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The Neat Things Girls Do

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I was really impressed by this comment I found under one of my entries:

I hate pink too, but it’s probably a bad idea to encourage her to think that it’s inherently good to like masculine-coded things and bad to like feminine-coded things (and I may be wildly overinterpreting your comment here).

There are too many women like (and including) me (gender non-conforming women, women in male-dominated fields) who spend years working through their own internalized sexism because, in a reaction against the crap that they were getting from the world for being different, they picked up the idea that masculinity was something to take pride in and femininity was something to stamp out in oneself. Compulsory non-femininity is not any better than compulsory femininity.

I cannot “this” this enough.

 

 

"Daydream Believer"--bspencer

I wrote an entry at my old joint about what I call “novelty girls,” that is girls/women who luxuriate in the idea that they are snowflakes, that they are not like “those other girls.” They attain novelty girl status because they are misogynists like Sarah Palin or by engaging in an activity (like, say hunting or gaming) that is typically not thought of as feminine. When confronted with the idea that a woman is doing something masculine the impulse is often to think of it is cool…because stuff guys do is inherently cool, right? And all too often when we decide these activities are inherently cool, we simultaneously decide that anything that is “girly” is inherently uncool. I can’t express to you how unfortunate I think that is.

[I am now going to pause and say how much I loath having to put things in terms as simplistic as “girly” and “masculine.” People are people and have far-flung interests, regardless of gender. But for the purposes of shorthanding this conversation I’m going to use these qualifiers, even though they kind of make me want to vomit. ]

As I said in my original entry touching on this topic, it’s silly to think of any woman as novelty. If there’s a hobby or sport or art form or geeky pursuit, there’s a woman getting into it right now. So there’s that. But there’s also the fact that lot of girly stuff is just dead cool.

So what’s a girly pursuit? I suppose it could be anything from pinning things on Pinterest (which I think is a neat way to assemble things that aesthetically pleasing or to visually organize your thoughts) to sewing to crafting to scrapbooking. Things like crafting and scrapbooking are the most egalitarian form of art. That is, they give everyone a chance to dive right in, be creative, have fun and maybe even make something beautiful. It’s play. I think that is AWESOME. This world would be  a better place if people played more often.

So rather than turning our noses up at girly stuff, I say we freaking embrace it, and make it as cool as any masculine endeavor. Because it is, dammit.

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  • Jameson Quinn

    Yes.

    But “girly” is also a marketing technique, and as such, sucks. As does “macho” in that sense. Princesses and laser spaceships, like guns and climate denial trollism, didn’t just become cultural shibboleths naturally; they were peddled as such.

    Girl lego. QED.

    • Jameson Quinn

      I probably give my daughter the “tomboy is cooler” message sometimes when I mean to say “disnification sucks”. It’s a tough line to walk.

    • sharculese

      Princess Leia had a laser spaceship…

  • Kiwanda

    So what’s a girly pursuit?

    Taking care of kids? Also known as: shitwork. I mean, what a waste of time.

    • demz taters

      Men are perfectly capable of caring for their kids too.

      • Origami Isopod

        Sure, but caring for children is “gendered feminine” in our society.

      • DrDick

        Raised my son as a single father. On the other hand, since this was in the late 70s and 80s, I was pretty much regarded as a kind of freak.

        • Keaaukane

          Nonsense. In the 60’s and 70’s, all the sons on TV were being raised by single dads. Rifleman, Flipper, Jonny Quest, Courtship of Eddies Father, Bonanza, My three sons, the list is extensive. The only intact nuclear families on TV were the Munsters and the Addams Family (and what kind of message is that?).

          • Well, but in each of those, especially Bonanza, there is a “stand in” for the mother role and the search for a mother (the courtship of eddy’s father) is actually part of the quest to “complete” the family. So all of them tended to have a focus on the perfected family unit–the absence of the mother just made it possible for her actual needs/demands/desires to be rendered null and void. I think its probably no accident that the absent mother who needs to be found or wooed back or discovered was a trope at exactly the same time that marriages were breaking up and women going out to work.

  • ruviana

    I got into the tiniest flame war at Feministe about this article, making the argument that cooking can fall into the “feminine/girly” category without necessarily being something you have to do. I felt like there was a fair amount of “I’m not doing it BECAUSE women had to do it and it sucks!” kind of going on there. Lindsay Beyerstein had a pretty good take on it–of course it comes down to one’s agency and desire, but that seemed to be what the other commenters were missing.

    • Origami Isopod

      I saw your comment when that went down, and I thought and still think you’re missing the point and that Sheelzebub’s response was accurate: that not all women like domestic activities, that this is perfectly okay, and that we do not see anywhere near the same amount of pressure on men to like and perform them.

      You like cooking? Great, so do I. That doesn’t make all the social pressure evaporate on women who don’t. The fact that cooking is important and that it’s been devalued through association with women still doesn’t oblige everyone to embrace domesticity.

      • ruviana

        I guess I needed to be clearer at Feministe–I thought the critique of Pollan was overwrought–Lindsay Beyerstein’s point that the Salon title was probably for clicks seemed right. The link in Feministe comment to me still didn’t seem, to me, to make the point that Pollan was some sort of anti-feminist dinosaur. The book upon which this whole kerfuffle was based does sound like it has problems with a larger political analysis of some of what’s leading to the critiques that were made by Beyerstein and Feministe, but I also still felt that Pollan was getting a bad rap. My 2 cents.

        • Origami Isopod

          I realize Pollan has said that boys should learn to cook, too, but he’s also said some things that aren’t particularly feminist, such as “We need more moms.”

          Also, the “slow food” movement in general tends to be oblivious to gender issues. It’s yet another case of, “This is so important, so to hell with your petty little chick complaints!”

        • Anonymous

          The link in Feministe comment to me still didn’t seem, to me, to make the point that Pollan was some sort of anti-feminist dinosaur.

          I don’t entirely agree that either Salon or Feministe were calling Pollan a dinosaur, but I also don’t really see how his remarks specifically about feminism make him pro-feminist. He argued that (white American) feminism disengaged (white American) women from scratch-cooking, and that this was a bad thing for (white American) culture, specifically men and boys.

          • John

            Is the “specifically men and boys” actually in there, or did you add it?

            Beyond that, I’ll just say that the big problem with Pollan’s argument is laid out implicitly in the first paragraph of the Salon article, where she talks about her grandmother, but never drawn out – it wasn’t feminism that caused women to stop cooking from scratch. It was the industrialization of food in the post-war years.

            • Anonymous

              Men and boys are there as an idea, yes. He didn’t use that exact phrase, hence the absence of quotation marks. When a monologue about fat Americans and the women that made them erase the idea of boys and men as cookers of their own grub, yes, the speaker is implicitly endorsing the notion that women and girls are responsible for the diets of men and boys.

              I agree that “the industrialization of food” contributed to and was simultaneously caused by the decline of scratch-cooking. I disagree that scratch-cooking is the solution to all ills, that it’s even possible or desirable that “we” “return” (scare quotes) to scratch-cooking, and that feminism’s job is to improve our diet, however.

    • Spokane Moderate

      Lindsay Beyerstein had a pretty good take on it

      There should be a macro for this sentence.

      • DrDick

        +10

    • Paula

      FWIW, I get you.

      But Pollan’s view (and some veg-ism as practiced) is also a version of the personal as political, so it will inspire some acrimony. It’s not necessarily out of place to criticize him.

      THAT said, Marxist feminists argue that “woman’s work” (i.e. anything related to caregiving) IS devalued, and that what we deem surplus value in capitalism is what we have taken away from women working at home. Not everyone needs to like domestic work, but given how difficult it is for people to find affordable housing, childcare, and senior care when these are things we need eventually — I’d say our priorities as a society are damned fucked up.

      Pollan had an interview on Democracy Now the other day about how workers unions in Europe rallied for more time rather than money.

      I’m not sure how prevalent the 2-4 hour lunch break is in Europe nowadays, but cooking for yourself/finding a good meal (not to mention health care and retirement) seems to be less of a life or death issue for them (pre-austerity, anyway). I don’t know whether the concern is gendered, but if the main complaint here in the US is “YOU try feeding a family organic on my limited time/resources”, it seems like the final answer should not be “eating well is something only rich people do anyway”.

      • ruviana

        A lot of this sums up what I was trying to say. I do take the point that Pollan can extend some of his analysis about food and cooking better than he does.

    • Karla

      I ordinarily agree with Lindsay, but think she misses the mark in that post by dismissing canning as a distraction from real food activism, particularly in her last paragraph. The comment I left there was, “Canning has a definite practicality for me in supporting community supported agriculture. It allows me to make use of a whole CSA share and bulk fruit purchases from organic farms, which I wouldn’t be able to justify buying if I gave most of the food away or let too much end up in the compost pile. I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss it as just an inward-looking hobby.”

  • Joshua Buhs

    A handy guide.

  • Major Kong

    This world would be a better place if people played more often.

    It’s never too late to have a happy childhood.

    • I’ve lived my life by the motto ‘You can only be young once but you can be infantile forever.” Interestingly, this has worked well for me when I’m taking care of my son, i.e. parts of every day.

  • STH

    Yeah, I’m working on getting rid of this attitude in myself. I was raised with such strong pressure to be girly that I really came to hate it. And I tend to value my more traditionally-masculine traits more than my girly ones. I cook and sew and do embroidery, but I also went to grad school in a scientific field and earned pocket money while there by writing logic questions for the LSAT (sorry to everybody who had to do those!) And I still get shit from my mother for not liking ruffles and pink. :(

    • sharculese

      As someone who spent their childhood doing matrix logic puzzles and was thus totally prepared for that part of the LSAT, I have to say that sounds awesome.

      • STH

        It was actually a fairly lousy job, I’m afraid. I think the going rate then was about $70 a question, but it worked out to much less than that in practice, because they rejected a large percentage of the questions my then-boyfriend and I wrote (he was a philosophy grad student at the time who was writing questions and was the one who told me about the job). You’d slave over a question for hours–and they weren’t easy to write well–then it would be rejected because they already had enough questions about that topic or some other reason that you never knew about in advance. And you usually couldn’t retool a rejected question, so the work was wasted. As I recall, there was also a monthly limit of maybe 2 questions you could submit, so the job never made us much money.

  • Anonymous

    Sanford wins.

    • DocAmazing

      At girliness?

  • Things like crafting and scrapbooking are the most egalitarian form of art. That is, they give everyone a chance to dive right in, be creative, have fun and maybe even make something beautiful. It’s play.

    While I make music or crappy gifs on the bus to work I often think that what I am doing is not much different from knitting: a kind of play and pastime that results in a Thing. I’m kind of heartened that knitting has gained some cool.

    More power to the scrapbookers. They’ll get their due.

    • There is a part of me that deeply regrets the many years I spent refusing to learn any of the home arts because I was told I ‘should’. Now I love my gardening and knitting and sometimes sewing, and I mourn the many beautiful things I could have made earlier if I hadn’t spent two decades rebelling against stuff I truly loved to do merely because it was the girl thing to do.

      • bspencer

        I totally feel you.

        • catclub

          So does Omar.

    • bspencer

      Tee hee. Only a matter of time. And I totally think what you do is a form of artsy play. And there ain’t NOTHIN’ WRONG WITH THAT.

    • I just got a copy of an interesting book about the history of scrapbooking “Writing With Scissors” I haven’t even had a chance to read it yet, or even look at it, but one of the arguments that it makes is that scrapbooks have a very long history and are associated with an attempt (human, not particularly female) to control the flood of information, images, news, that were coming at people in the civil war era. In my own life as a parent I’ve seen the development of the scrap book as an activity forced on women (especially) but also in a sense on retired men (with photo albums) who attempt to use pastiche and bricolage as a way of fixing evanescent childhood in a hard form that can be reflected on at will. One of my tasks today is to perform my gender/parenthood by creating a “poster” honoring my eighth grader which will be displayed in the hallway of her school. Naturally this has become quite the competitive sport–one of my friends built a three dimensional poster that represented a bookshelf and decoupaged it with replicas of her daughter’s favorite books which, when opened, revealed her daughter’s face in place of the heroine and pictures from their family life. I am attempting to do my best this year (second time around for me) by creating a “grimoire” within a hardbound book that will something something something about my daughter. Haven’t worked it all out. When art becomes duty its substantially less fun, though no less creative.

  • I was a boy for most of my life. Now I’m a woman. People’s reaction to my tech-geekery is extremely different now — I get hit with a crap-load of sexism instead of just being “one of the guys.” I like some things that are “pink and frilly,” sure, but I like plenty of things that aren’t, too… and those facts have been pretty consistent throughout my life. G.I. Joe fit right beside Jem and the Holograms, playing NERF was no better or worse than playing house, and I had equal delight rocking out to Britney Spears of Black Sabbath.

    Why limit yourself to one “approved” category of enjoyment in life, when you can just love what you love?

    • bspencer

      EXACTLY.

  • MosesZD

    Wow. You really sound like a dinosaur. Girls do stuff because it’s fun, not because it’s masculine. My mother taught me to fish and hunt, not my father. Both my grandmothers could hunt and fish, as well, though they just didn’t really care for it.

    • Origami Isopod

      Of course girls do stuff because it’s fun. However, I don’t think you realize how many girls are pressured out of doing fun things that are coded by society as “masculine.”

      • DrDick

        It really is pervasive.

    • Reading comprehension: embrace it.

      • Ann Outhouse

        Four-syllable words like “comprehension” may pose a challenge.

    • Girls do stuff–traditionally masculine or feminine–because it’s fun, but what you see a lot of online is women BRAGGING about hating girly girls, and hating girly stuff, so as to be one of the boys. They rather remind me of Anybody, the tomboy character in West Side Story, who wanted to be one of the guys and get in the Jets. Many of the threads on the internet are like that.

      • bspencer

        Thank you. This is, in a nutshell, is what makes me clench my jaw.

        • Jameson “pretty princess” Quinn

          On the upside, you do look quite virile when you do that. :)

          • Jameson Quinn

            Oh, for a delete button. Jordan, below, does the ironically-un-self-conscious shtick well. The above just fails. Sorry.

      • JL

        Those women do harm with their comments, but I also feel bad for them, because I used to be (a quieter version of) one of them, and I relate to where they’re coming from (and how they might have gotten there). See my elaboration below.

    • Thats not really a counterargument. I think bspencer and most feminists would argue that women can many times do what men do –whether as hobby or as work–because those activities are valorized while it has traditionally been much harder for men to do what women do because those activities are despised because of their association with women. See, for example, the ease with which women took to wearing pants while comparitive few men (except cross dressers and kilt wearers) wear female clothing like skirts.

      There have always been women who, because their families permitted or encouraged it, took up masculine sports or even jobs as, say, head of state. In anthropology we call those people “honorary men.” But because of the general devaluation of women’s bodies and spheres there are relatively few “honorary women.” Men may get assigned to female roles and duties but there’s nothing honorary about it and its generally considered a demotion.

      I’d like to point out as well that women in extremely strict fundamentalist religious communities like the Natalist and Quiverful branches of christianity frequently report being forced to perform their female functions using the oldest of technology–for instance making bread for ten people daily without a modern bread mixer–while their husbands perform their masculine duties with the latest technology (lathes and power tools for carpentry etc…). This is because not just the form of the activity but even the style (modern or perceived to be authentic and ancient) are gendered.

      • bspencer

        Still missing that “Like” button.

      • This is because not just the form of the activity but even the style (modern or perceived to be authentic and ancient) are gendered.

        Asking from total ignorance: does the perceived value of the person’s time enter into it? Men’s time is valuable, so they need to use modern time-szving tools; women’s is not, so they don’t…

        • Origami Isopod

          Almost certainly. Women’s time is not perceived as important, which is why we don’t have “woman caves” and why “acceptable” hobbies for us are those that either benefit others or can be easily interrupted.

          • Thanks. Every time I think I’ve found all of the embedded signifiers, someone says something that makes me realize how much I’ve missed.

            • Origami Isopod

              You’re welcome. There’s so much out there to “get” and even a lot of feminists miss some of it. I’m sure I do.

        • In the case of the Quiverful women there is a different cultural imperative–that which is “old timey” is valued in everything, from clothing to hair styles and therefore women’s work that harks back to older times and self sufficiency/pioneering is valued while modern efficiency is not valued. In addition there’s a clear element of “make work” which keeps women tied to cooking/cleaning/sewing/housekeeping because the home is the woman’s proper sphere and “labor saving” devices turn a valorized activity into mere “work.” “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop/plaything” is a well known admonition in these communities because selfishness, self love, individuality and dating/sexuality are all thought to rush in to the space left free by–say–free time. If you finished your laundry early and didn’t have to bake bread by hand who knows what you would get up to? Men’s time isn’t seen that way–neither their free time (dangerous) nor their work time.

          In addition you see the same gendered split in any immigrant community–Muslim men go all out to keep their women in Burkas or Hijab but will happilly wear business suits themselves if they are going in to a regular job in a European country. That’s because its convenient to force women to be the bearer of tradition and protector of the purity of the culturally distinct home and it would be inconvenient for men to do so while earning their livings outside the safe space of the home.

          To a certain extent these problems are not just problems of immigrant communities or religious communities per se but specifically problems of patriarchal families in which children and women may choose to vote with their feet and demand new rights and freedoms, or leave the family outright. You’ve got to keep women and children isolated, busy, confused, controlled to prevent them from leaving: for this reason you will see an emphasis on home schooling children among right wing and some anarchist groups. It serves the dual function of keeping the women busy and in the home, and isolating the children from outside influences. What is the point under those circumstances of efficiency? Efficiency implies you might have something else to do with your time than be in the home doing those basic tasks–you might even need a different division of labor, money, hired help, free time.

          • Karen

            There is a wonderful essay by Vickie Garrison of “No Longer Qivering” called “The Bosch,” describing how her husband forced her to give back a bread mixer because he insisted that their newborn daughter learn to bake bread with her hands.

            • Yes, that’s what I was thinking of. I used to post over at Nolongerqivering and I know and admire Vickie’s work.

              • Karen

                Cool!

          • Origami Isopod

            “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop/plaything” is a well known admonition in these communities because selfishness, self love, individuality and dating/sexuality are all thought to rush in to the space left free by–say–free time.

            I think I’ve read something about how the Duggars never let their kids have any alone-time.

            You’ve got to keep women and children isolated, busy, confused, controlled to prevent them from leaving: for this reason you will see an emphasis on home schooling children among right wing and some anarchist groups.

            Could you say more about this, please? I have a lot of gripes with anarchists who proudly don’t care about any oppression that doesn’t touch straight white men, but this information is new to me.

      • JL

        Computer science (in the US), my own field, is an interesting case study here. Back in the 1950s, before there were a lot of degree programs for it, it was practiced mostly by women, and was low-prestige, and not well-paid. Once it started gaining in pay and prestige, and degree programs started forming, the men moved in. Relatively quickly, the field became overwhelmingly men – I’ve worked at companies where less than 10% of the technical staff were women, and a lot of degree programs are around 20% women – and it’s pretty common for men to claim that women are inherently unsuited for it.

      • Uncle Kvetch

        I think bspencer and most feminists would argue that women can many times do what men do –whether as hobby or as work–because those activities are valorized while it has traditionally been much harder for men to do what women do because those activities are despised because of their association with women.

        I learned very early in life — the hard way — that while tomboys are seen as cute, sissies are seen as creepy.

        • I think at a very deep level masculinity (in this culture) is seen as fragile and potentially poisoned by femininity while femininity is seen as something that can be added on or forced slightly later in life. That’s a new thing. During the victorian period boys and girls were both dressed in a very androgenous way during baby and toddlerhood. “Training” in masculinity didn’t have to begin at birth–as it does now when there is an entire color and toy scheme imposed from the moment you bring the baby home from the hospital.

          However even then (depending on your class) there was a cut off point after which the child was trained for hte proper gender expression: Then the boy had his “curls cut” and was forced into a very rigid model. No wonder since upper class boys were sent away to school and left to fend for themselves. Girls could be allowed a period of tomboyish behavior so long as it didn’t affect their marriage prospects later so you might argue that girls could be permitted non normative dress and behaviors in isolated family settings or when marriages were going to be arranged regardless of personal qualities or attractions.

          I guess what I’m arguing is that freedom to be oneself has always depended on a given culture’s security in knowing that adults were going to perform their functions later in life–the function of repeating the typical family structure, giving birth, caring for elders etc…Anywhere where the qualities necessary were thought to be at risk is going to bring down the hammer on non conforming children and adolescents. And the more of these non conforming youths the harder the societal hammer is going to come down–I’m thinking of Teddy Roosevelt and the anxiety about effeminate and hysterical men, or the anxieties expressed about masculine women around the time of the women’s suffrage movement.

          • Uncle Kvetch

            I think at a very deep level masculinity (in this culture) is seen as fragile and potentially poisoned by femininity while femininity is seen as something that can be added on or forced slightly later in life.

            That’s a very interesting take on it, aimai. I’m gonna think on that.

    • JL

      LOL, a dinosaur? I wrote the comment that bspencer is quoting here – thank you bspencer! – and I’m 27 years old.

      In any case, I’m going to elaborate on my personal perspective a little bit below.

  • Origami Isopod

    As I tend to the utilitarian in my dress, I used to have a scornful attitude toward all fashion and all makeup. Then it was pointed out to me by someone who’s unquestionably brilliant that both are, or can be, forms of art.

    Granted, the fashion industry is toxic in a multitude of ways. OTOH, the enjoyment of decorating one’s own body is ancient and, AFAIK, universal. It’s also not strictly gendered, at least when one looks at the overall history.

    One point I’ve seen made repeatedly w/r/t makeup is that the more “garish” (so to speak) the look, the more likely it is that the wearer is doing it for the art of it, rather than slapping it on in order to conform to gender expectations. One of many reasons the dudes who insist on announcing how they don’t like makeup on women are missing the point. It ain’t about them.

    • Karen

      Exactly. I had a seamstress (very long story about that.) back in the 90’s who could make copies of old movie costumes. I picked out the fabric and brought her the pictures and she made the outfits. (The best one was a copy of Marilyn Monroe’s subway dress from “The Seven Year Itch.”)I mention this because it was the first time I ever appreciated how much fun clothes could be when removed from the Fashion Industry. What Linda made was real art, just used every day.

      • Yeah, I didn’t want to include sewing as an egalitarian art form. People who can sew are artists, period. And I am jealous.

        • Origami Isopod

          So am I. And I’d be happy just to be able to mend clothes, never mind create my own outfits.

          • Karen

            One of the saddest days of my life was when she divorced her (pretty thoroughly worthless) husband and moved away.

            I am totally incompetent at sewing, other than learning about to make reusable shopping bags out of old T-shirts. I’d see blood plasma to be able to hem khakis, as neither son even approaches a standard size. (Older son is tall and thin, this requiring pants that are too big in the waist. Younger son is short and chunky, this requiring pants about a foot too long. I have actually used duct tape for Younger Son’s hems.)

    • Hogan

      One of many reasons the dudes who insist on announcing how they don’t like makeup on women are missing the point. It ain’t about them.

      They also, as a rule, haven’t seen women without makeup. They’ve just seen women who use makeup to conceal the artifice, not enhance it.

      • Jameson Quinn

        Actually, I don’t think that’s fair. Most guys who have been in a domestic relationship have seen women without makeup. It also happens that the women they’ve seen without makeup are the ones they are in a relationship with. So saying they (we) like natural better is saying they (we) like the looks of the wowen they (we) love and who love them (us). Which is utterly unsurprising, and doesn’t really deserve the broad brush “you have no idea what you’re talking about” that’s often applied.

        • Origami Isopod

          Sure, you’ve seen women without makeup if you’re in a relationship with them, but I agree with Hogan: Most of the time, when a guy says “I don’t like women who wear makeup,” he means “I like women to wear just enough makeup to hide her natural ‘flaws’ but not so much that it’s obvious.”

          It’s yet another thing in which women have to not only keep up appearances but make it look like there’s no effort at all involved. See also: “I like a woman who’s not afraid to order a cheeseburger,” but don’t go thinking you can actually gain a little weight, missy.

          • SV

            It’s “I like a woman who is naturally beautiful and just a bit of mascara and lipstick on top of that” or “I like a woman who wears make-up, enough to look great, but not in that overly make-up-wearing way”.
            Or, they’ll think of an example of a woman (acquaintance or celebrity) who they think wears no or little make-up, yet is naturally beautiful… in reality whoever they’re talking about wears plenty of make-up, just different colours (a natural pink lipstick instead of bright red, etc.)

            • Karen

              And whom they’ve only seen in Photoshopped pictures.

          • Jameson “pretty princess” Quinn

            I think the problem is with guys who think they deserve recognition as a snowflake because they can see inner beautay. But when people react to those guys by saying that no man really knows what women without makeup look like, and if they did they’d never actually prefer it… well yeah, I get a bit defensive. I do know, and sometimes I do prefer. Doesn’t make me a snowflake and I don’t expect anyone who’s not my S.O. to care, but it’s a bit annoying that the reaction to the snowflakes is to deny the existence of ice.

            • Jameson Quinn

              Oops, time to lose that nym.

            • Hogan

              It may be useful to preserve a sense of what we started out discussing.

              the dudes who insist on announcing how they don’t like makeup on women

              If you’re not one of those, then you’re not one of those.

          • I think the tell here, the giveaway, is that the very phrase “I like/don’t like women who…” is itself the problem–my lovely spouse loves a woman who never wears makeup. Its not a general statement of preference because he doesn’t seem to pay attention to other women at all. He isn’t under the impression that his likes or dislikes matter very much to the wider class known as “women.” Why should it? They aren’t banging down the doors demanding his approval, or weeping over his disapproval. Their lives and faces are not books that he gets to read and condemn as “too made up” or “not made up enough.” Its none of his business and if he imagined that it were he’d be, well, arrogant and misinformed.

            And that’s why the very statement “I like women wth the natural look” or “I like women who look like Dolly Parton” either one, can never be seen as wholly innocent or feminist or particularly supportive of women (however you want to cast it). Its always a statement that redirects attention away from a woman, or all women and her agency in choosing how she presents herself– to the man uttering the statement.

            Its so…confining for women to always be judged as to whether they bring pleasure, or not, to some random dude on the street. Recently I was reading over at Tom and Lorenzo’s Mad Men blog and they had some quote up from John Hamm expressing distaste at the mass public fixation on his genitals and their size. Tom and Lorenzo pretty much suggested he try to imagine how all his female co-workers and especially Christina whats-her-name feel about being “objectified” and “reduced to a single body part.”

  • herr doktor bimler
    • Jameson Quinn

      Aside from being NSFW, how is that relevant to bspencer’s point?

      • Origami Isopod

        Jesus. OK, an NSFW warning would’ve been good, but it was funny. Stick, ass, remove.

        • Jameson “pretty princess” Quinn

          Yes, sir.

          • Origami Isopod

            Foot, mouth, remove while you’re at it.

            • Jameson Quinn

              Sorry.

              • Origami Isopod

                Thanks for that.

              • Jameson Quinn

                Seriously, it’s threads like this that make me regret I use my real name. I’m 0/2 in going for the cheap joke, and even my quasi-substantive points/questions are infelicitously expressed. So: egg, face, scrub.

                • Karen

                  Egg whites do wonders for the complexion.

  • Andrew Burday

    When you pull a quote out of comments, it would be nice to have a link back to the original — to give the commenter credit and to let the rest of us see the full comment in its original context. I doubt it would have made a difference in this case, but still…

    On the substance of your post, I don’t have that much to say, just yeah, absolutely. One of my creative interests is gendered in sort of a depressing way: photography. There are a lot of women taking pictures, often of friends, children, or other family, and those pics tend to be received as like, snapshots, dude, totally beneath serious notice. But then a guy goes out with a really looooong zoom lens with about five condoms filters stacked on the end, and takes yet another picture of yet another mountain reflected in yet another lake at yet another sunrise, and it’s art because, dude, his lens was really long.

    • Origami Isopod

      Never thought about this but you’re right.

      Some of my favorite photos are those that make the very ordinary look extraordinary. There’s one photographer on Flickr, damned if I can remember her name, who makes ordinary settings of coffee, espresso, etc. cups look like works of art. I’m not averse to certain landscape photos, but if I can have her coffee cup pix you can keep the landscapes.

    • sparks

      I saw a guy with a huge/long telephoto zoom planted on the end of a digital Nikon a couple of years ago at an art-in-the-park festival. “Compensating for something, I guess” was my remark to a friend standing next to me. I knew the guy wasn’t a pro photographer as he was too well dressed and his kit was so pristine it could’ve been brand new.

    • bspencer

      “This” was supposed to be linked. I’m updating with a link.

  • Emma in Sydney

    Absolutely. I once wrote a thesis about quiltmaking and how feminist theorists had misused the patchworking metaphors in their work without knowing anything about how patchwork actually works, because of the internalised misogyny that says that ‘womanly’ pursuits are not worth doing. Especially if you are a feminist philosopher who has defined herself as a brain in a bottle that is better than the boys. It didn’t go down well with the feminist philosophers.
    The world is full of cool pastimes. Cutting yourself off from half of them, for WHATEVER reason, is a bad idea.
    I had a great day on the weekend sewing a Crusader costume for my 9 year old daughter who had to go to a medieval themed birthday party and didn’t want to be a princess.

    • I learned from my mother just how easy it is to sew a Joan of Arc costume–take one pillowcase, cut out a hole for the head and two for the arms, and sew a crusader style cross on the front. Et Voila.

  • Mike D.

    I totally agree with this. But for it to happen, there has to be a follow-through on the part of women in not seeing men who engage in these activities as less masculine for doing so. Unless we’re saying that men should stop worrying about being seen as masculine by women, which… yeah. Otherwise these activities are going to continue to be abjured by men, thus primarily engaged in by women, and thus probably unavoidably coded as feminine. I understand that that last connection is one you want to resist, but as a practical matter, activities that continue to be overwhelmingly engaged in by women are going to continue to be coded as feminine.

    • Anonymous

      Nothing is unintentionally or “unavoidably” “coded” as “feminine.” It’s very much a feature of the system. Female-coded activities != something women do. Activities that women engage in aren’t magically shittier because women engage in them, so there’s little women can do to up the prestige of their own hobbies.

      Also, homosocial male pressure and the desire for other men’s approval has its own special part to play in the policing of masculinity.

      • Mike D.

        Unavoidably was too strong; you’re right. “In any case highly likely” is perhaps more what I was going for.

        Both of point on homosocialization around these activities is well-taken. I didn’t mean to deny it; in fact I wouldn’t even deny that homosocialization is the bigger part of what causes these codings to happen. And I don’t think this is about necessary homemaking tasks – not that the breakdown of those isn’t an important issue in gender relations, but because this was framed by the OP as being about choices made with leisure time. My point was just that people trying to change how all of this works out, who I think it’s safe to say are mostly women, though not exclusively of course, need to be sure to follow through in how they relate to men who choose what are (even if we wish they weren’t) coded as feminine activities for leisure activities as much as they are aware of how they think about women who choose activities coded as masculine.

        We can say that men should stop socializing each other against what they perceived as femininity, but ultimately there’s only a very limited slice of that audience that conversations like this are ever going to reach.

        • Anonymous

          We can say that men should stop socializing each other against what they perceived as femininity, but ultimately there’s only a very limited slice of that audience that conversations like this are ever going to reach.

          That’s fine, if that’s how you perceive this sort of discussion. But, then your advice for women as to what they ought to do to make men’s lives easier doesn’t really follow. Plus, we’re going to need a citation for the thesis that heterosexual adult women’s preferences are wholly for the macho manly dude, and that it’s those preferences which drive misogyny (one of the manifestations of which is, of course, disdain for all things feminine).

          My point was just that people trying to change how all of this works out, who I think it’s safe to say are mostly women, though not exclusively of course, need to be sure to follow through in how they relate to men who choose what are (even if we wish they weren’t) coded as feminine activities for leisure activities as much as they are aware of how they think about women who choose activities coded as masculine.

          And my point was that it’s not women who are carefully policing other men for signs of “feminine” behavior, and it’s not women who are shrieking “fag” at non-gender conforming men.

          I find it odd that, on the one hand, you’re acknowledging that women have more to gain/lose in the great feminist project, while on the other hand you expect women to do most of the heavy lifting in educating and protecting men from the harm they do themselves. I mean, men are harmed by patriarchy, too (memes never lie), so why is it up to women to make sure men get a fair shake when women battle against their own oppression?

          What you’re proposing (that women shoulder the burden both of destroying patriarchy and treading carefully on delicate male feelings while doing so) is unjust and wouldn’t be particularly productive.

          • Mike D.

            It’s not up to women alone. I’m just saying that if you’re committed to the project and want it to work, for your part you should follow through on this part of it. That’s not to say that the whole thing rides on women doing that.

            I do think that women (out of, as bspencer points out, unfortunately internalized sexism) do police this stuff in men – even “their” men. It’s not as great a phenomenon as men’s homosocialization around what is masculine. but do you really expect to penetrate and transform frat culture in this regard? We all have power over what we have power over. Everyone needs to fight this, but that does include women in how they orient themselves to gender expectations for men – even women suffering under those socially-imparted ideas about gender.

            But as I say, if you’re more interested in pinning the blame for patriarchy where it belongs than in figuring out what *you* can do to transform it, that’s your prerogative.

            • Origami Isopod

              But as I say, if you’re more interested in pinning the blame for patriarchy where it belongs than in figuring out what *you* can do to transform it, that’s your prerogative.

              I love it when men lecture women about how to bring down patriarchy, I really do.

            • Emily

              I think you’re digging in, Mike, when it would be worthwhile to recognize that you made a comment that is a really common “men will change when women act different” argument and not really helpful in this discussion.

              In my experience, feminist women are really quite cool with men who like to cook or sew or do whatever female associated thing (nurses, elementary school teachers, too). It’s fear of men’s reaction, not women’s, that kept my husband from taking advantage of the “family friendly” policies that his workplace supposedly offered.

              Why should it be on women to, as a group, react in a certain way to certain men, rather than on men to step up and do what they want to do and not give in to the fear of homosocial opprobrium.

              Your point that women’s reactions has SOME effect is not wrong, per se, but it is a banal observation made by every MRA on every feminist related post and it’s really not even close to one of the most effective strategies for change in our current climate. What makes you think that every woman reading this thread hasn’t already thought about that?

              That’s why you’re getting push-back.

            • Anonymous

              I’m just saying that if you’re committed to the project and want it to work, for your part you should follow through on this part of it.

              Who says “we” aren’t already doing so, bro?

          • Origami Isopod

            Plus, we’re going to need a citation for the thesis that heterosexual adult women’s preferences are wholly for the macho manly dude

            Have none of the men who make this claim, either explicitly or implicitly, ever heard of yaoi? Japan isn’t exactly a paradise of gender equality, but their marketers figured out a long time ago that not all women are into macho men.

    • SV

      Although, a lot of ‘feminine’ hobbies are related to shitwork that women do because men don’t want to. Cooking, sewing, knitting, canning, can be fun, and there are plenty of people who do them for fun without needing to. It’s a bit different when they’re necessary in order to have food and clothes. I think of this as being related to the way some people say that women should be the ones cleaning and/or staying home with the kids ‘because they’re just better at it and enjoy it more’.

      And it’s not the case here, Mike, that women naturally enjoy knitting more, and therefore do it more often: it’s that it’s household work, therefore was mostly women’s job, therefore coded F , therefore something easy for women to learn in a culture where they’re expected to: if there were no gender coding for knitting, and girls and boys were taught it at the same rate, I think the level of take-up would be equal.
      And yet, when society wants it, gender coding can be incredibly flexible: think about encouragement for women doing manwork during the war with Rosie the Riveter: then when the soldiers returned, suddenly it’s ‘they’re taking away a man’s job’. Colour coding for gender, as mentioned in a recent thread, was reversed a century ago (M pink, F blue): and knitting was often done by men in the recent past also.
      There’s less hostility -or perhaps I should say more encouragement – for women doing male activities (e.g. hunting) than for men doing female activities (say, knitting), because women are taking a step up when doing male activities, whereas men being girly are considered more contemptible. However, within a community, I think women are a bit more welcoming to males transgressing gender norms (a male knitter) than communities of men with a masculine-coded hobby are to transgressing females.
      It’s more men policing other men for being girly than it is women overall, IMO. Your wife won’t make fun of you for looking after the kids, cooking, etc. – maybe even knitting – as much as your male friends.
      (This is also a reply to Anonymous below, I guess)

      • SV

        Anonymous above, that is.

      • Mike D.

        SV,

        See my reply to Anon above; beyond that I believe you’re saying that a lot of things I didn’t say would have been wrong for me to have said. And you’re right about that.

        • SV

          Apologies, it was only one or two sentences after I used your name that were specifically a response to your comment, and even that was intended as more of a ‘yeah, and furthermore…’ rather than ‘not even’.

      • Anonymous

        There’s less hostility -or perhaps I should say more encouragement – for women doing male activities (e.g. hunting) than for men doing female activities (say, knitting), because women are taking a step up when doing male activities, whereas men being girly are considered more contemptible.

        I don’t really agree with this, actually. That may, in fact, be the way men perceive the outcomes, but as a woman I haven’t had this experience. I agree that individual women are often welcomed as Pretty Tokens in male-dominated settings, provided they are complacent, nurturing, know their place, don’t invite other women in, and don’t excel too much. (For examples of what happens to women who aren’t grateful for the role as token in subcultures or who are too good at what men do, I would invite you to examine the interwebs, gaming communities, atheist-skeptic groups, music and film criticism, et al.)

        Given the status of man as default person, his experiences as the norm (women and women’s interests becoming the niche), there aren’t many pursuits of interest men don’t dominate as professionals to female amateurs (male chef, female homecook). Where they “transgress” they are lauded (men? raising children?) and through male affirmative action have the option of ushering in a lot more men, generally at the expense of women. It’s not what they intend to do, most of the time, but it is often what happens.

        That’s, incidentally, why this scratch-cooking, rough-living, off-the-grid stuff Pollan seems to believe is new-fangled is so amusing: people have been trying it for a good long while, and, not surprising to anyone who tried the communal gig and failed, it’s generally women as domestics, child-minders, ag-workers, and men as lofty philosophers with minors in beard-growing and wine-making / lager-brewing.

        • SV

          There are many examples I can think of where it’s one way and many the other, but my feeling is that in general women laud men slightly more for doing many F-coded activities, whereas men laud those same men less so (slightly less, on the average) – the homosocial policing of masculinity.
          For example – and coming back to the main post – it’s more acceptable for a girl to like blue and trucks than it is for a boy to like pink and Barbie dolls. A male friend who had mad knitting skillz used to go to an otherwise all-female craft group and found them really welcoming (with the occasional slight condescension of ‘oh, fantastic! Good on you!‘. Yet my experience is that men are (just slightly) less welcoming to the first woman entering a M-coded-activity group (at least if she’s not playing the Exceptional Woman role, or providing the sandwiches).
          But, I’m not in the US, and there are big cultural differences at play as well.

    • Mike D.

      …Or, you know, don’t worry about that side of it, and just do what you want to do, I guess. That is actually completely fine by me as well.

      • I guess where I see this as non responsive is that lots of people–men and women–don’t experience themselves as free to “just do what you want to do” because its “fine by Mike D. as well.” People who cross all kinds of lines can find themselves ostracized, beaten up, and even killed. I’m not saying that the guy who goes quilting is going to get beat up by the quilting bee but sure as shit women who take on masculine roles and trans men who take on feminine ones have been killed for being “discovered.” And women in traditional families have been beaten and starved into submission for expressing an interest in “wrong” activities–especially premarital sex. People just aren’t always free to explore all sides of their personality and talents.

    • JL

      I agree, as the originally quoted commenter, that men should not get shit (from people of any gender) for gender non-conforming behavior.

  • cpinva

    I think the only inherently gendered human activity is childbearing, everything else is a social construct.

    • Dave

      Rape. Rape’s pretty gendered, really. Pretty universal, too, unfortunately.

      • cpinva

        “Rape. Rape’s pretty gendered, really. Pretty universal, too, unfortunately.”

        nope. men get raped too. granted, it’s mostly women, but certainly not all. childbearing is strictly women.

        • Trans men have given birth, so the “strictly” does need some qualification.

        • John

          Being a victim of rape is not really gendered at all. A pretty sizable number of men get raped. Being a rapist is pretty strongly gendered – I suppose there are probably a tiny number of women rapists, but pretty close to none.

          • Sweetums

            really? ’cause there’ve been a lot of female teachers-as-rapists in the news in the past decade

            • sharculese

              Basing your statistics on what the media chooses to report is not the best way to get an accurate sample.

              • chris

                Plus, there’s a big difference between an activity in which one participant does not consent, and an activity in which one participant’s consent is disregarded by society.

                Even when society has some damn good reasons, those are not at all the same thing.

                Nevertheless, I think it’s an open question whether the lower rates of rape by females are truly innate, or a side effect of relentlessly socializing them to be less aggressive in general. In which case one side effect of feminism could conceivably be rape becoming more of an equal-opportunity activity. Ugh.

            • Origami Isopod

              There have been far more male teachers-as-rapists in the news, if you include local stories that don’t make the national news. They don’t get anywhere near the same coverage as the women do. I’ll leave why as an exercise for you to figure out.

  • Data Tutashkhia

    So rather than turning our noses up at girly stuff, I say we freaking embrace it, and make it as cool as any masculine endeavor.

    Who is this “we”? Why do you feel your personal interests must be approved by other people, who have nothing to do with you?

    People who like guns don’t need your approval, and you don’t need their.

    There this no reason to despise those whose whims you don’t understand, but if you do (as you do vis-a-vis the gun enthusiasts), and that makes you feel good, that’s okay too.

    • bspencer

      I think you’ve missed the point of my post, as usual.

      • Data Tutashkhia

        Thank you for informing me, but your comment doesn’t help me find it. What is the point?

        • bspencer

          Other people seem to get it. Why don’t you?

          • Data Tutashkhia

            Perhaps it’s because English is my second language. Could you re-phrase the point, please. In simple words. If it’s not a huge bother. Thanks.

            • bspencer

              My point is that hobbies/pastimes/pursuits that are often thought of as “feminine” are frequently waved away as frivolous and uncool. Since I think a lot of the the things that are “feminine” are incredibly neat, I find this unfortunate.

              • Data Tutashkhia

                Thanks. You’re right, I got nothing interesting to say about this. Cheers.

                • DrDick

                  Or anything else, for that matter.

            • DrDick

              Also perhaps because you have never visited reality, as demonstrated by every comment you have ever made.

            • Origami Isopod

              Pretty sure you’re not the only ESL speaker here.

  • Um, I got nothing against scrapbooking or crafting and I think you mischaracterize sewing, but I just don’t think it’s a positive thing for art to be egalitarian.

    • Anonymous

      By art being “egalitarian,” do you mean women painting, making furniture, composing music, or what?

      • I mean whatever bspen meant when she said

        Things like crafting and scrapbooking are the most egalitarian form of art.

        I certainly don’t mean what you think I mean. I like the critic in Ratatouille’s explanation of what “anyone can cook” means.

        • Anonymous

          Ah. Thanks.

          I tend to think pre-Raphaelite woodworking guilds when I think egalitarian art. Apparently, it means art for untalented people. (I thought that’s what art school was for?)

          • So it’s not “egalitarian”. Yay!

            I get that I could just not be getting what bspen is talking about when she sez crafting is “egalitarian”… but then what IS she talking about?

            • Anonymous

              No idea, mate. Trying to parse that from your comments myself.

        • Anonymous

          Why isn’t it a positive thing, though?

          • Well, I’m just reading things into what bspencer said here, of course. But there’s not really any barrier to entry for drawing or singing, for example. So what she must mean by calling scrapbooking and crafting the most egalitarian forms of art is either that there aren’t agreed-upon metrics of quality or that it doesn’t take a lot of skill?

            • Anonymous

              Well, I don’t know much about scrap-booking itself, but scrap-booking folk I know seem pretty informed about what does and doesn’t make a good… entry, or whathaveyou.

              Crafting, on the other foot. That could mean anything, I suppose.

              • Anonymous

                Actually, I’ve given it a second read, and I get it. Women get recognition and pleasure (and less male disdain) in playful pursuits that seem incidentally creative. (I’ve hazard the caveat that women are just as competitive as men, and that scrap-booking an’ shit has its rules and its goddesses, I shouldn’t wonder).

                My first-hand experience is with gardening. It’s gardening when women do it (silly, flower-focused stuff) and landscape design and installation when the dudes give it a go, and landscape architecture when pedants with no actual love for horticulture make careful, if fanciful, drawings of squiggly plant-like material.

                • Anonymous

                  Oh, and yet: anybody can garden, provided you’re propertied, or have access to an allotment / community garden space, or you’ve got a patio or steep or windowsill you can chuck a pot on and you can afford some potting media and the extra irrigation water, and you’re liable to learn stuff quickly, and it’s not terribly complicated, and it’s fairly creative. Plus, a lot of it you can use as a crop to smoke / eat / compost / use decoratively / flavor your gin with, &c.

                • bspencer

                  No, my point was that women get kudos for pursuing male-dominated pursuits.

                  When confronted with the idea that a woman is doing something masculine the impulse is often to think of it is cool…because stuff guys do is inherently cool, right? And all too often when we decide these activities are inherently cool, we simultaneously decide that anything that is “girly” is inherently uncool.

                • This is entirely wrong–some of the most famous gardeners have been women (Gertrude Jekyll comes to mind), gardening in some societies is highly valorized as an upper class pursuit for both men and women, and early women artists were in the forefront of botany–or botanists were in the forefront of art.

                  As for gardening as a social passtime it is incredibly democratic in the sense that the gardening community is extremely open and welcoming to novices and that seeds, cuttings, and information are widely shared among people who consider themselves “amateurs.” Its also, of course, a domestic pursuit since laws relating to property use mean that gardeners generally beautify their own home properties however container gardening and urban gardening have enabled apartment dwellers and renters to enter gardening as an activity, a hobby, and as a means of sharing communal space with each other. South Boston has an incredible community garden which is a joy to behold.

                • Anonymous

                  No, my point was that women get kudos for pursuing male-dominated pursuits.

                  They also get a lot of shit, too. On the whole, I’d rather be a dude knitting (think of how many cookies he’s going to get?) than a woman just doing what she wants to (because most of what human beings like to do has taken hijacked by male territorial pissing contests).

            • Data Tutashkhia

              ‘Egalitarian’ in this context probably means ‘not expensive’. But I don’t think you’re right about this; one can do great things, and achieve a great success in egalitarian art just the same, as long as they have talent. Banksy, for example.

              • Anonymous

                Oh my lord. Banksy, fer fuck’s sake. Somebody dig up that Charlie Brooker editorial.

            • bspencer

              “Egalitarian,” for the purposes of this conversation: You don’t have to be Picasso to start creating immediately. I suppose you could say that about any art form, but I think there’s a comfort level that crafting/scrapbooking provides that encourages people to jump right in. And, if you get comfortable with it, you might end up making something incredibly cool.

              Crafting and scrapbooking are two things I don’t do only because time does not allow. As soon as my son gets a little older, I’m getting into both.

              • Anonymous

                I honestly don’t know what crafting means here. Does it have to do with paper and interior decoration-type things? Does it involve re-finishing stuff, or re-purposing junk?

        • NonyNony

          You mean this quote:

          In the past, I have made no secret of my disdain for Chef Gusteau’s famous motto, “Anyone can cook.” But I realize, only now do I truly understand what he meant. Not everyone can become a great artist; but a great artist *can* come from *anywhere*.

          I think that’s pretty much what bspenser is saying when she’s saying egalitarian. It’s a perfectly cromulent usage of the word egalitarian (though admittedly not the dictionary definition) so I’m not quite sure why you’d be all that confused by it.

    • Dave

      I’d rather have some egalitarian knitting around than the crap that passes for elite art these days – but the point would be that you can like that crap if you want, but you don’t get to be down on what isn’t ‘elite’.

    • bspencer

      Oh. I do.

  • Mr Peabody

    My wife and I have a go-to list of female movie stars with PHDs since occasionally my scientifically interested/Fancy Nancy loving daughter voices her concern that she can’t be both scientific and fancy. The first time we went through this she ended up coming downstairs in her dress up princess dress & tiara and asked me to go over evolution with her again. These days she says when she grows up she wants to be a mommy and a medical doctor, which is fine since we have a friend who has just that job description to act as an example for her.

    It’s insane that we have to have these conversations at all, but I haven’t found a better way of navigating them.

    Also connected to the topic, about 2 years ago I took up cooking as a hobby because, well, it’s pretty lame that I didn’t know how to do something so basic and it looked like fun. And it is. My wife also cooks for fun and always has. While she loves being able to share her hobby with me she’s had some female friends ask if she was OK with me cooking because it encroached on her “stuff”. I wonder how much of that was gendered?

    • Karen

      Good for you and your wife. The most feminist thing I ever did in my life was inspire my younger son to love baking. Not just any cooking — barbecue grills are NOT coded girly — but baking and decorating cookies. I have to thank Lucasfilm and William-Sonoma for selling Star Wars themed cookie cutters, but still. Aaron will spend hours cutting out then decorating cookies.

      • Hogan

        THere’s a Margaret Atwood story called “Simmering” that’s basically a fantasia about how cooking goes from being gendered female to being gendered male (starting with grilling), and then becomes surrounded with secret codes and arcane rituals that work to exclude women completely.

        It was pointed out to women, who by this time did not go into the kitchens at all on pain of being thought unfeminie, that chef after all means chief and that Mixmasters were common but no one had ever heard of a Mixmistress. Psychological articles began to appear in the magazines on the origin of women’s kitchen envy an d how it might be cured. Amputation of the tip of the tongue was recommended and. as you know, became a widespread practice in the more advanced nations. If Nature had meant women to cook, it was said, God would have made carving knives round and with holes in them.

        • LeftWingFox

          Given how male-dominated the restaurant industry is, it’s not all that much of a fantasia.

          • I was thinking the EXACT same thing.

          • Origami Isopod

            This. Who else just thought of a certain chapter in Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential?

          • Karen

            I have told him more than once that a good cake decorator can make some decent cash.

      • Mr Peabody

        Our daughter acts as sous chef for me sometimes and helps my wife with the baking (she does 95% of the baking since it scares me; I’m not ready for bread). I did have the fun of teaching my wife how to grill last year when we kept losing power due to blizzards/hurricates/et al and she promptly figured out how to make cupcakes on the damn thing. I’m hoping our 2 year old son will eventually join us in the kitchen as it’s become a family affair.

  • Jordan

    As a dude, I have various things I’d like to say here. They will all be enlightening and useful to the females reading this post. Optimally, they will even be instructive to the women about how they can proceed with their behavior going forward from this!

    /seriously, great post, as always.

    • Heh. I deleted a draft response for pretty much this reason.

      People like to create. It is, IMO, one of the basic traits of our species. We really need to stop gunking up that desire with lousy cultural baggage.

      • Karen

        This. Making something beautiful, even if it’s only beautiful to the creator herself, is the most human of activities. No other species makes purposeless things, or spends so much effort making useful things beautiful.

  • JL

    Since I wrote the comment, I wanted to elaborate a little on my personal perspective.

    I was always a tomboy, and only became more so as I got older. I didn’t like cooking, or crafting, or pink, or makeup, or wearing dresses (I still dislike all of those things except formal dresses at parties). I did like science, sports, chess, rough-and-tumble play.

    Like so many girls in similar situations, I got bullied and rejected a lot over it, particularly by other girls. Boys were split between being surprised and excited that a girl liked the same things they did (and acting like I was special for it), and being assholes (calling me a bitch, a dyke, etc). Girls mostly just thought I was a freak, and treated me accordingly. Like so many girls in similar situations, I preferred the company of boys and fellow outcast girls (didn’t know anyone non-binary-gendered when I was a kid), and came to hate “normal” girls and the femininity associated with them. I learned to dismiss the opinions of the people (kids and adults) who thought I was a freak and called me slurs, which was good, but became a sucker for the attention and validation of the people (kids and adults) who complimented me for being gender non-conforming. Doing things that people didn’t expect girls or women to do, and scorning things that they did, became something to which I was emotionally attached – the “novelty girl” mindset that bspencer describes – and I relished in both the compliments from usually-well-meaning guys and the condemnation from people I didn’t like anyway.

    As I’ve mentioned here a few times before, I went to MIT. The reason I keep saying “like so many girls in similar situations” is because there are a lot of women at MIT with similar backstories. The other thing about being at MIT, at least in my subculture, was that a lot of the overtly negative treatment regarding my interests or appearance – not all of it, but a lot, including pretty much all from femme women, of whom there are also many at MIT – went away. For the first time I was making friends with women with traditionally feminine interests, and I noticed that a lot of them, in this environment, were facing negative treatment of their own. I also noticed that the life science majors – dominated by women – were treated by too many students as easy and frivolous, with jokes about people getting As by sleeping with TAs. I felt a lot of pressure, both internal and external, to pick a male-dominated major (I didn’t, though ironically I went into one for graduate studies). I met femme queer women who felt insecure or excluded in that community. I started engaging a lot more with wider geek culture, which can be pretty sexist. I learned what internalized sexism meant. I realized that a lot of those men who complimented women for doing masculine-coded things were sexist asshats who didn’t respect women in general, and I got tired of hearing “But I don’t mean you!” if I complained about people’s comments about women.

    I remember the shock that I felt when I found out that a guy who had never been anything but respectful to me was sexually harassing several very femme women in my wider social group. My conversations with him had all been about locksmithing, and he had treated me, with my black tactical pants and my men’s t-shirts and my unisex-geek-ponytail, like a colleague, while treating them like meat.

    I don’t think feminine women have it harder than masculine women or vice versa…I think we experience sexism differently, at least sometimes. Like I said, people acted like I was a freak and threw random homophobic slurs (years before I realized that I was bi and started identifying as such) at me, because I was breaking norms, and in the minds of some, that deserves punishment. Feminine women often seem to get treated in a way that reflects contempt toward femininity – a contempt that, as I’ve said, I spent years getting over. They aren’t breaking that norm, but their norm is considered frivolous, second-class, and sexually available.

    I also learned (somewhat – this is an ongoing process) to stop feeling guilty about “feminine” aspects of myself. Like the fact that I cry easily, or that I like shiny things, or that I like and am good at “nurturing” work, or that I like to teach. It’s not perfect. You don’t get rid of years of conditioning just by making up your mind that you don’t want them anymore. But at least I’m better at recognizing and working through the problem now.

    I’ve done a decent job, I think, at learning to be a masculine-of-center women who respects feminine women. And like I said, I’ve talked to so many other women who went through very similar processes. That is ultimately why I made the comment that bspencer quoted.

    • Thank you for that comment and this.

    • Origami Isopod

      This is a really excellent comment.

    • Thirded.

    • Karen

      This deserves its own book. Thank you.

    • Bookmarked.

    • Steve LaBonne

      Adding my voice to the chorus- this is brilliant.

      Maybe, some time before our species goes extinct, we’ll get over our love of sorting people into little boxes. Nah, we’ll probably go extinct first.

    • Such a powerful and beautifully written comment. I learned so much. My own older daughter is not applying to MIT this year and I think one of the reasons is because she fears being labled as “second class” because although she is exceptional in every field, including the hard sciences, she loves history and she suspects that taking any classes in the social sciences or history will always be represented, at MIT, as a form of (gendered) cowardice.

      • bspencer

        Oh, wow, that’s unfortunate.

      • JL

        Just for the record, at MIT, you’re required to take a minimum of eight classes in the humanities, arts, and social sciences. You’re also required to do a sort of humanities/arts/soc sci mini-minor of 3-4 classes. And it is not uncommon for people of whatever gender to do actual minors in those fields.

        She’s not entirely wrong here – majors in those fields (if they aren’t double-majoring in a STEM field) are sometimes seen as people who couldn’t hack it in science and engineering (though oddly, it’s less gendered than the same attitude toward life sciences majors, if only because there are so few humanities majors). And people tend to assume that upper-level classes in those fields are easy and not real work. And those are serious cultural problems. But decent exposure to humanistic fields is required and having more than the required level of interest is very much socially acceptable. I knew an awful lot of people, regardless of gender, who did some variation on “electrical engineering major with a creative writing minor” and loved it, or who devoted their studies to STEM and their free time to campus arts groups.

        • Yeah, its not my choice that she’s making. We actually know a ton of MIT people at every level from faculty to former students, and her dance partner is going to MIT next year so its not like we don’t know the school. I wish she’d give it a try but I feel its not my place to try to shape this choice for her. Already too much pressure.

        • Origami Isopod

          The types in STEM who think that all other studies are pointless and inferior drive me up the wall. Engineers, programmers, and mathematicians are especially awful in this regard IMO.

          • Oh the humanities can suck at this cf philosophers.

            When it’s tongue in cheek and friendly I have found it fun. When it’s physicists coming in and saying “Well, we’re so smart we can solve all your little problems WITH OUT MIGHTY MATH!!!!!” then ick.

            • Origami Isopod

              Yeah, true, I’ve experienced a few humanities types who scorned science as not truly what mattered. Including a middle-school English teacher who was awful in a number of ways.

              Philosophy, though, is one of those odd ducks that seems to straddle STEM and humanities.

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