Having conversations about gender

I recently posted on a different blog forum about the genderised advertising by Nile Breweries. This is kind of commonplace, with alcohol advertisements. I am actually waiting for the day Johnnie Walker produces a Jennie Walker. Or maybe we could just get rid of the whole gender business. If there cannot be a Jennie, there shouldn’t be a Johnnie.

But, I digress. I thought that this was easy to see. It was telling that no one ever called them out on this, despite several billboards in the city about “champion men”, but when they extended this to Independence Day, a national holiday that should be inclusive, I just couldn’t. The conversation had to be had.

This upset me. [Source: Nile Special Facebook page]

But the conversation that was sparked after was perhaps more unsettling.Feedback generally involved “Why is this such a big deal?” “You’re reading too much into this”, “don’t take it personal.”

This reminded me of a different conversation I had with my friend here as we walked to the campus center. He asked me about women’s dress code and sexuality. I don’t remember his exact phrasing so I cannot quote him, but the gist of his argument was: if a woman is dressed in a short skirt/dress/shorts then she is trying to portray herself in a sexually enticing way to men. “Don’t take it personal”, he warned the moment he saw the shock on my face.

Being a woman myself makes it difficult for me not to draw from my own life, not to use the reflection in the mirror before me. We have talked often, in class- or more specifically the Prof. P has talked often- about excess and how the power of language exceeds the speaker. We have also talked about culturalization and how the things we keep seeing eventually become us and shape our movements [I think this is Butler]. My friend pointed out dress code at parties to support his argument, just like female readers sent me messages about not complaining too much about things that were “normal.”

The issue with conversations about gender comes down to ideology. Feminism is my preferred ideology but as Prof. P articulated in an office hour conversation, “It is really about changing the way people think.” I want to be a free spirit that does not force my ideologies on the world and every time I get frustrated with comments, I wonder at myself. Am I just the other version? I think I make sense, but the colonialists probably thought the same of their ideology.

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