UPDATE ON: My Princess Boy
In reference to the book My Princess Boy, the title of an article published yesterday asks if gender even exists anymore. First, to say that a book published about a boy who likes to wear girls’ clothes challenges the existence of gender is close to saying that having Barack Obama as president means we’re in a “post-racial era.” The article itself makes good points, for example, by asking: “Does supporting [unconventional] sexual and gender behaviors mean conventional sexual and gender behaviors are wrong? Or even further, does this mean conventionality shouldn’t exist?”
If there’s a list of things that everyone seems to have an opinion on, whether they know it or not, gender is certainly high on that list. From the media to your next door neighbor, everyone has thoughts about it. What it gender? Why and how does it matter? Especially when it comes to children, society is sure that when a baby is born, the first question asked is: “Is it a boy or a girl?” The first clothing is the respective blue or pink. From even before day one, thanks to modern technology, gender and sex are spun into a complicated and problematic web.
Wait – gender AND sex? No, they are not the same thing. (Though, granted, Judith Butler argues that sex will have shown to be gender all along in Gender Trouble.) Many would like to simplify it to sex=biology, gender=social. This is too simple, but it is perhaps the most widely agreed upon distinction.
According to the heterosexual matrix (see Butler):
Male bodied > Masculine > Desires female bodies
A > B > C
Female bodied > Feminine > Desires male bodies
We assign male or female bodies, thus dropping everyone into the heterosexual matrix, subsequently determining not only sex, but gender and sexual orientation as well.
Does My Princess Boy break down this matrix? Yes and no. Maybe the boy defies it, challenges it; but he is hardly the first or the last to do so. Breaking from the assignments, assumptions, and expectations of the matrix does question its validity, but as our society continues to show, those who “don’t fit” are considered outsiders so as to protect the existence of the structure. The exception proves the rule, if you will? Yes, My Princess Boy breaks down the matrix because it just goes to show that A isn’t always followed by B (isn’t always followed by C). At the same time, however, no, it doesn’t, because along with everyone else who doesn’t conform with our interpretation of “correct” gender (think: Kate Bornstein’s Gender Outlaw: On Men, Women, and the Rest of Us, for example), this child and his parents are already facing backlash, questioned for endangering their child, told that he’s going to be gay, etc., etc…
Does gender exist anymore? Well, did it ever exist? (What is existing?) We made it up, essentially. It’s changed over time. Not every culture does it the same. Yes, it is something that exists in this world. From “boys don’t cry” to “girls don’t play sports,” from “women cook” to “men fix things,” from “frogs and snails and puppy-dogs’ tails” to “sugar and spice and everything nice…” It’s real enough to run our lives in many ways. But how real is a social construction? Real enough to determine how we walk, talk, dress, and act, (generally “perform” our gender), at least. Real enough to exist, even if we have reached the point where this wonderful boy has his own book and a family that loves him for being who he is instead of trying to make him who he isn’t. Progress is progress, and for that I’m quite thankful, but we aren’t there yet: Yes, gender still exists.
Related Articles in the News:
- Princess Boy, Does Gender Even Exist Anymore? (Death and Taxes)
- Would You Let Your Son Be A Princess Boy? (Hot Air)
- Would you let your son dress like a princess? (ChicagoNow)
- My Princess Boy: Danger in Allowing Your Child to Wear Pink Dresses? (Video) (gather)
- More results…
- Gender Trouble (The New York Times)