Brown Study

Brown study

12 December 2015

9:00 AM

12 December 2015

9:00 AM

It is good to see the Greens doing their bit to stop the evil gender bias and stereotyping now so prevalent in Christmas gifts, especially with toys for boys. As many of us have long suspected and as the Greens have now confirmed, the Christmas presents we give to boys simply reinforce male stereotypes, promote gender inequality and encourage domestic violence. This disturbing result undoubtedly explains why my 10 year old grandson has been manipulated by social pressure into taking up such stereotypical pursuits as judo, football and rampaging through the bush with the Boy Scouts. It also explains the unnatural, girlish laughter that consumed his sister, who is four and should know better, when I gave her a cut-out book where she pastes flowing gowns, tiaras and magic wands on assorted princesses waiting for a handsome prince to come and rescue her when, if left alone, she would probably want to be on the Sea Shepherd, firing grappling irons at Japanese whalers.

But at long last the corrosive effect of giving gender-biased presents, particularly at Christmas, is about to be put under the spotlight and, if you ask me, not before time. Senator Larissa Waters and her Green colleagues, under the banner of ‘No gender December’, have set up a Senate inquiry into this whole disturbing subject with a view to promoting gender equality in an increasingly male dominated and repressive capitalist society.

As Senator Waters correctly points out, the enemy that must be eradicated is the notion that ‘items, such as dolls, makeup and jewellery are singled out for girls and others, such as trucks, action figures and weapons are designated for boys’.

And it is not as if this perversion is a minor shortcoming which rears its ugly head at Christmas and birthdays. It is deeply embedded in our culture. Why, for instance, is Thomas the Tank Engine a boy? Why not Tammy? Why is the Fat Controller a man? Obviously because of the myth that only men are competent to control anything more complicated than doing the shopping or licking an egg beater. Why is Cinderalla always a girl, cast of course as a servant whose only role is the drudgery of cleaning the fireplace when, if she were a boy, she would have devised a far more inventive arrangement where the job was outsourced to a cleaning company in the Cayman Islands with no tax and a special deal with the AWU to avoid penalty rates. Why is Lady Macbeth always a woman? (Well, we know part of the answer to that, when you think of the recent Liberal Party coup). And why is the lady given dialogue like ‘Out damned spot’, with all of its connotations of scrubbing floors and putting the dog out at night? Why, for that matter, are witches always played as female hags and harpies when it is really the men who do all the plotting and scheming? Probably because witches are always peering into their cauldrons and, just to keep women in their place, cooking the most vile concoctions. Indeed, this whole notion of master and servant now permeates our repressive society, culminating in the ultimate male conquest with MasterChef, where the judges are men and the women do the cooking and burst into tears when the goats cheese is burnt.

I think Tony Abbott is largely to blame for the resurgence of male dominated control structures by taking up residence in the Police College with its panoply of all the worst masculine symbols of uniform, rank, pistol practice and, in all probability, pillow fights, recently banned, I am pleased to see, at West Point. No doubt it follows on from his wicked pre-occupation with militaristic border control and his delusion of implementing the male-oriented role of defending the women folk from marauding Muslims, whose religion, in any event, is based on peace and love. And, although I do not want to bring a discordant note of politics into the equation, what a refreshing change it was to hear our new gender-friendly PM warn how destructive it was to advocate putting boots on the ground (another masculine symbol) for yet another masculine military campaign and how timely it was for him to pronounce that ‘this is no time for machismo’.

Fortunately, the Senate inquiry will lay waste to these perversions and contortions. Already, I hear, the inquiry staff has started work on some models that should put an end to stereotyping and gender bias in Christmas presents. I hold out particular hope for Brenda the Builder and Bob the Embroiderer, both of whom will go a long way to restoring the gender balance in career options for the young. The inquiry’s draft of a new education curriculum should also help, with its segment on how to design a gender neutral, eco-friendly wilderness and build it with none of those symbols of male domination like cranes and front end loaders and, above all, no winsome nurses in the first aid centre. And, as there is no hope of entirely eradicating rampant capitalist competition at this early stage of reform, a creative game is planned under the mantra ‘be the first of your friends to colour the freckled frog in this picture and start your own campaign to stop a coal mine being opened in your neighbourhood’.

Finally, until the full list of recommended Christmas presents is released next year, the committee has in mind, for boys, a costume of Gaia the Earth Goddess, hemp sandals and a cubby house with solar panels and, for girls, the last season of Zena, Warrior Princess, football socks and a tool kit. I, for one, welcome the Greens’ initiative and can’t wait to see the evidence they unearth and bring to the surface. Oops! Sorry about the mining analogy.

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