Pink' segment on CBC's The Current

On January 28th, my beloved CBC One radio show The Current aired a segment on the colour pink in an attempt to engage explanations as to 'why little girls love it'. Already there is an absence of criticality in terms of the very driving question - it isn't 'do little girls love it' but, having confirmed that this is certainly the case, why.

I submitted this to The Current as a listener response, but the following Thursday was less-than-surprised when it wasn’t read on the air along with other letters.


Dr. Ken Zucker’s commentary - and The Current's discussion of 'pink' as a whole - completely missed the point as to why little girls seem to prefer the colour pink. Dr. Zucker pointed to the cognitive development of little girls and boys as accounting for the overwhelmingly disproportionate “preference” for the colour pink expressed by girls, with absolutely no acknowledgment of parents’ role in selecting and buying clothing for their children. Even the youngest baby girls or boys are increasingly decked out in clothing that is gendered to the point of ridiculousness (i.e., infant-sized Carhartt overalls and Harley Davidson leather jackets for baby boys, frilly and flowery ‘head bands’ for infant girls who do yet have any hair to be elaborately styled). All of this has nothing to do with children’s “preferences”. Dr. Zucker insisted that the noticeable decrease in children’s adherence to the pink/blue girl/boy dress code as they grow can be attributed to their cognitive abilities becoming “more flexible” with age when, in fact, it could just be that they are finally able to express a degree of agency and resistance to pink and blue.

Moreover, Dr. Zucker completely ignores the research-tested reality of gendered harassment, violence, ridicule and isolation that befalls children who do not ‘fit in’ with the blue/pink regimes; he instead insists that children start to identify girl groups and boy groups and simply want to be part of a particular group hence the adoption of particular girl or boy behaviours. He shows no consideration of the fact that children know what happens to those who do not or who cannot contort themselves into the pink/blue boxes. This is why children participate in rigid gendering practices, and this is how adults come to see them as ‘normal’ or ‘well-adjusted’.

It is widely known that Dr. Zucker’s clinical method for treating children who do not/cannot fit within the gender binary involves effectively taking away their most beloved and cherished activities and possessions simply because they are for girls-not-boys or vice versa, often inducing despair and depression in hitherto happy and vibrant children whose only problems were the lethally gendered environments they had to survive on a daily basis. As a graduate student in Education and Gender Studies, I plan to combat the notion that children must be so pathologized and changed. We must instead pathologize the rigidity, hatred and fear that together maintain the absurd and convenient myth that the only normally-developing girls are the ones who sit easily in pink. Psycho-medical pseudo-interventions are not the answer.


For more information on Dr. Zucker and his clinical methods, check out this NPR story or, instead, you can read it here interspersed with an excellent trans critique.

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