Whether or not to reinforce traditional gender stereotypes is an increasingly hot topic in parenting. While many of us hope to empower our children to overcome limiting gender stereotypes, it can be difficult to transcend cultural norms - especially when they're perpetuated by our nation's most powerful office.
But, if there’s one thing to thank our Commander-in-Tweets for, it’s that he’s started conversations that have needed to happen for a long time. Here are three progressive gender conversations for which Trump deserves a hat tip:
We’re Talking More About Sexism
The 2016 election was an unprecedented display of sexism at work - a well-known misogynist came up against a woman who faced brutal chauvinism her entire career. Politics aside, observers on both sides of the political aisle saw outright sexism on the campaign trail which was followed by oblique apologies by the offenders. And now that sexism appears to have won (for now), there are important discussions bursting into mainstream discourse.
Immediately following Trump’s inauguration, it is estimated that between 3.2 and 5.2 million people from across the nation organized and executed one of the largest peaceful protests in US history - The Women’s March. The march served as a catalyst to promote activism and inspire cultural and political change across the US - bringing much needed light to issues which have laid dormant under the guise of complacency in mainstream culture. Confronting the issue of gender equality, head on, will only serve to strengthen our culture and lay a path for the myriad of other social justice issues which need to be addressed if we are to realize an enlightened future.
There’s a New Discourse Around Marginalized Gender and Identity Groups
Of course, gender stereotypes and prejudices are not just an issue for women. It’s a critical time for discussion of marginalized gender and identity groups. And thanks to Trump Era politics, the rights of transgender individuals are front and center.
In February, Jeff Sessions, sworn in as our 84th Attorney General under Donald Trump, took away protections for transgender individuals in public school. The decision removes the tools administrators need to combat discrimination against transgender students but also stalls the momentum gained by activists promoting LGBTQ rights. Not only are transgender students at risk of increased discrimination, but transgender educators are also impacted.
Where there’s discrimination, however, there’s activism. For Bahar Akyurtlu, a transgender teacher in New York City, the actions of the Trump administration inspired her to encourage her students to fight for social justice and to resurrect her school’s Gay Straight Alliance club. Akyurtlu is not alone - rallies and protests have popped up around the country. From California to Boston, the step back in transgender rights has served as a catalyst for LGBTQ supporters to engage in a public discourse to move our nation toward progress.
Trump Started A Conversation About Men (Yes, Men) and Beauty
When it comes to unrealistic standards for appearance, men objectively have it better than women. But, the media’s beauty standards for men (and the recent increase in perfect body image obsession) have gained a justified place in the conversation of late. While not nearly as strictly socialized, they are just as unlikely to achieve.
Look no further than our current Commander-in-Chief’s spray-tanned complexion and bottle-blond hair to illuminate the notion that men are grappling with maintaining physical attraction that defies the aging process (or, in Trump’s case, any natural processes).
Valiant attempts to recapture youth aside, what caught the media’s attention was Trump’s apparent body image issue with, of all things, his hands as he, red-faced and frenetic, fervently defended the size of his p***y grabbers. Yet, as the laughter petered out, pockets of discussion over men's body image and insecurity thereof remained, signaling a deeper issue than Trump’s stubby digits (which are, by the way, 85% smaller than the average male - just saying).
Perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise to Millennials that physical expectations of men are increasingly rising. We are, after-all, the first generation to use a selfie-specific front-facing camera. Since the 2008 market crash, procedures like Botox injections have become more commonplace among men in a competitive employment atmosphere, and that trend isn’t slowing down. Men are simply more conscious of their appearance and the beauty industry has noticed.
Box-of-the-month subscriptions that send men fashion standard-approved clothing, shaving care products and even beard care essentials are on the rise. Toupees are an accessory of the past, as companies are investing in more realistic and attractive solutions to baldness, from PRP injections and plugs to convincing roll-on hair. Couple this with a burgeoning industry of men’s makeup, and a steady increase in our ongoing obsession with fitness, we have fundamentally shifted the personal beauty standard social requirement from a strictly female conversation to one which is shared by both men and women.
Whether Trump was your chosen candidate or your worst political nightmare, the dialogue we’re engaging in today is long overdue and much to do with his recent rise to the Oval Office. The momentum gained from the conversations about gender equality and sexism in the media has the potential to grow into a movement to change the culture of America for the better. For that, President Trump deserves a high-five – just don’t hurt his little hand.
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