Friday, September 24, 2010

True colors

You might note the new color scheme.

One of my first experiences with patriarchy happened in kindergarten. To this day I remember it very distinctly, in much the same way I remember the first time I was exposed to anti-Semitism as a 6th-grader, newly admitted to Catholic school.

I don't remember much about kindergarten, 6th-grade, or school in general, except that I regarded it as a very long prison sentence from which I would eventually emerge as a much older person. And I couldn't freakin' wait!

These moments must stand out to me because they succeeded in rising above the normal level of absurdity I was accustomed to in school.

In 6th-grade it was delivered by new friends who expressed an unexplained prejudice against Jews, owing to the fact that they "ate bagels" and "picked up pennies." I didn't know what a bagel was, and I was hardly prepared to formulate an opinion about somebody based on their relationship to small change. I'd always lived in mixed communities comprised of Christians and Jews; I'd had many Jewish friends in public school. As a 12-year-old I could tell you the whole line of argument was unpersuasive, and this contributed to a general skepticism toward my peers.

As a 5-year-old, I was also left deeply unimpressed by society, which, through its public system of education, had solicited from me an opinion about my "favorite color." I told everybody: Pink! As I say, to this day, the reaction this opinion elicited from every figure of authority in my life remains crystal clear: Pink couldn't be my favorite color, they told me, because it was a girl's color. It's instructive to think that human beings can, at 5 years of age, have a brain in their head which doesn't give a damn, which sees no division between the natural interests of girls and boys.

There are times in my adult life when I regret not taking a firmer stand on preferences I arrived at intuitively as a child. Eventually, I capitulated and chose a different color as my favorite. Like everything else in school that was dictated to me as all-important, all-necessary, lest I ruin my development and forfeit my chances for a happy life, I can't tell you what that color was. It was never a part of who I was in the first place.


Dan said...

I once had this pink tshirt that I loved and, if I may say so myself, looked pretty damned good in. People would always jokingly compliment me with, "you have to be pretty secure in your masculinity to wear a PINK shirt.", I was in high school and nowhere near secure in my "masculinity" (whatever that means), I just had the right skin tone for that shirt.

The funny thing is, given how messed up the whole thing is, that wearing pink made people assume I was MORE macho than I was/am.

Anyway, no real point to that I guess. I just wanted to give you kudos for this cool new blog.

Trish Adkins said...

Funny to read this and be raising two girls--who have always loved princesses, pink and anything that very "girly." Lily is 4 and about 6 months ago started telling me certain things were for boys--like spiderman and cars and blue. I immediately freaked out-after all it is a man's world--my girl needs to be all things--girl, boy, superchild. And most important, I want her to grow up not giving a damn what anyone says is normal or right.
There is a lot of flip side criticism--girls who love princesses are being taught the wrong stereotype that girls are only "good" if they are pretty and sweet. Or that girls who love sports are "tomboys" and therefore less of a girl.
Watching Lily play with her friends--boys and girls--I am always impressed by the boys who will play princesses and barbies--and way less impressed by the boys who refuse.
Love this blog!

JRB said...

It's pretty amazing how much has been invested in separating people from each other by these methods.

Thanks for the insights, and the support!