05 January 2011

He Did, She Did; He Does, She Does

Last month, I saw a public comment by my former boss on Facebook while he was waiting to fly home from Europe for the holidays about the number of men he saw walking about with plucked eyebrows. He is a year younger than I am so would more or less carry the same ideas in his head about what each gender does and does not do.

Sculpturing eyebrows aside – and indeed, to my generation, this was a strictly feminine exercise – there are many young people of the present who have cast away what used to be rather clear-cut gender lines.

I am old enough to remember a time when pants were exclusively for men; and the first women to wear pants were – if not exactly frowned upon – thought of as odd. Now, pants are just part and parcel of day-to-day feminine fashion; and women are just as comfortable wearing these as they are skirts.

When I was a small boy, one of the things my Mom and I would fight over was when she would ask me to put some talcum powder on my face because – and this was strictly according to her – there were sheens on my forehead and cheeks. I would look at the mirror and not see anything wrong. To myself, I would think, what was wrong with Mom?

Just a little, she would attempt to coax me. I would, naturally refuse; albeit, being Mom, she always had her way. Of course, the moment I was out the door, I quickly wiped off the silly powder.

Things are a little different these days with the youngsters. It is not uncommon to see a teenage boy bring out a compact powder kit, take a look at his face in the tiny round mirror and daub some perceived sheen here and there with touches of powder. Incredible!

There are also boys these days who do not mind accentuating their eyes with eyeliners. I believe this and those mentioned before are dictated by teen pop subcultures; that said, when I was young, using any sort of facial make-up was strictly for women and transvestites.

To this day, I cannot bring myself to wear any shade of pink. Red, yes; pink, no! From the time a baby was born and then brought into the nursery, the gender stereotypes were quickly set during my childhood. Blue was always for boys; and pink was for girls. These days, though, everyone wears whatever color feels right for himself or herself, regardless of one’s gender.

Of course, I am honest enough to admit that the truth is that I have simply not really gotten over some childhood stereotypical conceptions. Similarly, I cannot bring myself to wear black because in my youth, black was the color of death and mourning. It was also equated with the dark side and bad luck. These days, of course, many people wear black to look sophisticated, appear slim or just for the sheer heck of it.

Earrings were once purely a girl thing. I think it was in the eighties when men started having their ears pierced as well; although to differentiate themselves from women, initially the norm was just to wear an earring on one ear. These days, nobody pays attention anymore to men who wear earrings on both ears.

Some of the gender norms were overturned when I was in my teens. When I was a prepubescent boy, men were neatly barbered with short hair conditioned with pomade; women wore their hair long. I thought this was just the way things were meant to be.

By the seventies, when I was in my early teens, out went this typecasting as it became acceptable for men to sport long hair just the way women did. In fact, if you looked at the back of certain couples, sometimes it was impossible to tell which one was female and which one was male. If at all; sometimes both were males and sometimes both were females.

When I was a small boy, many older gentlemen wore boxer shorts as underwear. The younger adult males and young boys wore cotton briefs of the sort that are called, these days, hipsters. Nylon was for panties. However, in the seventies, hipster briefs made of nylon started to appear on department store shelves. At first glance, they looked like panties. Soon, even bikini briefs started to appear in the market.

There used to be this notion that women should not drive – and indeed, in the old days, many were prone to have accidents. Whether this was due to public misconceptions or just the fact that the cars of old were built more to suit male drivers, the fact of the matter is that in the present day, there are just as many female drivers as there are males.

Once upon a time, boys and men played basketball; while girls and women played volleyball. These days, boys and girls and men and women play both basketball and volleyball. These days, girls even play football. Who would have thought this happening four decades ago?

There was an article in a news web site the other day that reported that more and more men are taking over the kitchen. During my youth, while men who cooked were not necessarily thought of as odd, the kitchen was still by and large the domain of the women. To a large extent, this could be explained by simple household economics. In those days, men were the breadwinners; and women stayed at home to watch the brood grow.

There used to be, when I was young, a fairly popular local actress who did not shave her armpits. My sister used to point this out to us whenever she appeared on television. I have no idea why in the world she did not shave her armpits. Maybe she was making a gender statement, who knows? Just as it was – and still is – odd for a man not to have hair in the armpit, then it was just as odd – and still is – for a woman to have some in hers.

Thankfully, these gender norms have not changed at all, else… Eeeeuuuwww…!!!





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