Archives for posts with tag: Angier

Upon reading the first few pages of Chapter 14 in Natalie Angier’s “Woman: An Intimate Geography,” I immediately recalled a certain long-running commercial my close friends and I used to always make fun of when we had sleepovers. (Click on the link! Click it!!!!)

 The commercial features two young girls who are having a sleepover, and have apparently reached the point of “What do you wanna do?” “I dunno, what do YOU wanna do?” The host, in a cheerful, squeaky voice, tries to make a few suggestions, but the guest seems to be completely uninterested.

The host’s solution?

…Peanut butter.

Wait, what?!

Okay, I get that this is an advertisement, and as such it doesn’t HAVE to be realistic, but picture this: You’ve been invited by a new friend to sleep over at their house. You get along with this friend fairly well and you seem to have a lot in common, so you agree to go. Then when you get there, you start to realize that you didn’t have as many common interests as you thought, and you’re bored out of your mind. Every activity she suggests to you is friggin’ lame.

Is creamy peanut butter slathered on some white bread REALLY going to make you change your mind about this friend and turn your whole night around?

Yeah, didn’t think so. (Maybe if there were any crazed peanut butter fanatics reading this, their answer would be “HELL YEAH!”, but, I digress.)

Assuming that the peanut butter fails, what do you do next?

Do you just be honest with your friend, like the girl in the commercial, and say “Maybe a sleepover was a bad idea…” followed by something along the lines of “I think I just wanna go home now,” followed by a quick escape?

…Hopefully not. Because that friend (assuming she is a girl, and you are also a girl) will then go and tell everyone in your circle of friends what a party pooper you are, and your chances of being invited to future sleepovers not just with that particular friend, but with ANYONE, will be very slim. (I know this because I slept over at a close friend’s house when I was eight years old, and she told me never to invite Emily R. to any sleepovers because she’ll just whine and complain the whole time and end up going back home. (Why do I remember this kind of crap?! I wish I could have more interesting memories. Oh well.) And in fact, I never did invite her to sleep over at my house, even though we sat together in math and always complimented each other on the pictures we drew in our notes, and I thought she was really cool. Behold the power of gossip!)

So, since you probably don’t WANT your social life to be destroyed, that option is out.

What now? Do you just ignore what your friend wants to do (’cause her hobbies are friggin’ lame) and suggest doing something YOU really want to do, but you know she won’t want to do (ex: spying on her cute older brother)?

…No. (At least, you better not.) Because then your friend will get really annoyed, and then she’ll go and tell everyone in your circle of friends what an annoying, selfish person you are (and how much of a weirdo you are for having a crush on her ugly idiot of an older brother). (Again, this comes from personal experience. In middle school, my friend did this to me when she was over at my house, and I was so mad about it that I decided to let off some steam by complaining about it the following Monday to all of our friends behind her back. *cue angry cat sounds*)

So then what? The peanut butter has failed, going back home is a definite no, and you can’t talk her into doing something that she has no interest in. What other option is there?

Grinning and bearing it.

Sure, you HATE Princess Moonfire (her dress is ugly and her name sounds so dumb) but if you just pretend to be excited about watching this stupid movie, you’ll improve your relationship with your new friend, which will in turn (whether you’re aware of it or not) secure your good standing with your mutual friends because your friend will then go and tell everyone else what a fun time you two had. (Even if you secretly were really, REALLY bored the entire time and were counting down the minutes until it was socially appropriate to suggest you go to sleep.) (And if, to hold you over, you would sneak downstairs after your bathroom breaks to spy on her cute older brother by yourself.)

This is what I had to do at soooo many sleepovers in my youth.

Why did I do it?

Because female aggression is hella scary and must be avoided at all costs.

As is discussed in Chapter 15 of Angier’s book (and we also went over this in class), friendship between two females is generally more intimate than friendship between two males, and this remarkable closeness explains why girls develop such high expectations for their friends. When these expectations are not met, the girl feels deeply hurt and insulted, and then she inevitably starts to feel the burning desire to make her friend feel the same amount of emotional pain that she herself experienced.

Whether it’s small (like a boring sleepover) or something much bigger (like a stolen boyfriend), any violation of this unwritten “Girl Code” we females are expected to follow can result in a huge dent in one’s social life (which, to an adolescent girl…actually to females of almost any age, is devastating) through gossip and other various forms of backhanded cattyness by the female scorned. Knowing this, girls will go to great lengths to avoid upsetting other girls, even if it means sacrificing potential happiness. (Example: I became really close friends with a certain guy in high school. I then found out that my friend (oddly enough, it was actually the same one who told me about Emily R.) had a crush on him. Later on, I found out that this guy actually liked me. In fact, I liked him, too. But did we ever date? Um, Girl Code, helloooooo! Of course we didn’t. I even had to lie and say I didn’t like him in order to avoid any possible drama. It took me quite a while to get over him, but I could never tell anyone about my suffering because there was always the possibility that if I ever upset that friend that I opened up to in any way, they could “get back at me” by leaking that information. Being a girl is tough, man.)

I just think the power of this “female aggression” is so amazing because, whether we’re conscious of it or not, it controls so much of what we say and do around other females. Although there are girls who think it’s fun to hear about a disagreement between two other girls (let’s face it–we ALL gossip), most would prefer not to be part of one, because we’ve all been there and we’ve all learned that it’s a horrible, horrible experience.

If only there really were some sort of magical peanut butter that could actually keep you safe from the horrors of female aggression… *Sigh*

– Ashley Ingram
(PS, Just so you know, I totally posted this before midnight… I think WordPress is on a different timezone.)

As we read sections from Natalie Angier’s Woman: An Intimate Geography and discussed our own experiences with being gendered as children (stemming from Angier’s discussion of female aggression), I was reminded of an article I read earlier this summer. The article details Canadian couple, Kathy Witterick and David Stocker, who have chosen not to share the gender of their 4-month-old baby, Storm. And the couple’s older children, Jazz and Kio, are given all the elbow room they want to experiment with their own gender presentation and performance- as evidenced by 5-year-old Jazz, who chooses to wear his hair long and, in the article, shares his excitement over the recent acquisition of a pink dress from Value Village. Both he and Kio “are encouraged to challenge how they’re expected to look and act based on their sex.”

Witterick and Stocker have been the brunt of countless criticisms since sending out Storm’s birth announcement, in which they explain: “We’ve decided not to share Storm’s sex for now — a tribute to freedom and choice in place of limitation, a stand up to what the world could become in Storm’s lifetime (a more progressive place?)..” Most of this criticism was focused on an imagined future of bullying and ridicule from Storm, whereas some centered on how Kathy and David are “imposing their ideological and political values on a newborn.” Witterick and Stocker defend their choice, however, saying that they “believe they are giving their children the freedom to choose who they want to be, unconstrained by social norms about males and females.

Witterick and Stocker certainly have reasoning behind their unusual decision. As they have witnessed with their two older children, “The moment a child’s sex is announced, so begins the parade of pink and barrage of blue.” In fact, when the family took a trip to Cuba and decided that, for the sake of language barriers, it would be easier to assign Storm a random gender (male, decided via coin flip), the language others used around the infant was radically altered- people commented on ‘his’ size and strength, but certainly would’ve gravitated to something along the lines of “pretty little princess” (barf) had they been led to believe the opposite. This parallels Angier’s experience with her daughter in playgroup- while male and female children behaved similarly, their actions were interpreted (naturalized, normalized, or not) in a strictly gendered way by the adults (parents) in the room.

The genderless baby idea isn’t new- Stocker first got the idea from the 1978 book X: A Fabulous Child’s Story, which depicted a child raised not as male or female but simply as X. And though I felt initially skeptical about the whole shebang- after all, it seems dangerously close to social experimentation with one’s own progeny- I definitely respect what this family is attempting to do. After all, if individuals aren’t constantly queering the common-held (and intensely limiting) beliefs about gender, then those beliefs aren’t going to change. And not that I ever plan on having children of my own (ever, ever, ever), but IF I DID, I would raise my children as children instead of little boys and girls.

-Blair Dietrick