“One day early last fall, I returned from work and discovered my son in a dress. And not just any dress. A Snow White dress. I can’t say it was a complete shock. Luke had been telling my wife and me for more than a week that he wanted to be Snow White for Halloween. Whenever Melanie or I gently suggested an alternate costume, he would calmly respond, “No, I think I have to be Snow White. I dropped my bag and made what I hoped was a suitable fuss over the costume. My face still taut with manufactured glee.”
I read about this man’s conundrum in salon.com several weeks ago. It reminded me of an episode from Roseanne when DJ wanted to be a witch for Halloween. His dad tried every which way to dissuade him and explain that girls are witches and boys are warlocks. But DJ wanted to be a witch.
Both of these dads felt threatened and worried that their sons might end up with bruises or black eyes for their choice of costume. But the dads’ discomfort went beyond fear of bodily harm. Both were emotionally twisted into knots. Snow White’s dad wondered if his discomfort was due to seeing “the dress as a threat to my legacy, an insult to generations of men who fought wars and presided over propane grills?”
But as a progressive dad, he wondered why he was so troubled.
Why? It’s called “gender ranking.”
We value males and male things over females and female things. Boys are seen as devaluing themselves when they take on feminine accessories or behaviour. That’s why many women think back happily on a time when they were tomboys, but most men weren’t – or won’t admit they were – sissies.
If we valued males and females the same, a Snow White costume wouldn’t be a problem.
Actually, valuing males over females wouldn’t be a huge problem if it were just about guys in dresses. But devaluing the feminine leads to all sorts of problems that I will go into greater depth later: Women don’t expect as much for themselves, including pay. In societies and subcultures where masculine is valued over feminine we find high rates of rape, wife battering, gay bashing, daughters-for-sale, and female infanticide. STDs are more widely spread. Women’s sexuality becomes repressed. Even the feminine value of compassion is diminished in the face of masculine go-it-alone “personal responsibility.” The list goes on.
Dressing up like Snow White may seem petty, but ranking males over females is not trivial, at all.
Quotes are edited for length. See original text at salon.com.
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