Thursday, 30 December 2010 04:09

Exploring Gender: The Gift Dilemma

Written by  Cael

 

After figuring out that the Microsoft Word on my new computer has not been activated, here we go. I wanted to talk about the holidays. They aren't quite over yet. We still have New Year's. Happy holidays to everyone, by the way.

Any opportunity for presents for a genderqueer individual presents a dilemma, so birthdays and the holidays. Mine just happen to occur within the same time frame. Being a Christmas baby is fun. Anyway, gifts are tricky. Although it shouldn't be this way, almost all commercial products are gendered, including clothes, bath products, and toys, typical holiday gifts. All products are geared toward a certain individual. That is how they are sold: to a target audience.

So let's talk about clothes. This category is probably the hardest in buying for a genderqueer individual. In family environments, sometimes people use the holidays as an excuse to push gendered clothing on their genderqueer family members. People see the way an individual dresses and uses a gift as a redirection in gender identity, often with the phrase, "Oh, you will look so pretty/handsome in this." This phrase implies either ignorance or a lack of acceptance. It is hard to avoid this circumstance. Not every member of a family will be accepting or knowledgeable. Thankfully, my family knows my preferences and accepts them. But I do know the potential for this awkward situation. The only way to avoid it is to make sure your family knows your preferences and accepts them or to ensure your holiday wish list is as precise as possible.

Bath products. I know for myself and many others, when you need to get a gift for someone and you do not know them very well, the easiest thing is bath products or lotions. But scents are gendered. If someone gives me something which is stereotypically "girly" smelling, I'm not going to use it. Axe products are my default. Some people will have the same objections to these types of products. So when using this fall-back method, make sure you are not unintentionally gendertyping for a genderqueer individual. Shop smart.

Toys. First, if you have not seen Ma Vie En Rose, it is a wonderful movie. Sometimes boys want to play with dolls, sometimes girls want to play with action figures. I was one of them. And that is okay. The main thing to remember again, is to avoid directly going against a child's preferences. Don't buy a girl a doll because that is what she should have. Buy her the doll if she wants it; get her that action figure if that is what she would prefer. It is unfair to a child to enforce the gender stereotypes society has laid out. Doing that deprives the child from having that fun, carefree childhood of which we all dream. Enforcing those gender stereotypes makes children feel badly about who they are. By buying a girl who wants an action figure a doll, you are essentially saying to that child that she is bad, that she is inherently wrong in some way, that you wish she were different and could conform to your ideal of her.

Yes, the holidays are wonderful, whether just for a break, or to spend time with family and friends, but it is important to remember when buying for people, whether genderqueer or not, to think about their preferences. Gifts are about making someone else happy, about showing that person how much you care. It is important to keep that in mind when shopping. And for the genderqueer individuals out there: sometimes it sucks, but it is also an opportunity for understanding. Although the situation can be awkward, a gendered gift which doesn't fit into your identity can be a potential for teaching. Not all the time, but some people really just don't know. It is important to remember that, although we might not want to be, we are teachers. The world is not knowledgeable. The average person knows little about gender identity. It becomes our responsibility to teach people, to try to reach some sort of understanding, because without that knowledge, people have no way not to perpetuate their ignorance.