I came across offensive comments about 17-year old Jaden Smith because he wore a skirt earlier this year for a fashion house. Similarly, when a mother appeared in an advert painting her son’s toenails his favourite colour pink, it was considered to be ‘Psychological sterilisation’ by psychiatrist Keith Ablow. Society knows the rules for gender; e.g. pink for girls and blue for boys because this is the natural order of things. Or so we are lead to believe. There is nothing inherent in gender stereotypes; it is just cultural conditioning. Fortunately, cultural evolution is ongoing and self-expression helps to remove the handcuffs of oppression.
Historically, in the West, men have traditionally worn tunics and togas. Critics of Jaden Smith seem to have forgotten this. Trousers which are a sign of masculinity were designed by the Chinese over 3000 years ago for cavalry. Men and women wore them, most notably the Scythian women warriors.
The West eventually adopted cavalries and men wore the trousers. Women wore dresses which were a health and safety risk. The heavy, multi-layered floor length garments prevented freedom of movement and provided little comfort. The long flowing skirts often accidentally caught alight killing or severely disfiguring women.
Law and Custom prevented women from wearing men’s clothing for centuries; until the last half of the 20th century. It was just in the 1970’s when designer jeans and trouser suits became popular that women of all ages were wearing trousers at work and home. Hilary Clinton made history in the 1990’s by being the first and only First Lady to wear pants in her official portrait. Until 2012, women in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police were not permitted to wear trousers!
Gender inequalities continue. In US case of Jespersen v. Harrah 2004, the Appeal court ruled that there were gender-specific standards for male and female bartenders. A barmaid, who refused to wear makeup, could be lawfully sacked.
During Belle Époque, children up to six years wore gender neutral white dresses. If the 32nd President of America, Franklin Delano Roosevelt (left) could look like a princess, so can Dyson Kilodavis, who likes to dress up as a princess in pink. Historically, boys wore pink and girls wore blue. Pink was the strong colour and blue was considered pale, and delicate. Pink for females is a post-World War II phenomenon.
Gendered clothing is gendered thinking. It limits the horizons of children. Science-based clothing often excludes girls. Clarks introduced a range of boy only dinosaur shoes. Sophie Trow, aged eight wrote to Clarks saying ‘I don’t like how girls just have to like pink and purple – I like blue and science and fossils.’
History proves there is nothing natural or necessary in gender stereotypes. It is a controlling mechanism keeping the sexes in small tight binary cages. Fortunately, cultural evolution is ongoing, and self-expression by people such as Jaden Smith, Dyson Kilodavis and Sophie Trow help to remove the barriers of inequality that strangle adults.
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