Text reads: Why is Angelina turning Shiloh into a boy? -A boys haircut and clothes -Calls her ‘John’ -No girlie things. Is it harming the three year old?
I know this magazine is basically a tabloid, and probably contains all sorts of content that we as feminists would find objectionable. But the idea of kids and adults standing in the grocery store aisle, looking at this cover, and absorbing the message it sends was too much.
Where to begin?
First of all, the gendering of kids’ clothing for a three year old like Shiloh is utter bullshit. There is little to no difference between the body of a young girl and the body of a young boy–the norms we hold around clothing and hairstyles at that age are pretty much made up. There is little difference in kids’ bodies until puberty.
Babies and young kids, because they are difficult to gender from just looking at them, often get gendered with clothing. You know, blue is for boys, pink is for girls. Things like hair clips, ribbons and hats are all essential to making sure people know how to appropriately gender a child. And trust me, they will want to. The primary question a pregnant person gets asked is “What is it?” and people want one of two answers.
All of that to say that the idea that Shiloh wearing a collared shirt or her hair short, does not mean they are “turning her into a boy.”
But what if Shiloh was exploring their gender identity? What if Shiloh wanted to be a boy, or wear “boy’s” clothes, or go by male pronouns? That of course, would be unacceptable, according to Life & Style magazine. It might even harm the child. Such a typical narrative around gender variance in the mainstream media.
While this cover is an extreme example, it’s indicative of larger norms that exist around gender. These norms are real, and alive, and affect us from the the moment we are a bump in our parent’s belly to the day we die.
Want to tell Life&Style that gender policing is not okay, even for a tabloid? Send them an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
UPDATE: The Advocate has more on this story, including the response from the National Center for Transgender Equality and GLAAD.
Life & Style takes gender policing to a new level
By Miriam | Published: March 15, 2010
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