Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Gendered Objects

So I bought five umbrellas the other day. Unfortunately, as you might expect from me, it's not for some elaborate costume, but merely preparation for Winter. I lose umbrellas at an alarming rate, and this behaviour is nothing but sensible. Promise.

What disturbed me about these umbrellas though, was the fashion in which they all claimed to be a 'women's small umbrella'. They came in red, light blue, dark blue, and black. How, I implore you to explain to me, are these solely women's umbrellas? Are men only allowed umbrellas of giant proportions, so that they can demonstrate their strength by not being swept off their feet by huge gusts of wind, or so that they can skewer each other when their Neanderthal instincts call? This isolated situation seems like a fuss over nothing, but I'm afraid the 'women's umbrella' is a poster, behind which is hiding a much larger problem.

As I explained in my post To Each Their Own everyone has ways they wish to express themselves, whether through dress, behaviour, or gender identity. This, I think, is the widest area we can cover with one sentence. Anybody can identify themselves in any way they want. If we let this be true, my issues with the world would be reduced by hundreds. Sadly, we can see this statement being denied in multiple tiny ways.

Men traditionally wear trousers, but women, go ahead! Express yourself, for comfort, or practicality, or because you want to. Women traditionally wear dresses, so men, if you wear one, we will stare, and judge, and in some cases, imprison. Yes, women had to fight to have the right to appear a certain way, as black people fought for integration, and homosexual people are still fighting in many parts the world. But it's not a rite of passage! It's wrong to think that any certain group of people need to fight for the way they want to live before they 'deserve' to live it. People cannot be labelled, they cannot be put into neat drawers. "Women like shopping." "Men watch football." "Lesbians have short hair." "Children can run around and express themselves loudly and openly, but when they grow a little older we'll have to explain to them how they should really be behaving." Our society makes us believe all kinds of facts that aren't true, through TV, advertising (this one especially), and recently, tumblr, twitter, youtube, facebook. The number of ways negative messages can be put across to young, impressionable people is slightly terrifying. There is no rule-book you have to follow, there is only the entire world of possibilities that you can pick from, and choose the behaviours you wish to embody.

If the world can learn anything at all, it should be from its past. Wars are fought over religion, people are imprisoned for sexual identity, neighbours treat each other without respect because they worship different gods. None of these things will stop happening until we realise that everyone is free to act in whichever way they wish, as long as they're not hurting others, and that men can use whatever kind of umbrella they jolly well like.

I saw this video today, and it made me happy

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