Did anyone else see the cover of Life & Style Weekly with the headline, “Why is Angelina turning Shiloh into a boy?” Now, magazines of this sort generally make me queasy anyway, but this seems over the top even on tabloid standards. On the cover are two photos of Shiloh Jolie-Pitt, each identifying with gender-specific norms. (Girls have long hair. Boys have short hair. Etc.)
What really gets me is the subhead/teaser, “Is it harming the 3-year-old?” Really?! Really?! That’s where you’re going to go with this?
Now, maybe I’m just a tad more concerned than normal about this because I am expecting my first child. And I’m not finding out the sex because it’s irrelevant to the quality of life and health of who comes out of my uterus. Let’s get real. If you take away the mandatory socialization of genders that we put on kids, there’s no major difference between boys and girls until they hit puberty. Study after study after study has shown that when raised outside of conventional gender norms, children do not inherently gravitate to certain gender identities or roles (girls like pink, boys don’t play with dolls, etc.). The truth is they mimic what we show them as a society, which demands strict adherence according to Focus on the Family’s Glen Stanton’s quote in the article, “It’s important to teach our children that gender distinction is very healthy.”
But maybe I’m just being overly sensitive to this cover. No. Wait. I just looked at it again and there are flames on the side of my face! And I’m not the only one: Feministing, The Advocate and The National Center for Transgender Equality are sounding off, too.
This cover is bullshit on so many levels!
First of all, I want to know if there is any truth to this whatsoever. I’m not convinced that they didn’t just get a look-alike kid and make this whole thing up. But setting that aside and assuming that anyone who works at Life & Style has anything resembling a code of journalistic ethics … let’s just say for a moment that this is true. So what? So freakin’ what?
Honestly and truly, does it matter at all how Shiloh dresses? And here’s where the “is it harming [her]” part comes into play. How the hell could it harm her? Kids play dress up all the time! Imaginative play, mimicry, role-playing — these are all very important tools of growth and development for kids. If Shiloh were dressing in a cape and mask would the magazine ask the same question or would that be harmless fun? If Shiloh enjoyed dressing up as a Disney princess would that make it better? Her parents are actors and thus pretend for a living. What if Shiloh is just mimicking her parents? When I was a kid, I used to pretend that I was in a rock band and was a DJ on the radio. And guess what? That’s what my parents did for a living! WOW! Shocking!
But let’s go to the next level because this is what the headline is really all about — what if Shiloh is experimenting with her gender identity. What if Shiloh, born a female, identifies more as a boy? What if the kid feels more normal when people call her “John” and she keeps her hair short? Again, I say, SO WHAT? Gender is a construct. It’s not real in the same way that time is relative (or did you not just set your clock forward an hour — keep out of it AZ and HI?).The clothes that a 3-year-old wears are just clothes. They only have meaning if we put meaning onto them.
When I was little I refused to wear pants. I hated, hated, hated pants. It was only dresses and skirts for me. My mom thought this was very irritating and really didn’t care to have me dress in such girly clothes — especially since they were more expensive and got ruined just as quickly as pants and t-shirts when I went and played outside. My mom gave in to me because after a while she just got tired of my tantrums about pants. (I would go naked rather than wear pants.) Nobody got mad at my mom for doing this because it fit the gender construct. What this magazine article says to me is that my mother would have been a horrible, child-abusing, oger if my proclivities had gone toward pants instead. (Later they did.)
And what if that is all this is? What if Angelina is just another busy mom trying to get through the day? What if she has her hands full with her brood of kids and the fact that Shiloh wants to wear pants is just not that big of a deal? This is what I suspect is closest to reality.
But the question remains, why does anybody care if Shiloh wants to act like a boy? Isn’t that Shiloh’s business? The rest of society needs to get a reality check. We are in one of the worst economies of modern times. People are losing their jobs, their homes, their health care and are going hungry. (Latest figures show 1 in 8 Nevada families are hungry! – source Face to Face with Jon Ralston.)
So – Get over it Life & Style and all the haters out there! Get. Over. It!