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I Can Win On My Own

I was in a store a few weeks ago and saw a t-shirt for a tween girl. It read, “Who needs boys? I can win on my own.”

This hit a hot button of mine: reverse sexism. “Shades of a trophy bride,” I thought. “This is how you want your girls to see boys: as an unnecessary means to an end?”

Then I thought, “On the other hand, it’s great to see girls being able to say they don’t need a male frame into which to put the picture of their successes.”

“Yeah,” I countered to myself, “but there’s still the whole them/us didactic going on in this. What does gender really have to do with winning? Isn’t this a major basis for hierarchical arguments, that one’s gender defines the parameters of where and how one can compete and excel? Does this just lead to creating matriarchal hierarchists to oppose patriarchal hierarchists? ”

“And, why does winning or losing really have anything to do with the male/female relationship anyway?” yet another little curmudgeon inside me piped up with. “That is so game oriented. Must our interactions be definable in terms of winners and losers?”

By then, I had a whole sexism symposium going on in my already overcrowded little head, so I decided to declare a break and not worry about it. I went on with my shopping and went home.

But, weeks later, it still keeps hopping into my consciousness like a contentious kangaroo. So, I’m passing it on to you, my fellow egalitarians: am I making a mountain out of a mole hill or are there serious issues this little shirt brings up? If so, which ones are important and where am I being over sensitive? Please, let me know what you think.

12 Comments

  1. Comment #96776 posted October 10, 2012 at 4:42 pm

    As a mother of both sons and daughters, I would never let my girls wear this shirt. Who needs boys? We all do. It is reverse sexism. Yes, girls need a way to frame their successes that doesn’t include male oversight, but there are ways to do that without making it an us/them dynamic. Be careful how quickly you toss out the boys. God does not exclude anyone, and neither should we. Taking on the very characteristics that have harmed us as women is not progress or freedom.

  2. Don Johnson
    Comment #96778 posted October 11, 2012 at 8:11 am

    I do not see this as too bad, teasing the other gender a little and then making an assertion of competency.

    Tween can be an awkward age to navigate due to different ages people go thru puberty with girls typically sooner than boys. So I put this in the category of silly, not serious, and being silly is a way to cope sometimes.

    • Liz Liz
      Comment #96785 posted October 12, 2012 at 10:08 pm

      With all due respect Don, I perceive that teasing of either gender is not helpful at any stage of life. While I am aware that many think it a normal part of life, my experience informs me that someone gets hurt, whether it’s the girl, boy, woman or man and we should be encouraging our young people to speak kindly to each other.

      Love this post, Hubert. I think you have touched on something really important.

      • Don Johnson
        Comment #96790 posted October 13, 2012 at 8:48 am

        As I see it, teasing can be a form of humor, when it involves another one needs to be very careful to NOT be hurtful. It is true that a joke can be used to hurt another and then try to disquise this hurting action. This means that anyone who hears the joke intended to NOT be hurtful needs to understand it as a joke that has NO basis in fact and if this is not true for any reason, else the joke can hurt and should not be told.

        • Liz Trevor
          Comment #96793 posted October 13, 2012 at 6:21 pm

          In the instance that Hubert is citing here Don I think that the joke does have a basis in fact. For years women have been sounding off at having been treated badly by men. Some men, who are still locked into hierarchy or male supremacy, consider such women to be strident feminists and respond derisively toward them. The fact that women feel the need to have such a statement on a tween girl’s T shirt speaks volumes about what some women really feel about having been disempowered by men for centuries.

          The flip side of that is that some men, of an egalitarian, non sexist persuasion, could feel that their efforts at reversing this centuries old poor treatment of women is being swept aside. What kind of message is this statement sending to boys who may be growing up unaware that there is any such divide among men and women? When persons of either gender become the subject of a joke someone always gets hurt .

        • Susan L.
          Comment #96802 posted October 15, 2012 at 9:03 am

          Humor serves an interesting social function. I learned a few years ago that comedies have historically policed excesses and challenges to the status quo for thousands of years. Just think George Constanza in the sit-com Sienfeld. He’s a jerk; he’s immature; he’s selfish, so he’s ridiculed. And we laugh at him while making internal notes NOT to be like him!

          Humor can be a gentle nudge to stay in line (which is why it’s healthy to maintain a sense of humor about ourselves). But it can also shame and ridicule. We all sort of instinctively know when a joke has gone too far.

          So, I don’t know, Don, about jokes having no basis in fact. I’m thinking they do, if not a basis in how things are, then a basis in how the joker wants things to be. (I’m reminded of those 1960s sit-coms where the wife is ridiculed for daring to step out of her narrow role and tackle a “man’s job”.)

          Which brings us back to the t-shirt. An all out rejection of the male sex, “Who needs boys?” is clearly a big rejection. As you say, Trevor, it reflects a lot of hurt on the part of some women. And is that the reality this “joke” is pushing for? Boys are of no value at all? It’s a response to a legitimate hurt, but it goes too far.

          What if the t-shirt said, “Boys are great, but I can win on my own” or “I can win on my own, I don’t need a boy for that” ?

          • Don Johnson
            Comment #96805 posted October 16, 2012 at 8:32 am

            I read the “Who needs boys…” phrase as saying “I don’t need a boy for that”. I did not even think of it possible to read it in a larger way (as in “I don’t need a boy for ANYTHING”, as it does not make much sense, procreation being what it is.

  3. Hubert Edgar Hix
    Comment #96787 posted October 12, 2012 at 11:54 pm

    I appreciate the comments. It can be hard sometimes to walk a line between over-sensitive and insensitive. I look forward to more honest observations on the different sides of the issues here.

    • EMSoliDeoGloria
      Comment #96801 posted October 15, 2012 at 8:25 am

      I agree that this shirt sends a false message. A biblical understanding of gender equality is one of mutual dependence and mutual strengthening and burden bearing (2 are better than 1).

      That is the opposite of independence – an attitude of not needing one another. That independent attitude has led men and women through the ages to use each other instead of loving one another – to take sexually or financially or in other ways without giving of themselves in mutual honoring and support.

  4. Red
    Comment #96791 posted October 13, 2012 at 9:07 am

    I believe strongly that reverse sexism comes from women noticing inequality, becoming frustrated by it, but not believing there’s anything they can do about it. Lashing out becomes their only coping mechanism.

    The most guy-hostile ladies I know are a group of sisters that were raised in an uber-patriarchal household. You can tell that they have a weird love/hate relationship with guys. On the one hand, they’ve been taught that their life is meaningless without male approval, and males are almost an idol to be worshiped. On the other hand, they tend to lash out at guys in social situations and struggle with the idea that guys are their “leaders.” They present a face of hostility and suspicion to men, until that man gets to know them well enough.

    For my part, I know that my days of reverse sexism started about the time I was in Jr. High. This was about the time where people started to measure your worth in terms of whether you had a boyfriend, and boys seemed to dominate the social scene whenever we were in a coed situation. At church, we ladies had our first “submit to your husbands when you get married” talk. It seemed like guys had all the power, and that was the first time I ever felt any type of reverse sexism. Luckily I knew some sweet, awesome guys in high school and managed to nip all that craziness in the bud.

  5. Amanda B.
    Comment #96804 posted October 16, 2012 at 2:52 am

    It strikes me both as too vague to be helpful and too pointed to be neutral. “I can win…” win at what? “Who needs boys…” seems to be discounting their value and contributions in a general, stereotyping kind of way.

    It would be mostly better to say something like, “I don’t need a boy to…” (shifts the emphasis to what the girl can do, has much less of an implication that boys are inherently useless) and far better to say something like, “I’m not waiting for Prince Charming to…” (if we’re dismantling harmful gender stereotypes, let’s attack the stereotypes, not the gender).

    Surely there’s a way to help girls feel confident in their value and abilities without putting down boys in the process.

  6. SusanHowell
    Comment #96811 posted October 18, 2012 at 4:50 pm

    Just a minor point here: it isn’t really “reverse sexism,” it’s sexism.

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