Thursday, December 29, 2011

Bedside Reading: Our Share in the Home

Sexism and stereotypes. I expect that from a 1945 Home Economics text. I'd hope that toy manufacturers and retail stores in 2011 were beyond that as well, but as LEGO proved with their recent launch of LEGOs for girls they're not. Target's toy catalog included checklists for boys (which included LEGOs) and checklists for girls (which included Barbie and other pink items; of course no LEGOs - they weren't yet pink).
I certainly don't expect sexism in a presentation given at the 28th Chaos Communication Congress (#28C3) - a "congress ... organized by the community [that] appreciates all kinds of participation" and that has a "no nerd left behind" approach. On their FAQ page, they even highlight that "[t]he Chaos Computer Club is, by its chapter and by common consent, a galactic organization of all life forms, regardless of their age, gender or upbringing. We are dedicated to providing a safe and comfortable experience for everybody attending our events." Yet sexism in a technology setting continues to occur and garners applause from an audience.
Bedside Reading: Our Share in the Home

A 1940s Father's Responsibilities

From Our Share of the Home (pp14-16): What are the father's responsibilities to his family?
  • The father is the head of the house.
  • The father shares with the mother in the plans for spending the family income. Working together, they decide whether the family shall own or rent its home, whether it shall have a new car or new furniture or save for the education of the children.
  • The father's influence on the speech, courtesy, and manners of the family is strong. ... If he speaks with precision, this will show in the children's manner of speech. If the father is courteous and polite in his treatment of the family members, his influence will be far greater than many warnings, "Now be polite!"
  • Fathers often help with the work of the home.

A 1940s Mother's Responsibilities

What are the mother's responsibilities to her family?
  • She must know what foods you should have; how to provide them on the money she has for food; how the food can be prepared so as to be interesting and attractive; what can be done with the leftovers so that no food will be wasted; how to care for all the utensils, dishes, silver, and linen used in preparing and serving the food; how to plan her time so that she can get everything done; what provisions should be made for your growth from a baby to an adult; how to select and care for all furnishings of the home; and how to keep all the family members happy.
  • Home nursing is a responsibility mothers usually carry, except for serious illness that requires expert care.
  • Mothers have always taken the major responsibility in caring and guiding the children. The mother helps them become adjusted to this strange world; answers millions of questions; joins in their play; directs their reading and music; and keeps a thoughtful eye on their friends, manners, and speech.

Isn't time to stop perpetuating and teaching gender-biased stereotypes? For our daughter's name, we chose a gender-neutral name. Why? Because, even in 2011, people still judge by a name. We want our daughter to be able to make her own first impressions when people met her, not when they read her name on a class roster. I'd have hoped that gender-bias would be less prevalent now than when I went to school (1970s/1980s). Unfortunately, it appears it's even worse.
Fair warning to family and friends who may want to get a gift for Gates at some point in her life: no pink and no girl-specific toys (check out TrueChild for more details). Vintage toys from the 1950s and 1960s such as American Logs, erector sets, LEGOs, and others that aren't gender-labeled are preferred.
Happy Reading!
Credits: All images taken by Eden Hensley Silverstein for The Road to the Good Life.