Monday, August 23, 2004

That's a beautiful dress you have on, Tommy

The other night I was watching Jeopardy, as I tend to do these days since The Ken Jennings Show is on hiatus. It was the teen competition, and the contestants were two boys and a girl.

I don't remember what the scores were coming into final Jeopardy, but they were pretty close. The Final Jeopardy question was something like, "This children's series began with the book Kristy's Big Idea."

Both boys stared blankly forward or at where they were supposed to be writing their answers, while the girl smiled and immediately started writing.

The answer is, of course, The Babysitter's Club.

I was telling my dad about it later, and laughing because I thought it was funny that the boys had those "oh shit, I should have paid more attention to my little sister" looks on their faces. But my dad said the question was unfair because The Babysitter's Club is a "girl" series of books. And while I'll agree, girls are the main readers of that series, I don't think it's completely fair to imply that that's the only reason she got the answer right.

I started thinking back to the books I read when I was younger, and most of the protagonists were boys. I didn't mind, of course, because I enjoyed the books no matter who the narrator was.

But there's some hypocrisy there. We think it's perfectly fine for girls to read "boy" books, but if we saw a boy reading The Babysitter's Club, we'd think he's a little strange. Why would a boy want to read girl books?

It's not just books, though. Girls are allowed to play with dolls and GI Joes, kitchen sets and toy cars, but a boy who plays with Barbies? I don't think so.

Girls are allowed to be tomboys (at least until a certain age); it's acceptable for them to play sports, wear jeans all the time, and get dirty. But when was the last time you saw a little boy walking around in a dress while carrying his favorite Barbie?

It reminds me of the story A Child Called X that we read in a sociology class I once had. A couple is given a child by some corporation and all they have to do is raise it genderless. They call it Child X, I think. Child X wears overalls and dresses, plays with toy trucks and dolls, and has no idea it is supposed to be classified as "boy" or "girl." Of course, this freaks everyone out.

It's kind of like Pat, from Saturday Night Live, only smaller and less annoying.

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