January 30th, 2015 | Categories: Uncategorized

Ok, so if you think gender nonconformity is a perversion of nature; if you think it is against your God; if you think blue and pink are lovely colors and what’s the big deal anyway; I am not talking to YOU right now. This blog is NOT for you. You can go ahead and STOP reading this. There is lots of reading material in the world that I am sure you would rather be reading right now. It won’t affect your life in anyway to NOT read this blog. I won’t be offended. I won’t hold it against you. I hope you’ll come back when I post on something you care about. Eventually, I promise I will. I try to be inclusive. No hard feelings. Really. Have a great day!

For those of you who value or are advocates for gender nonconformity, please read this very carefully.

STOP HURTING THE CAUSE.

I mean it. Stop doing more harm than good. I can give this advice because I used to be one of you. I used to be pro-gender nonconformity and used to all the time say how things should be gender neutral.

I WAS WRONG.

I can admit that now.

I was using the wrong language all along. You can say “It’s just semantics” but you’d be wrong. At least in this case. I know I was.

So please read this very carefully.

STOP SAYING THE PHRASE “GENDER NEUTRAL.”

Please, please, stop!

“Why should I stop?” you ask.

Because “gender neutral” doesn’t mean what you think it means. Sure the denotation of the phrase means what you think it means:

1. noting or relating to a word or phrase that does not refer to one gender only
2. using words wherever appropriate that are free of reference to gender
3. relating to, intended for, or common to both genders
4. noting or relating to a person of neutral gender, neither male nor female

But that’s not how you are using it. That’s not what you mean when you say it. You may, for example, ask exasperatedly, “Why can’t people be more gender neutral with how they raise their children?” You may say with frustration “I have a right to raise my child in a gender neutral way.” But it’s not “gender neutrality” you want. Really, it’s not.

TRUST ME.

Gender neutrality means that you will not clothe your child in pink or blue. It means you will not allow your child to watch My Little Pony or GI Joe. Gender neutrality means you don’t believe dresses are for boys OR for girls. Forget about ballerinas, princesses, and fairies. Don’t even think about cars, construction, or robots.

If you want true gender neutral then these things, all of them, should not enter your home. They should not be worn on your child. And your child should never play, watch, or discuss any of these types of objects or ideas. And if they drew them, OMG, it would be a big no no.

My Little PonyGi Joe

Eradicating these things from your home, from your conversations, from, at the extreme, the world would be your intention if you wanted gender neutrality.

I don’t think that is really what you want.

The problem with gender neutrality the way you have been using it is that you presume you can take the gender out of the objects and ideas that exist in the world as if we can remove the gender ideology from ballerinas, princesses, fairies, cars, construction, and robots. We can’t. At least not in the immediate future anyway. Heck, we can’t remove gendered associations even in a single conversation.

Some terms are just gendered terms. Google images of princesses and cars and the contrast is obvious. There is an association you can see and feel in the contrast between these sets of images. These ARE gendered terms.

That association can’t be instantaneously undone.

You might think we can just talk or yell at a person to stop them from thinking of it this way. Actually, it is quite the opposite. “Research has shown that attempts to suppress a thought can cause an increase in the frequency of the thought” according to Abramowitz, Tolin, & Street (2001). Think about it. If you are on a diet, don’t you end up obsessing about all of the things you can’t eat? So we can’t just tell people to stop thinking of these associations. It won’t work.

We also do not yet have the technology to erase gendered associations from people’s memories using a neuralyzer and replace them with other ideas. We do not live in the alternative universe of Men in Black.

“So, what should I do?” you ask.

Make a different semantic choice. In other words, use other words. Specifically, what I think you really want to say is “Why can’t people be more gender INCLUSIVE with how they raise their children?” “I have a right to raise my child in a gender INCLUSIVE way.”

Trust me. It’s “GENDER INCLUSIVITY” you want. Really, it is.

What you want. . . and what I want. . . is for our children to be able to wear whatever they want, play with whatever they want, think whatever they want REGARDLESS Of its gender association.

The denotation of the phrase “gender neutral” isn’t the problem. It’s the connotation of the phrase “gender neutral” which leads people to think that the way to end discrimination is to neutralize our gendered world “to avoid discrimination arising from the impression that there are social roles for which one gender is more suited than the other.”

Unfortunately, gender neutrality doesn’t and cannot exist. More importantly it SHOULDN’T exist. Gender Neutrality really means the eradication of gendered everything.

Can you imagine a world without blue and pink? A world in which everything is green and yellow is no better than a world in which everything is blue and pink.

Besides, eradicating gendered everything does not solve the gendered mindset that exists in the world. Instead, gender inclusivity is the way to go.

The inappropriately named Facebook page, Gender Neutral Parenting, is a case in point. Forget about the unfortunate choice of title, the page with its nearly 5,000 likes talks about gender inclusion! It supports a child’s decision to wear girls clothes and boys clothes regardless of gender! The site advocates that dolls and trucks are for everyone! And its discussion centers around educating others about how gender inclusion is positive and valuable!

Discussing “gender neutrality” like it’s a possibility, like it’s a panacea, like it’s what will end discrimination of and violence against gender-nonconformists or lower their suicide rates does more harm than good.

It doesn’t

It can’t.

Gender inclusivity does and can. We can embrace gender variance and gender fluidity, through gender inclusion. We can do that instantaneously. We can do that RIGHT NOW.

January 14th, 2015 | Categories: Uncategorized

For today’s guest blog, we are lucky to have a post by Jessica Beth Mayer, President of JB Access who is a trainer and consultant specializing in disability awareness issues. Jessica has led disability awareness training sessions and provided panel discussions for such prestigious organizations as the Museum of Modern Art, Chase Manhattan Bank and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She serves on the Advisory Board for Accessibility Issues at the Museum of Modern Art and is an advisor to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and has guest lectured for 10 years for Cornell ILR. Jessica’s topic for today’s guest blog is the Super Crip stereotype of people with disabilities.

In world of disability there are only three types of people. There are objects of pity, objects of inspiration and objects of super human ability. All of these characterizations are one dimensional and flat.

A super person with a disability aka Super Crip is someone who is perceived as being an over achiever, doesn’t make mistakes, who seems to be happy all the time and who is looked to be overcoming her disability. Plus, she never gets frustrated by anything, including her disability.

I have Cerebral Palsy (CP) and a super crip on the outside. I am in my own business, a college graduate and I do a lot of public speaking. I seem to not get frustrated by my disability at all. On the inside I think I have a pretty normal reaction to things that I find annoying.

When I was applying for college in the 1980’s one school made me talk to a psychologist before I was accepted. He asked me “Are you an angry person?” My response was no. I really didn’t understand the question at the time. So I get it now. He meant am I an angry disabled person? I still think the answer in no. However, because my CP affects my small motor coordination skills, I do get frustrated by certain things like typing, reading and writing. Sometimes, like most people, I procrastinate especially when a task is more difficult. This is one of the major reasons why it took me a little longer to write this blog. Historically, I haven’t loved the physical part of writing and the speech recognition software has trouble with my imperfect speech but lately I have found I am enjoying the creative and intellectual aspects.

Most of us have many issues going from family to work to finances. This is life with or without disabilities. The disability part just makes it more (let’s say) interesting. There are no red capes and no magic, just learning how deal with stuff. The sooner we all stop believing in the idea that people with disabilities are somehow emotionally stronger than everybody else, we can better learn from each other. What people with disabilities are usually better at is being able to figure out new ways of doing tasks because we’ve had to be more adaptable.

The pressure of perfection is too much to handle. Every time I’d go to conduct a workshop, I used to feel an enormous amount of stress to be perfect because I thought I was speaking for every person with a disability and if a client didn’t think I was great then the company would never hire people with disabilities. I no longer feel that way. Once I stopped trying to be perfect I am better because my humanity shows through. The little mistakes I make are funny. It shows that I am able to laugh at myself and then participants learn more.

For more information on JB access and Jessica Beth Mayer, visit the JB Access site at www.jbaccess.com

November 25th, 2014 | Categories: Uncategorized

The compliment. The two officers spent considerable time today at my apartment trying to help me to resolve an issue. They listened to me carefully and tried to understand what I was trying to explain to them. They informed me of my rights regarding a larceny/ stolen property report and indicated that it was up to the landlord to file the report since that was the landlord’s property that was stolen. They explained that the item that was stolen was probably stolen because it was an old unusable fire alarm that could be mistaken as a real one and therefore be a safety hazard though the object had been there, as I informed them, for 42 years. They were patient and traveled with me to several apartments so that I can explain our unusual situation in the building that some of the apartments did not include the foyer space as part of their rental while some do. The ones that include it are clearly indicated as such in two ways 1) with the apartment number indicated in front of their door which is not the case in apartments 4,5,8,9. 2) with the foyer area being identical in the apartments that do not include the foyer in their rent which is not the case on floors 4,5,8,9. The division between the two types of apartments in the building is obvious and the second officer at one point confirmed that no one is disputing any longer that considering what they’ve seen and heard from the maintenance manager that the space is part of our rental. The lead officer explained very patiently initially that he could not file a report because the foyer space- in his view- could possibly not be part of the rental and therefore it would not be breaking an entry if the landlord’s employees or representatives entered it. I took the time- as did the nice police officers- to visit other floors in the building to show the difference in the spaces where the floors were and weren’t part of the rentals. I did this in order to demonstrate that the foyer area was part of my rental space so that he could file the report since clearly someone had entered the foyer space without my consent. During this part of the visit the police officers were kind in demeanor and generous with their time.

The complaint. The lead police officer refused to allow me to file a report of illegal entry. Understandably he wanted to speak to the owner to find out whether the owner knew who had entered the apartment. I did not have the number on my cell phone and was able to get him that number from the maintenance manager and encouraged him to call. During the call the landlord said two things which very clearly changed the demeanor of the lead police officer towards me. The lead officer reported the two things that the landlord said casually in the conversation in a matter of fact way demonstrating that he had taken what the owner said at face value. 1) the landlord implied on the phone that the foyer space by our 8th floor elevator was not part of our rental by saying the tenant “can use the space if she wants to, I don’t care, I want her to be happy she’s a tenant.” While this sounded nice this was used by the police officer to justify that the owner had made clear that it was his space not part of my rental. In speaking this way to the police officer the landlord lied. It has been my rental space for over 40 years and no one from the owner’s offices have ever disputed my claims or any other claims to that space from the other rent stabilized tenants in the building. By the landlord wording it in an implicit way he was able to persuade the lead police officer without having to actually make a legal claim. Therefore the lead police officer substituted his judgment – that the landlord’s implication was a legal statement- for the law in order to prevent me from filing an illegal entry report. The landlord never explicitly stated whether the space was part of my rental or not despite the police officer explicitly asking whether the space was included in the rent. The lead police officer assumed based on the implicit response of the landlord that this was the case when legally it is not the case. But the second thing that was said by the landlord made the situation much worse. 2) According to the lead police officer I was labeled by the landlord as “always complaining”. Based on these two statements by the landlord, it is no wonder then that after the police officer got off the phone with the landlord he immediately started to treat me differently. After the call the lead police officer was combative, patronizing, made jokes at my expense, and was sarcastic.

For example, he sarcastically said “well let’s arrest the maintenance manager since he entered your apartment illegally when you first met him” based on a comment I had made that it was a repeated issue that the landlord’s representatives had entered my apartment illegally and one of them was the maintenance manager over a year ago. The lead officer also accused me of trying to misuse the police to bully the landlord based on the fact that I had used the word “rent stabilized” once in the entire hour long conversation to denote the difference between the apartments in which the rental included the foyer and which did not. He created and communicated to me an entire narrative out of thin air of my tenant relationship with the landlord in which I was a disgruntled tenant who was mad because the landlord was trying to evict me. He claimed I was trying to bully the landlord by using the police department unethically to make false claims against the landlord. This has not been the case at all and actually other than the random illegal entries to the apartment over the last few years- which I have previously handled internally out of respect for the landlord and his employees because I could at least track down who had been the person who entered and why- I have had little concerns with the landlord.

I was so insulted by his demeanor change and assumption that the landlord was speaking truthfully but making accusations against me that that I even contacted the maintenance manager to whom all complaints are sent and put him on speaker phone (letting him know I was doing so). I asked whether he would consider me a complainer. He said no. I asked whether I was one of the nicer tenants in the building. He said yes. I asked whether I contacted him a lot. He said no. I asked whether I sometimes go out of my way to help him by, for example, contacting him when we had a flood in the basement a few weeks ago that I noticed and sent him pictures. He said yes and that was very kind of me to do. I didn’t even have the landlords number on my cell phone which is further evidence that I do not call and complain regularly. Nonetheless, the lead police officer had taken the landlord’s word for me being a complainer and a liar about my legal use of the space and had clearly changed his demeanor with me to see me as a ne’er-do-well rather than a citizen worthy of knowing my rights. I felt extremely uncomfortable that I had to be defensive and it goes without saying I at times raised my voice mostly when the lead police officer became more patronizing telling me how “I am a nice lady” and so forth. The lead officer’s opinion on capitalism, rent stabilization, and political affiliation aside, I had someone enter my apartment illegally and I was being treated like I was the one who had done something wrong because a landlord hurled false accusations about me and the lead officer clearly had strong opinions and stereotypes about what he seems to think are trouble making rent stabilized tenants.

I am a chair of the board of trustees for a school for special needs students; I am the copresident of the local PTA; I am a PhD with two published books and two more book contracts in process; I am a mother of two young children ages 5 and 7; I am happily married for over 15 years. I am a law abiding citizen whose family has lived in the same place for 42 years and there are no court cases or police reports with my name on them in the local community or anywhere. I am friendly with the workers in the building and I am the tenant the super reaches out to if he needs to let someone in the building and can’t get there in time. I am the farthest thing from a trouble making rent stabilized tenant there could be and I am astonished to be treated in a demeaning way by someone who prior to the call with the landlord had taken me seriously and treated me with respect.

At some point he told me “ I didn’t interrupt you so don’t interrupt me by talking.” The astonishing part was that I hadn’t interrupted him prior to him having said that. I had my mouth closed for the entire preceding time before and after he started talking. I literally had to ask permission to speak again after a five minute tirade about why the landlord had rights regarding the stolen property and that the landlord was doing what was in the best interest of the tenants in the building and that regardless of whether it was an illegal entry it was the right thing to do for the item to be removed so I should be grateful that it was taken. When I was finally permitted to speak- literally I asked and was granted permission to speak- I asked simply what are my rights as a citizen if someone illegally enters my apartment but doesn’t take anything that is mine. He did not answer this question. Instead, he once again referred to the landlord’s implication as legal fact that the space was not part of my rental- though the landlord at no point actually made this claim because legally he cannot.

In sum. The landlord did not choose to pursue a stolen property report being filed. The police officer refused to allow me to file a report for illegal entry. After calling the maintenance manager and the owner, we have still not found out exactly who or why someone entered my apartment without any prior approval or any documentation that they had done so. No one at the owner’s office knows what happened. My rights as a citizen have been taken away because of the stereotypes used against me as a rent stabilized tenant and because of the harassment I received from the landlord by his implying his rights to space for which he does not have and for labeling me a complainer that triggered the stereotype in the mind of the otherwise previously very kind lead police officer. I would encourage the otherwise very kind lead officer to refrain from allowing his stereotypes and prejudices against rent stabilized tenant to affect the way he behaves with them. I am sure both officers are lovely people and that the lead officer had no idea his demeanor changed. However, on my end it was very clear and very insulting especially considering I still have no idea who entered my apartment and neither does the landlord.

October 16th, 2014 | Categories: Uncategorized

National Coming Out Day took place this past weekend. The topic came up on a Facebook Page I follow of whether all homosexuals should come out. The idea was an altruistic one that everyone gay or straight should be able to say who they are and let the world know! This is an admirable idea but it’s simply more complicated than that.

You see, the problem is that I never had to out myself as straight.

Not once.

So why should someone have to out themselves as gay?

We have friends who some people are mad at because they never officially said, “Yes! Friends and family, we are a gay couple.”

But you know what, why should they have to? If it walks like a duck, quacks likes a duck, then it’s a duck.

If people assume I am straight because of how I behave, I think it is fair for people to assume people are gay because of the way they behave and if we get corrected in either way then that’s fine. But to demand someone out themselves so that there is certainty around the issue is a terrible thing. It places an unnecessary burden on a member of an already marginalized group.

My son wears dresses. I don’t out my son as a boy unless I am directly asked. I don’t walk up to people and say, “He’s a boy in case you were wondering.” I don’t hide it either.

But people feel entitled to ask because they want to make themselves feel more certain. They can’t handle the stress of not knowing what pronoun they should use, what topics they should discuss, what compliments they should give, and so forth.

Guess what? The same exact ones whether you think he is a boy or a girl.

Mutual friends say, “Our friends will feel better if they can talk openly about it.” They ask, “Why don’t these friends trust us enough to tell us?”

Guess what? They already did tell you with how they are behaving.

National Coming Out Day is important because it recognizes the difficulty people who want to come out face. But if you have a friend who is gay, looks gay, acts guy, and has someone who serves the function of a significant other who is the same gender, then your friend has already come out. You just aren’t paying attention.

October 8th, 2014 | Categories: Uncategorized

I’m a racism denier. I admit it. My first go-to rationale for why people behave like jerks is never going to be racism. I am an optimist after all. Maybe they just had a bad day, maybe something you said pushed a button, maybe it’s just their personality to be like that, maybe, maybe, maybe. I’ll try every possible option before I consider racism (or any other ism) as the reason for someone being a jerk.

My advice for folks who experience someone being a jerk is typically the same regardless of how they act. I was raised Catholic after all. I was taught to turn the other cheek and that’s what I pass on as seemingly sound advice. Kill them with kindness and they will learn that you are the better person, that it pays to be kind, and that they should feel bad for what they’ve done.

That doesn’t always work. I’m a realist after all. This type of response could even fuel the fire of that person being a jerk by acquiescing to the dominance jerk is exerting, allowing the jerk to take advantage of this dominance, and putting the burden of that person being a jerk onto the victim.

Rather than facilitating that cycle, I usually don’ take my own advice and instead use an alternate theoretically-based strategy. I am a theorist after all. There is plenty of theory to support that one particular alternate strategy could be more successful. Social Identity Theory in particular suggests that

1) self worth is a basic psychological need.
2) we gain self worth from the identities we take on.
3) our identities are tied to the identities of others.
4) we feel better about our identities when they match the identities of those around us.
5) a shared group identity is known as our ingroup.
6) for our self worth to increase we must highly value our ingroup identities.
7) polarizing ingroups (those group identities we relate to) in positive ways and outgroups (those group identities we don’t relate to) in negative ways allows us increase our self worth even more.

So essentially, we make ourselves feel better by making others feel bad. Hence, the jerk acts like a jerk to outgroup members but is sweet to ingroup members. If you can switch the jerk’s perception of you as an outgroup member to an ingroup member, then the jerk will have a vested interest in seeing you positively. This alternate strategy has helped both my myself and my daughter when we have been confronted by bullies.

When I was 13, I was picked on in high school by one girl in particular. One day she tried to get my attention by saying “Hey, Anasta, Anastac, Anastaia or whatever the hell your name is!” I responded saying, “Why are you picking on me when you don’t even know anything about me … not even my name?” It forced her not to see me as an enemy worthy of her contempt. It forced her to see us as both strangers to each other not knowing anything about the other. Certainly not knowing enough to bully. By redefining our group memberships to be in the ingroups of strangers she was able to see me as similar to herself, empathize with me, and gain self worth by not picking on me as she would an outgroup member. She never picked on me again.

When my daughter was 5, she was picked on in kindergarten by one boy in particular. One day the boy went so far as to rip up one of her newly made drawings. She looked at him in the eye and asked innocently, “Why are you always so mean to me?” It forced him not to see her as a weakling worthy of his disdain. It forced him to see her as a person that didn’t like people being mean to her. I’m sure he saw himself the same way. By redefining their group membership to be ingroup members of people who don’t like it when people are mean he was able to relate to her and take her question at face value. His answer was simply a shrug of his shoulders. Her response took the point home. “So, if you don’t know why you are doing it then can you stop?” Now seeing her as an ingroup member he was able to gain self worth by siding with her. “Ok.” He said and then walked away. They’d say hello to each other in the hallways for the rest of the school year.

When someone is a jerk, I always try to diffuse the situation not by turning the other cheek but by giving them a reason to view me differently ala social identity theory. I am a proactive person after all. Redefining group membership so that we are aligned with those who are jerks to us as ingroup members instead of outgroup members can be a powerful tool to diffuse someone who is a jerk. To me, it’s an early and simple step to respond to someone who is a jerk. It’s my go-to strategy before I assume racism, sexism, or any other kind of ism.

So, I am a racism denier. I can never know with 100% accuracy what are any single person’s intentions. I am not a mind reader after all. Rather than starting with racism as a rational for someone being a jerk, I try to exhaust all other possibilities first.

So I’ve been watching in the news the cases of presumed racism by the police against black males in particular. I watched one clip on CNN yesterday that has haunted me since I watched it.

Forget about race for a minute.

You are driving in your car and get pulled over for not having your seat belt on. How do you perceive that in your mind? Cop just doing their job? Strange thing to get pulled over for? Grateful for the officer’s due diligence? Pain in the bu** because you have places to go and people to see? Regardless of how you perceive it you pull over, wait for the officer to approach the car, patiently and slowly follow the officer’s instructions for driver’s license and registration.

The police office turns his or her direction to the passenger. How do you perceive this? Legitimate? Unusual? Bothersome? Laudible? Regardless, you try to respond to the police officer’s questions as does your passenger.

Your passenger, not you, is asked to come out of the car? Your kids are in the back seat. You haven’t been given a reason for why your passenger needs to come out of the car. Your questions aren’t being answered by the police officer. How do you perceive this? What would you encourage or discourage your passenger from doing?

You try to explain your concerns to the police officer. Maybe you mention that sometimes people dress up as police officers so how do you know he is legitimate. Maybe you explain that you don’t understand why the situation has become elevated to from a seat belt issue where you’ve complied with everything the officer has asked to a situation where the passenger is being asked to step out of the car? Maybe you explain that you have children in the car and you are worried about them having a clear understanding of the law enforcement system and want it to be a learning moment for them to understand their rights and responsibilities in these types of situations? Maybe you mention that there has been a considerable amount of violence against people who look like your passenger and without any rationale for why he needs to step out of the car you are reluctant to ask him to do so? Maybe? Maybe? Maybe?

Whatever you say almost doesn’t matter as long as you are trying to come up with strategies to explain your concerns about having your passenger getting out of the car. You are talking, you are answering questions, you are laying all your cards on the table for why you don’t think this is a safe thing to do. You’ve basically tried turning the other cheek and tried applying social identity theory by engaging in a discussion of your concerns as equals (concerned citizen and dutiful police office) about what you perceive as a dangerous situation. You’ve tried everything you could.

I know some people who saw the clip- and CNN newscasters mentioned this as well- may say, “Why didn’t he just get out of the car?” But if you think about it like I laid it out earlier it’s not that simple. If you sincerely believe that the safety and well being of your family is being threatened doing the thing that would put you in the most dangerous situation that you are in fear of simply isn’t an option.

Sure he could have gotten out of the car. He had the physical ability to do so.

Red flags were going up the entire time during the pullover to indicate there was something out of the ordinary going on. Indeed, the police officer ended up shattering the window and using a taser on the man. This suggests the driver’s instincts were not entirely off-base here.

Short of coming out of the car, they were doing everything else requested. They didn’t flee the scene. They didn’t act in aggressive ways in the car. They tried to engage in a discussion wherein they explained their concerns. They tried everything.

When all else fails, you’ve tried everything, and you’ve acted in ways that were reasonable to act using legitimate strategies to accomplish mutual goals to the extent possible, and you are still treated differently, then even I would say, yes, it’s racism.

August 6th, 2014 | Categories: Uncategorized

In a recent blog post by Richard B. Cohen on July 3, 2014, the author raises the question of whether there is a magic number of racial slurs that determines whether there is a hostile workplace. For a discussion of this topic, read the full post titled, Will We Finally Learn How Many Racial Slurs Constitute A Hostile Work Environment? A Court May Give Us A Number.

July 30th, 2014 | Categories: Uncategorized

Todays guest blog is reposted from Natasha Shapiro’s blog Art Therapy and Related Topics. Natasha is an art therapist and occasionally provides The Communicated Stereotype with insights into related topics. This July on TCS she posted about stereotypes and women’s clothing and of men’s clothing. Today’s post deals with stereotypes of The “Boyfriend” Style.

Posted on July 16, 2014

So, here we go venturing into fashion meets psychology/language/sociology. I don’t claim to be an expert on any of this. That’s what I love about blogging. You can reference people who know more about it, and just start up a conversation without having to be an expert!

It is now ubiquitous; just look at Old Navy and Gap and Victoria’s Secret websites and catalogues. There are “boyfriend” jeans which are a certain shape and style, just like “skinny” jeans, which were mentioned in my last post on this topic, as well as “bell bottoms”, “high waisted” jeans and various other kinds. I first saw this term in a Victoria’s Secret catalogue, a few years ago, in reference to a “boyfriend” sweater. I assumed it meant a sweater that is supposed to look like the wearer of it is wearing her presumptive boyfriend’s sweater. A lot of assumptions here, that a slouchy sort of too big sweater is akin to a man’s sweater for a woman, who must have a boyfriend or remember putting on her larger boyfriend’s clothing. Of course many women don’t have boyfriends, some have girlfriends, some have neither, some have non gendered lovers, etc. And of course many women who call their partner or dating casually person their “boyfriend” are the same size or larger than this “boyfriend.” Somehow seeing this term on clothing just never gets old in terms of how insulting it feels. And of course, I may be wrong about the origins of this term. I was way off with the “baby doll” reference!
So when did this emerge as a classification of not just sweaters, but jeans and I guess other things like shirts and jackets? The “Wise Geek” blog tries to describe this basically as a tradition of women wearing menswear, either raided from a “boyfriend”, “brother” or even dad’s closet:

So this seemed to come up in the 80′s. I’m not sure what leggings have to do with it except I guess the big oversized boyfriend sweater or top was popularly paired with tight “leggings.” Now there are even “jeggings,” a term I am quite fond of just because of its sound, and it does not seem to be connected to anything besides leggings which are just described using the word leg, so not bad, considering they could have been called “skinny tights” or something else…

Anyway back to the “boyfriend” cut. Sorry I had to resort to Wikipedia for the more detailed description, as well as celebrity references and possible beginning of the popularity of the garment. They cite Katie Holmes wearing Tom Cruise’s clothing, which is really ironic, considering that most people did not believe Katie and Tom were really boyfriend and girlfriend anyway. I will refrain from speculations about their relationship.

Wikipedia: “In fashion design, primarily in ready-to-wear lines, boyfriend is any style of women’s clothing that was modified from a corresponding men’s garment. Examples include boyfriend jackets, boyfriend jeans, and boyfriend blazers, which are often more unisex or looser in appearance and fit than most women’s jackets or trousers, though still designed for the female form.

The origin of boyfriend fashion is literally borrowing and wearing a boyfriend’s clothes—his distressed jeans, his band tees, his dress shirts, his blazers, his cardigan. The trend expanded in 2009 when actress Katie Holmes was spotted in public wearing Tom Cruise’s slouchy jeans after a Broadway rehearsal; other celebrities such as Reese Witherspoon, Rachel Bilson, Sarah Jessica Parker, and others began to follow the trend. From there, many brands such as Gap, Forever 21, and H&M began to create boyfriend fashion products or men’s-inspired fashion.”

Here are some live examples of boyfriend jeans from Forever 21.

Here is an example of a “boyfriend sweater” from Victoria’s Secret.

It seems like it must be hard to size these as they are meant to be “oversized” and in fact, some stores prefer the term “oversized,” which is at least descriptive and neutral, like “baggy.” I remember when “baggy” jeans were a big deal, must have been in the 80′s as nobody seems to be into them anymore!

July 23rd, 2014 | Categories: Uncategorized

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The stereotype guru has read a lot of blog posts, articles, and books on stereotypes. I have never come across anything that explains why dressing up as another cultural group is offensive better than this open letter expresses. This article makes clear that when we are educated, the world is a better place.

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Read the following article to better understand why an Indian headress is not a suitable Halloween costume: An Open Letter to Non-Natives in Headdresses

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July 16th, 2014 | Categories: Uncategorized

Todays guest blog is reposted from Natasha Shapiro’s blog Art Therapy and Related Topics. Natasha is an art therapist and occasionally provides The Communicated Stereotype with insights into related topics. Last Wednesday on TCS she posted about stereotypes and women’s clothing. Today’s post deals with stereotypes of men’s clothing.

Fashion’s Strange Naming of Clothing and accessories: The “Wife Beater”

Posted on June 17, 2014

Note about this series: I will continue to hazard guesses as to how each term came about before looking it up, so as to see if my associations led me astray or not! As I continue writing about this, I am realizing these terms have very old origins. Watch what happens with the next term!

The “wife beater” is now, I believe, outmoded and not used to describe men’s white undershirts and by association, women’s white undershirt-like tank tops. This term for most people can bring up an instant image of Marlon Brando as Stanley Kowakski in the film, “Streetcar Named Desire”. For sure that must be where this term for such a garment originated:

Woops, wrong again! Here first is the definition: from http://www.pauldavidson.net/2005/05/13/words-for-your-enjoyment-wife-beaters/

“There are three definitions for a “wife beater.” The first, one who harms their spouse with physical force. The second, one who psychologically intimidates or makes scared a person who, in the event of their death, receives half of the current estate. And third — a white, thin t-shirt with no arms, resembling a tank top, which often is easily stained with reheated food items.”

Now see if you know this interesting fact about medieval origins:
“the history of the “wife beater” goes back to the Middle Ages, where knights who lost their armor in battles often had nothing but the chain-mail undergarment to protect them. Now, those chain mail undershirts, if you will, were damn strong — even a sword couldn’t get through. Often, when a knight lost their armor and continued to fight successfully, they were referred to as a waif beater (waif, referring to an abandoned or lost individual). Due to the fact that knights who had been abandoned and continued to fight with only the “shirt off their back” (albeit chain mail), they were given this noble title — an abandoned fighter, beating their way through battle.”

The next part of history was also a long time before Stanley Kowalski:

During 1700′s Europe, of course, the phrase “waif beater” no longer had much meaning due to the fact that there weren’t really knights running around fighting battles in chain-mail undershirts. As a result, the phrase was changed to the similarly sounding “wife beater” and used to refer to husbands who treated their significant others in a less than stellar way.

“The trend changed in 1947 in Detroit, Michigan — when police arrested a local man (James Hartford, Jr.) for beating his wife to death. Local news stations aired the arrest and elements of the case for months after — constantly showing a picture of Hartford, Jr. when he was arrested — wearing a dirty tank top with baked bean stains on it…and constantly referring to him as “the” wife beater.”

Now the next question is, is this truly now an outmoded politically incorrect term? And, did Street Car Named Desire have any connection to its use?

Here is an example of someone who didn’t dig deep enough and traced it to the 1970s and the movie Raging Bull andRocky are called to mind. In addition a real celebrity and real wife beater, Ike Turner is mentioned.

This answer dies mention something else, the term “guinea tea” which was also terribly offensive, and does give the reaction to the term and the shutting down of it by NAtional Orgsnization for Women

Here’s something else the term refers to a beer:
“it is a very common nickname for Stella Artois, due to it’s slightly higher than usual alcohol strength (5.2% ABV, compared to the usual 5% ABV). Strong Spanish lagers are often known similarly as “Senorita beater”. These aren’t related to the use for a vest/tank top/singlet/”

That was from Wikipedia. The correct term is now the A shirt, presumably to distinguish it from the t-shirt which was called so due to its T letter shape. It seems that clothes. An either be defined in neutral terms by the way they look, as in, T Shirt, Crop Top, A Line Dress, shorts, skirt, skort (the skirt mixed with shorts having shorts attached to it, jacket or in questionsl cultural symbolic terms.

As I tried to look up neutral seeming terms in an online catalogue I found myself questioning even the word skirt and blazer and saw “romper” which is on style now and conjured up dressing women like children to “romp” around in this garment. We will see if this one is also questionable, ie. could be offensive to a group or groups of weateres…

July 10th, 2014 | Categories: Uncategorized

Perhaps one of the biggest ironies that has ever happened in the history of the world is that the baby promoted as the “Perfect Aryan” baby was actually Jewish. The Nazis may never have known, but now that it is this photo also make the perfect unstereotype baby photo!

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Coined by the Stereotype Guru nearly two years ago, the unstereotype “shocks you, makes you take a second look, makes you momentarily confused, and bothers you though you don’t know why.” The unstereotype is unnerving because it makes you question you core beliefs about stereotypes. I first used the term to describe a photo of WNBA Basketball Player Candace Parker. I don’t get a chance to capture unstereotypes very often, but when I do I like to share them with TCS readers.