The most popular Christmas present in 1967 was Battleship. It had actually been around as a pencil and paper game since 1930s until Milton Bradley released it as a board game in 1967. And while there were unmistakable elements that marked many toys as intended for a specific gender (e.g., dolls and kitchen sets for girls, GI Joe and die cast cars for boys), the color of these objects were not so obvious (i.e., pink for everything-girl) and still more toys were available that were merely intended for any kid to enjoy (Wham-O, Lite-Brite, jacks, marbles, and kazoos).
When my girls were young, we enjoyed watching Dora the Explorer. They learned a little Spanish and loved the quests Dora led them on, and she did so with a sense that anyone is able to go on such a quest. So when I went in search of a Dora-themed toy one Christmas and could only find a Dora dressed as a princess all in pink, I was flummoxed. And not just Dora—everything in that isle was pink! I hate pink.
Ok, hate is a strong word. Pink is not flattering on me and is not a color with which I choose to decorate. Regardless, when did this symbolic reversal of progress toward equality take place? Sure, there is increased attention to providing encouragement and support for girls to pursue STEM tracks in school, and Hollywood is attempting to provide strong female heroes that do not overstate the female form. But, why must there be two sets of play-station controls, one pink and pastels, the other primary colors?! I hate pastels.
Why this rant? My 16-year-old son was just assigned to debate the question, Is Feminism still necessary in today’s society? This after just reading an article that bemoaned assertions that the role of men is become irrelevant. Of course, no one is irrelevant. All people are necessary for any society to exist, and for humanity to relate in all its fullness all members are indispensible. The problem is when members’ roles are assigned according to one of two categories, crushing the impulse of one or overlooking the gifts of another. And these assumptions are deeply ingrained, and I believe begin, in part, with the color and type of toy a parent presents to a child.
With the push to embrace all ethnicities and to refrain from prejudice, it seems we still have this compulsion to assign others to categories (intellectual, athletic, silly, feminine, aggressive . . .) without taking time to get to know a person. Critical thinking demands too much of our time. We are on tweet-time in preference to contemplative, present-time. And the injury perpetrated is incalculable.
The so-called second wave of feminism occurred in the 1960s, the years around my birth. Both the first and second waves arose out of the recognition of inequality of the sexes. Perception of the movements—as is often the case when liberty is denied to a discrete people group—became warped, misunderstood. And the debate continues. My husband is a feminist. He is also a masculist—that is, one who advocates the right to, as a man, express feelings and nurture his children and consider leadership a quality of gifting, not that of gender (in the family, church, work-place, playground), to be emancipated from the expectation to dominate or control a group or decision.
Mary Wollstonecraft’s observation in 1792 was still relevant in 1967 and remains important in 2017. Until every person is seen for who he or she is and considered on that basis—not any arbitrary, irrelevant category—yes, Lysander, feminism is still necessary in today’s society. I suspect he will present a persuasive debate.
More on gender and leadership in my book: Leading Together: Mindfulness and the Gender Neutral Zone [bit.ly/justLTM]