Mary Walker: Wrong message
April 16, 2005
I am not sure which distressed me more — the content of the recent Girls to Women and Boys2Men programs in Steamboat Springs or the coverage in the Steamboat Today (April 13).
The visuals for the day’s activities were photographs showing girls decorating cupcakes and boys working out in a gym. Not a great start for media coverage of programs whose purpose should be a leveling of the playing field for girls and boys in our culture. Then, the headlines for two articles describing the two programs highlight that the boys’ program provided “career choices” and the girls got “advice.” Seems to me that the boys in our culture could use the advice while the girls could use the career choices.
As to the content of the programs, I was struck by the inherent contradiction of providing pink boas to the girls while indicating that “you are being told to wear your thong above your pants” by society.
Is the hypocrisy of this not obvious? What kind of message does this send the girls attending the program? It says: you need advice and we are the experts; be sure to remain feminine in the traditional sense so adored in our culture; learn how to decorate pretty cupcakes; and stay well-versed in the relationship-advice area.
Meanwhile, over on the boys’ side, there was assistance in selecting classes in high school, narrowing college choices, and useful networking with successful men in our community.
The nature of these programs shows that the response to the old Virginia Slims slogan, “You’ve come a long way, baby” remains “We haven’t come far enough, and don’t call me baby.”
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Title IX provides for real, measurable and verifiable progress toward gender equality and a healthier social fabric. But for all of its successes in helping girls have access to a level playing field with boys, our society continues to question Title IX’s validity and importance, limit its applicability, and ridicule its purpose. It’s no wonder that our society as a whole cannot quite wrap its mind around the nature of gender equality when, in local communities, the same old stereotypes continue to thrive and prosper.