On tomboys

‘Tomboy’ is a term I haven’t heard a lot recently. Saturday’s Guardian had an article about tomboys that left me puzzled. Its author, a tomboy herself, began with the thought that tomboys had been something good in her childhood, with lots of the the stars of fiction for girls being tomboys. Yet today they seem much rarer these days, both in real life and in fiction. She postulated that the strength of current pink princess pressure was stamping them out, and she decided to go in search of today’s tomboys, wondering if they had a tougher time. Thus far, I was nodding along. Then it started to emerge that her understanding of ‘tomboy’ was different from mine. The tomboys she was interested in were ones who insisted that they were really boys and not girls, or who rejected both gender identities. My understanding of ‘tomboy’ was much weaker than this. I thought a tomboy was simply a girl who wanted to do stereotypical ‘boy’ things– which would include her tomboys, but also lots of other girls (including the fictional tomboys mentioned earlier).

The author was surprised to find how uncomfortable parents of today are about the tomboy girls, and how unwilling to be interviewed for a newspaper. But I found myself wondering if some of that is due to a change in thinking about these issues that the author completely ignored. If I had a girl who insisted she was really a boy, I would be wondering if this meant that she would wind up wanting to transition– worrying about major surgeries, hormone treatments, etc. And I’d be very hesitant to let a newspaper do a story on my child while that child was still trying to figure out their gender identity.

So what if anything has changed? Have we progressed by now having greater awareness of trans issues? Have we actually moved toward a more rigid duality? Was ‘tomboy’ an accepted additional gender 30 years ago in a way that it isn’t today?

The article totally ignored trans issues, though it was very careful to discuss sexuality issues, insisting that there’s no definite connection between being a tomboy and being a lesbian.

So… lots to mull over here. What do you think?

My first detection of a behavior detection officer!

So we’re all looking fairly grim as we go through the security line at the airport, but then waiting at a bend in the line is a pretty cute guy with a diamond earring and “TSA” all over his  uniform.  You know the TSA (Transportation Security Administration) people; they’re the ones who have brought misery to thousands and maybe millions of travelers coming in and out of US airports.

So not only is he cute and has a diamond earring, but he is very friendly and jokey!  How suspicious can you get!?!  As I went past, totally ignored by this warm sociable guy, I said “I work in cognitive science and I’m really interested in how you all are trained.”

“Look up behavior detection officer,” he said.  And so I did.  Here it  is, from their point of view.

USA Today had an article in November that details a number of concerns about the violation of privacy.  The bottom line is that the science of reading faces and behavior  is not well enough developed!  Hmmmm.  Sounds like a line for a grant application.

“We do not do profiling,” the guy said.  Alas, I didn’t have time to tell him about implicit biases.

“You’re Likable Enough, Gay People”

That’s the title to Frank Rich’s column in the NY Times.  And, omigod, a straight white guy gets  it!   The unacceptability of the Warren pick, that is.

Here are some snippets.  You can find plenty that criticize Obama for the choice; here are some mostly directed at  others:

The exhilaration of [Obama’s] decisive election victory and the deserved applause that has greeted his mostly glitch-free transition can’t entirely mask the tensions underneath. Before there is profound social change, there is always high anxiety. …

It’s a sign of the old establishment’s panic that the Rev. Richard Cizik, known for his leadership in addressing global warming, was pushed out of his executive post at the National Association of Evangelicals this month. Cizik’s sin was to tell Terry Gross of NPR that he was starting to shift in favor of civil unions for gay couples. …

Warren’s defamation of gay people illustrates why, as does our president-elect’s rationalization of it. When Obama defends Warren’s words by calling them an example of the “wide range of viewpoints” in a “diverse and noisy and opinionated” America, he is being too cute by half. He knows full well that a “viewpoint” defaming any minority group by linking it to sexual crimes like pedophilia is unacceptable. …

Since he’s not about to rescind the invitation, what happens next? For perspective, I asked Timothy McCarthy, a historian who teaches at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and an unabashed Obama enthusiast who served on his campaign’s National Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Leadership Council. He responded via e-mail on Christmas Eve.

After noting that Warren’s role at the inauguration is, in the end, symbolic, McCarthy concluded that “it’s now time to move from symbol to substance.” This means Warren should “recant his previous statements about gays and lesbians, and start acting like a Christian.”

Recant his position?  Hey, being Warren, he’s denying that he ever said it.


Sunday cats: combating stereotypes edition

Some have worried that our Sunday cats reinforced stereotypes about “crazy cat ladies”. The Jender-Parents sent in some contributions of cats that are tougher to slot into that stereotype. amazing-white-tiger-under-water5 And to anyone who is put off by it, we say “Grr”. (By the way, we do still worry a bit about the concerns that were raised, and we’re still mulling them over.)

The RNC, keeping it classy

A candidate for Republican National Committee Chair is distributing copies of the song “Barack the Magic Negro”, as well as the “Star Spanglish Banner” (originally made for the Rush Limbaugh show). But maybe he’s a nutty fringe candidate? Not so much: he’s been endorsed by Frist and Huckabee. But not to fear. Saltzman, the candidate, assures us that:

I think that RNC members have the good humor and good sense to recognize that his songs for the Rush Limbaugh show are light-hearted political parodies

Yes, training is called for…

but somehow it doesn’t seem enough. The Jender-Parents sent me this article about a woman in Georgia who was arrested because she wouldn’t remove her headscarf (which did not cover her face) when entering the courthouse for her nephew’s court appearance. The judge sentenced her to 10 days in contempt of court. Later in the day, she was released. Now the police and the judge are going to get sensitivity training. But the judge did the same thing a while back. Further, he has a policy of not allowing head coverings in the courtroom, though he will meet with people in an alternative place if they really insist. What I want to know is why he should be allowed to set a no head coverings policy in the first place. What possible point can it have but to make members of certain minority religions feel like second-class citizens? Aren’t they entitled to their day *in court*?

[Corrected in response to comment from JJ]