Thursday, June 23, 2011

Shades of Gray

Call it serendipitous, call it coincidence, call it the subconscious awareness of what's been in front of you forever, coming forth into consciousness. Two blog entries have been drafting themselves in my head for several days. Two timely news article links were posted to Facebook recently, catching my attention because I was essentially handed the literature to back the rant that was forming in my head. One of the issues, I'll tackle now. The other, I'll wait until it's become less of a rant and more of a tribute.....

It happened in the baby aisle of Wal-Mart, the moment when my brain started drafting furiously. The words started spewing forth with such gusto that they actually started leaving my mouth in a dribble of mutters and curses. My children stared at me in wonderment, looking at me as if to say, what's her deal?

To be fair, it actually started in the canned goods aisle. I needed tomatoes. Wanting to grab the can as quickly as possible, I hit a wall - literally - of choices. Diced, petite diced, crushed, whole, halved, with basil and oregano, with jalapenos and onions, without extra salt, organic, non-organic, made by DelMonte or Sam Walton himself. I needed canned tomatoes, and the overwhelming sense of wastefulness annoyed me. Should buying a can of tomatoes really require a flow chart of choices?

I also needed diapers. Usually, the choice for me was Pampers: Cruisers or Extra-Dry? Suddenly, the choice was different - and the sight of them assaulted me, stopped me in my tracks and left me cursing. There were pink argyle ones. Or blue stripes. They were clearly marked - for "GIRLS" and "BOYS." Have we really come to this? The irony did not escape me, either - here is a product designed to sufficiently and completely cover those very boy and girl parts - and yet the exterior, also intended to be hidden beneath clothes, highlighted the very essence of what's underneath the diaper.

I'm so proud to be living in a nation where, by and large, tolerance and acceptance have become the norm, not the exception. Women are mostly treated as equals to men; blacks are mostly treated as equals to whites; gay and lesbian couples are gradually coming to enjoy many of the same rights as married straight couples. Gone is the "black and white world" in which we used to live - literally, when blacks and whites were segregated, and figuratively, when women were denied access to voting, career choice, and fair pay, and where civil unions and marriages between gay couples didn't even exist. The lines have been blurred; the black-and-white world is now a variegated rainbow reflecting many shades of gray -

Except in the case of gender. Instead, we are going backwards in time, back to an era where boys wear blue and girls wear pink, where individuals are defined not by who they are but who they appear to be. Where boys play with trucks and tanks (that are blue and brown) and girls play with kitchen sets and cradles (pink and yellow, of course). As evidenced by the genderized diapers in Wal-Mart, we're reverting back to a black and white world, where mindsets are closed and perspectives are narrowed.

The diapers are an affront to any parent who has worked to de-emphasize gender and stereotyping. They are not cute, they are not clever, and they are absolutely offensive to me. I particularly appreciate the perspective of Lise Eliot, from the article link above:

"If parents did not buy into the gender stereotyping of children's toys and clothes, kids would stay open-minded longer during childhood. The goal is to keep girls physically active, curious and assertive, and boys sensitive, verbal and studious."

I, for one, will continue to seek the shades of gray.

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