Will Gender Stereotypes Ever Die?


I love Star Wars. It was the first movie I ever saw as a kid, and I watched it from the back of my parent’s station wagon at the drive-in theatre while draped over a seat. I was around five years old and so young that I didn’t understand how they shrunk Princess Leia down to her hologram size. What I wasn’t confused about was how totally, completely, and amazingly awesome I thought the light sabers were. This made me a girl who liked a boy thing.

But my love for Star Wars just kept growing. By the time The Empire Strikes Back rolled around, I was in love with Yoda’s ability to lift an X-Wing Fighter from a swamp. When Return of the Jedi came calling, I was smitten with Han Solo. (I was also crazy into the Ewoks – in my defense, I was an 11-year-old girl, apparently Lucas’ target audience for the third film.) But did anyone know this? Outside of the Princess Leia doll sitting in my Barbie Dream House – not really. I have a younger brother rich in Star Wars toys, so I just played with his and didn’t talk action figures at school.

So with a male imprint of “Han Solo Equals All Things Dreamy” firmly implanted in my brain, my love of a galaxy far, far away carried into my teen years. It was lurking just beneath the surface, flickering like a light saber every time I heard a John Williams-style trumpet or saw a roguish dark-haired dude with a crooked smile. I’d still declare my love of Star Wars to anyone who would listen. But it was always defiantly, with a “Mock me and I’ll call you a stuck up, half-witted, scruffy-looking nerf herder.” Why? Because girls weren’t supposed to like Star Wars.

Now I won’t stop talking all things Lucas to anyone who lends an unlucky ear, but I’m closer in age to Mon Motha than Princess Leia. So when I heard about seven-year old Katie Goldman, who was recently mocked for bringing a Star Wars water bottle for school, my inner Ewok rose up in outrage. CNN picked up the story of young Goldman, who was teased by her friends at school for carrying something meant for boys. Katie begged her mother, Carrie Goldman, to change her Star Wars water bottle for a pink one. The senior Goldman took to her blog to decry the gender stereotyping inflicted on her daughter.

And as CNN reports, the Internet struck back. Goldman’s blog exploded with stories of people sharing their own bullying stories. Around 1,200 people left message of support. Others sent in Star Wars gifts, many of which Katie plans to redistribute to needy children. Katie’s school hosted “Proud To Be Me” day in honor of Katie on December 10th, where children were encouraged to come to school dressed as their favorite thing. Katie’s story had a happy ending and a lesson learned. May the force be with you, Katie!

But if Katie had been a boy wanting to do a “girl thing,” would the reception have been so positive? A friend who taught elementary school shared this story: “I once had an Opposite Day party and some of the boys had a blast dressing up as girls, and the girls all loved being boys. But one family was adamant that their son not dress like a girl – but they happily sent their daughter dressed as a boy.” Why is it so scary for some people that a boy would want to do a girl thing?

This past Halloween, the Internet went berserk over blog written by another concerned mother, this one entitled “My Son Is Gay.” It featured a smiling five-year-old boy called “Boo” dressed in his Daphne from Scooby Doo Halloween costume. In this blog, Concerned Mother pointed out how other mothers seemed to pile on with false concern that her child would be mocked for dressing like a girl, and that a Daphne costume would “make” her son gay. To which Concerned Mother replied, “[My job] is not to dictate what is ‘normal’ and what is not, but to help him become a good person.”

What do the stories of Katie and Boo tell us? That gender stereotypes haven’t changed so much since mini-Princess Leia first flashed across a drive-in movie screen. But it seems that awareness around these stereotypes has. And as long as there is a forum to post discussions over stereotypes, perhaps we can continue to chip away at them. Sure, some boys will always want to play with trucks and some girls will always want to be pretty princesses. Luckily, there’s always a light saber or a red-haired wig waiting for everyone else in between.

My cake toppers at my recent wedding.


Main image: Amidala Photo

Katherine Butler

Katherine Butler is the Beauty Editor of EcoSalon and currently resides in Los Angeles, California.