When I was a young boy in elementary school, pink was a color reserved for scary girls and cooties. My memories of the time are hazy, as it was a while ago, but I still remember that pink was taboo. After a while, though, in middle school, things started to change. One of my best friends got that shirt—I’m sure you’ve all seen it—that says “Real Men Wear Pink” on it. As soon as caught on to the trend, I got a pink button-down shirt that I think I still have somewhere and wore it because I found it amusing.
This is an excellent example of a privileged group seeing a cause, thinking it needs them, and distorting its meaning. The sentiment is sound—it’s silly for men to be stigmatized for wearing pink! But the end result in this case isn’t progression; if anything, it’s regression. Femininity becomes absurd, and any man who unironically wears pink is still probably going to be looked at funny. The underlying problem still exists, possibly worse than ever.
Middle school fashion is far from the only place this sort of thing shows up. Just the other day, I was at a bar with some friends who pointed out that I had ordered two “girly” drinks, whereas the guy next to me had ordered a shot of vodka and a gin & tonic. After I mentioned that I thought gendering drinks was absurd, I was challenged to order a Cosmopolitan to prove my point. The waitress asked why I was ordering one and smirked as I explained myself, and the whole situation was kind of ridiculous.
I suspect many people have found themselves in similar situations, laughed it off, and explained that it doesn’t matter if they order a girly drink because they are secure in their masculinity. My point, which I assert to be the correct point, is that I can order a drink because I like the way it tastes, and I should be not be expected to drink a certain thing (or drink other things with a certain attitude) because I happen to identify as male*. I hope I got this point across, though I suspect that I did not.
There appears to be a related fear among people that social movements are going to force them to act in a certain manner. Maybe they’re afraid that if I got my way, men would be forced to wear pink shirts and drink Cosmos, and women would have to wear flannel and drink nothing but vodka and Budweiser. A friend of mine’s mother once told me that she was anti-feminist because she was perfectly happy being a domestic housewife and staying in the kitchen.
This is not the point of my social justice. Maybe it differs from person to person, but I don’t want to force anyone to break out of their gender stereotypes; I want to force society to stop making gender stereotypes. If you’re a man and you want to talk about your chest hair and fart in public, or if you’re a woman and you want to stay in the kitchen all day and cook and clean, that’s fine. What’s not fine is when you expect someone to do these things because of their gender and pigeonhole others into thinking about themselves in such a way. People should be able to make their own decisions about their identities and live in a society that supports those decisions.
* I am not sure exactly how trans people think about gender, since it is obviously more important to them than it is to me. I hope I am not being insensitive with anything I say here—if I am, please let me know! And if anyone wants to send me some links that can fix my ignorance on the topic, they’d be much appreciated. I’m not even sure what the right questions are to be asking, but it should be obvious that my (potentially naive) opinion is that gender is a kind of arbitrary (and therefore useless) construct. Since I’m lucky enough to be able to ignore any of the potential effects gender would have on me, though, I’m probably not qualified to make such judgments.