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Friday, November 5, 2010

Pecking Order

Did you know that chickens will see a spot of blood or 'defect' on another chicken and eventually peck it death?

This common behavior in the animal kingdom reminds me of how we often behave as humans. It also reminds me of the current fervor over homosexual teens who have, sadly, committed suicide.

I've been seeing links on FaceBook to an excellent blog post by Nerdy Apple Bottom about how her young son wanted to dress up as Daphne from Scooby Doo for Halloween. The post has apparently gone viral, with thousands of comments and page views. It features an adorable picture of her young son in full Daphne regalia, topped off with an enormous flaming orange wig.

As you can imagine, there were some raised eyebrows when the blogger brought her son to his school. Among the reactions were those of some fellow moms, many of whom took it upon themselves to discuss the boy's Halloween costume and what was so "wrong" with it. These bullies were, as the blogger noted, not only bullying her, but her son. And when Mama Bear feels that her cub is being threatened, all hell breaks lose, as it should!

One thing that got me, though: the title of the post is "My son is gay." I realize it was probably her entire point, but really, just because he wants to dress as Daphne doesn't make him gay. Perhaps her point was just that - to address these mothers who thought it was their business to not only point out the obvious, but get up her a@@ about it. I once dated a guy who, according to his elderly grandmother, liked to put on her beads and necklaces and wear them all over the house. He is, as far as I know, a successful attorney who is married and has two daughters. Maybe he passed his beads down to them?

My main issue with the title is even putting it in that context when referring to a little boy, someone who should be more concerned about ... what he wants to be for Halloween, rather than his sexual orientation. Unfortunately, that's hard to focus on when you have adults who want to put you in that category and label you at a time when sexuality shouldn't even be an issue; when it is something, really, that no kid that age should know about or really understand. It's not that he's gay: that's just HIM. It reminds me of a friend I had in college - he wasn't "out" to anyone (yet) and I had a feeling he was gay, but it didn't matter. He was just Andy - not gay or straight.

This blog post really isn't about the sometimes skewed perceptions we have about gender roles. Even though I do think we are hardwired: an acquaintance once tried to hand his son the Barbie doll and his daughter the fire truck in an experiment to get them to play gender-neutrally (or whatever you want to call it), and they promptly rejected the toys and traded. So much for nurture over nature.

What it all boils down to is that in some way, we are all bullies. I find it rather nauseating that suddenly the unfortunate rash of gay teen suicides is being latched on to by the media, the gay community and everyone else at large as a "gay" thing. It's a thing - a thing that effects everyone, on some level - and has nothing, really, to do with gender preference.

I see it all the time among different groups of people with different thoughts and opinions (and everyone's got 'em). Take this election season - the last few elections have not been without drama and a fever-pitch of opinions about certain issues. Whether we're gay or straight; atheist or Christian; right-wing or left-wing - in some ways, we're all bullies. We all have a tendency to latch on to one idea and pick on others who don't share our views, for right or wrong. And many of these people are the same ones who think the current crisis among gay teens is incredibly tragic and "must end now! We must put a stop to bullying!", not realizing they are often just as guilty of the very thing they think is so despicable.

In the mothering community, we see this all the time but probably haven't fully recognized that it's bullying, plain and simple. If we are exclusive breastfeeders, we tend to assume that women who feed their babies formula are only doing so because of X reason. Some even go so far as to call it "poison" - I've seen this many, many times. Or the fervency of people who believe circumcision is wrong and attack those who have their boys circumcised. Or the stay-at-home moms vs. the working moms. And the list goes on...and on ... and on...

Either way, forcing someone to take your point of view, and calling them names like "hater" if they don't, is not espousing tolerance of anyone's diverse opinion except your own. Hello ... that's being a bully. Rather than use the word "tolerance," which is such a token catch phrase that nowadays has little, if any, meaning, perhaps we should use the word "respect" - which carries much more weight and significance.

Unfortunately, it's human nature for us to henpeck each other and to establish a definite pecking order among other people. You can't escape it or try and label it as something else. It's just something we all do - just like chickens, who have brains the size of a small coin. And we think we're so smart.


TracyKM said...

I've only had a chance to scan this post, but it brings up a big double standard to me. Last year, my dress-loving but rough and tumble girl was Spiderman for Hallowe'en. Though it was thought of as "creative", no one linked it to her 'sexuality'. Interesting.

The Deranged Housewife said...

I know ... the little girl down the street has been into Spiderman since I can remember. And I liked Matchbox cars literally until I was 12. What gives??

Anonymous said...

The reason nobody thought a little girl dressing up as Spider-Man was wrong is because, for a long past while, there was a Spider-Girl ( and it was common knowledge. That may have been the reason.