Killing the black skirt

So, today in my communications class we watched a video by Pat Hines about masculine and feminine cultures. For the bell curve of society–which is to say that not every single person is like this, there are always exceptions to the rules, we’re just looking at the middle of the curve, the 60 to 80 most middle percent–these are invisible rules we’re just raised on.

Boys and girls are treated differently from day one, the moment we put them in their color coded blankets. We even hold girls differently than we hold boys apparently, I only have a niece so I’m not entirely sure about that. Boys are raised playing competitive games, team sports, cops and robbers, cowboys and Indians, War, games where there is a goal line and the objective is to get to that goal line. What do most girls play? House, dolls, games that are focused more on the process than the non-existent win.

When I was five my family moved from our apartment on one side of town to an apartment in another. When we lived in the first apartment I spent the bulk of my time playing by myself, or with my imaginary friend “Africa”. I played girl games mostly–house and barbies. When we moved into our new apartment my neighbors were four boys. Four boys and me. I learned how to play sports, and for my standards, I was a beast at kickball and a fair enough pitcher. So I learned a bit of the things that boys learn with team sports, and when I went home at the end of the day I played with my barbies. I like to think this means I’ve got a good balance, but I’m not so arrogant to assume that’s a certainty.

Boys learn to relate to conflict, girls learn to avoid conflict.

When playing team sports boys learn that there’s a hierarchy,
Coach
Assistant Coach
Star Players
Players
Bench-warmers

When the coach tells you to do something, you do it. Men generally know where they are on the hierarchy, who they report to and who reports to them.

On the flip side, women see things as completely flat. The secretary views herself as just as important as the boss and asks him questions on the assignment he’s given because she generally wants to do a good job.

Both systems work…separately…it’s when they start to meld that the clashes occur.

I work at the library in town, a library completely staffed incidentally by eight women. I’m proud to work there because even though we’re completely staffed by women, I can see a blending of this hierarchical and “dead-even” rule. Until very recently I worked as a “page” there, which is the one who shelve the books and keep the library clean and ordered. Basically the least amount of responsibility, authority, glory and whatnot. But in this position, I knew who was above me, but was always given the vibe as being just important to the library as anyone else there. I knew who I had to respond to, who had more authority (which was just about everyone) and who I went to if I had a question. Just recently I moved up a position, to desk worker, a position I adore. When my boss and I talked about my moving up and the fact that we would be short a page she said something that fixed her forever in my mind as an awesome person: “I’m not above shelving books.”

See that? It’s that melding thing again! She’s aware that she’s the one highest on the totem pole around there, but at the same time she’s willing to be part of the bottom of the pole, because it all matters the same.

As stated before, guys are goal driven, women are process driven. One of my favorite comparisons that she gave during the video was “Shopping Vs. Hunting”.

“Honey, come shopping with me, I need a black skirt.”
“Sigh, alright.”
~In the store~
“Oh look, lady’s clothes store, they have black skirts for you.”
~Guy makes a b-line, finds a black skirt, finds her size, and like a good guy, holds it up for her~ “Got the skirt.”
“oh no, I wanted to look around, maybe get some shoes to go with it, and since it’s gonna be a while, lets get lunch too.”


“But…but…but I killed the black skirt? Wasn’t that the point?”

By the way, it wasn’t, it was connection time. The guy feels tricked because he was told that the objective was the black skirt, and once having achieved the black skirt he should get to go home right? The girl sees the outing as a chance to connect, to preserve the relationship. Here, the general consensus on this is that women should say what they mean and on the other side, men should probably be a little more understanding of this particular rule.

That is the problem with these cultural rules and norms, they’re invisible unless you’re looking right at them. Once you see them, men and women alike, can begin to adjust their behaviors and stigmas against the opposite sex and resolve these conflicts in a way that everybody wins.

(Most of this was paraphrased from Pat Hines “The Power Dead-Even Rule” video)

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2 thoughts on “Killing the black skirt

  1. The Littlest Nihilst says:

    I’m taking a gender & sexuality studies class and we talk about a lot of this stuff. I think you would like it. :3

    That said, I think that the strict gender roles are loosening a lot, at least where I live, and it’s really overly simplistic to assume that there’s such a stark dichotomy. I see people breaking those “rules” all the time. Plus, a lot of cultures, recognize other genders, such as the aboriginal concept of Two-Spirit (futher reading, because it’s really interesting!: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Two-Spirit). Parts of Asia, too, also recognize a third gender identity. And then there is the genderqueer community in the west.

  2. Michelle Bowen says:

    This is a very interesting view of the internal workings at the library…I hadn’t really thought of it before. And I do agree with your comments about how men and women view things, although there are some women who definitely feel the need to be in control. And congratulations on you promotion!

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