Over the last couple of days I have finished my Christmas shopping and spent way too much money buying presents for everybody. I love the feel of Christmas shopping—the carols playing, excited children, tinsel and happiness in the air.
But among all the festivities I couldn’t help but noticing how gendered everything is. Most shops are carefully segregated into masculine and feminine shops and this makes them gatekeepers of social attitudes. They are the ones that help to reinforce ideas of what it means to be feminine and masculine and both implicitly and explicitly police people’s behaviour.
I think this works in a negative way on both genders. As I walked around the shopping centre I couldn’t help but notice the number of men standing outside shops—shops that they aren’t meant to go into. Clothes shops, jewellery shops, shoe shops, cosmetics… Men are not meant to be there. The ones that do venture in are clearly embarrassed and out of their depth. In my favourite stationary shop there was a guy being served at the counter next to me. ‘Is this for your wife? Would you like it gift wrapped?’ I could sense his embarrassment. He was buying the same gorgeous pastel pink notebook that I was buying. I suspected it was for him by the way he hesitated. In the end he said yes, and waited patiently while it was gift wrapped. I didn’t get asked the same question.
The reverse is those shops that are meant to be the domain of men. One of these is the comic book shop (yes, I know—Big Bang Theory and all that). I don’t buy comics very often but I have discovered a series of feminist writers of comics, particularly the Mockingbird series, and I love to go in there occasionally and browse. But wow does it make me feel uncomfortable. Okay, I’m usually not the only girl in there, but I bet the ratio is something like twenty guys for every girl—and they look at you in such a way that I can tell they are wondering why you’re there. And then when I was purchasing my comic I couldn’t believe the questions—‘Is this for your boyfriend? What you like it giftwrapped.’ NO – it’s for me, I said loudly, but thanks for asking.
Anyway, I hope you all have a wonderfully feminist Friday.