I have been spending a lot of time in the past year pondering modern American society's current constructions of masculinity and femininity. The "LEGO for girls" curfuffle kicked it into high gear for me.
JeongMee Yoon's The Pink and Blue Projects "explores the trends in cultural preferences and the differences in the tastes of children (and their parents) from diverse cultures, ethnic groups as well as gender socialization and identity. The work also raises other issues, such as the relationship between gender and consumerism, urbanization, the globalization of consumerism and the new capitalism." Yoon visited with young boys and girls (mostly American and South Korean) in their homes, and photographed them among all of their pink or blue belongings. The resulting photographs were highly saturated fields of pink for the girls and blue for the boys. The effect of everything gathered together in one place was startling, and perhaps a little unnerving.
Interestingly, I came across this project while I was reading Julia Serano's Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity. As is usual for me and non-fiction books, it was a slow read, but it was a good read. Serano has very interesting and insightful things to say on femininity, society, and misogyny. It is generally considered acceptable and even cute for girls and women to do, wear, and enjoy "boy" things, but shameful and wrong for boys and men to do, ear, or enjoy "girl" things. No one looks twice at a woman in pants, even a suit, but a male in a dress is comic. This is because our society generally sees masculine things as good and strong, while feminine thing are silly and weak, so it makes sense to want the masculine things, even if you are female. But for a male person to seek out the feminine is to downgrade.
On a personal note, this was something I struggled with a few years ago. I was seeking out a new car seat. I found the brand and style that I wanted, but it was pretty expensive. There was one seat in that model that was significantly less expensive that the rest: it was pink. I was buying the seat to use with a boy child. I knew that the seat would work as well whether it was black or blue or red or pink. I knew that the savings was not insignificant. I knew that pink being for girls only was an artificial construct. Yet I found that I couldn't get past these things and choose the pink carseat. I was annoyed and resentful at this fact, and wanted to force myself past this hang-up. And still, I ended up with the red seat. It was a serious "what the hell?" moment.
How strong do you have to be to get past the "pink for girls"? Why on earth should you have to be strong to get past "pink is for girls"? And, given the strength that it takes to push past this stupid color taboo, why is pink still seen as weak?
The world, it makes very little sense sometimes.