Oh, maybe you were imagining a slightly different picture of modern gender? Consider the earring. Associated exclusively with women for about 200 years, guys have recently started to reclaim them. “In the last two decades,” Valerie Steele, director of the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology, told The Huffington Post, “men have gotten in touch with their inner pirate.”
While there are real biological differences between the sexes, gender is generally considered to be a social construction — it can be pretty much whatever we want it to be, and we’ve wanted it to be a lot of things over the years. Below, find some ways our perception of gender presentation has already changed from the past to present.
Not so long ago, parents dressed their babies in white dresses — due to the fact they could be bleached — until about age six. Yes, even the boys.
Pastels came into style when a 1918 retail trade publication attempted to nail down the rules: pink for boys and blue for girls. “Being a more decided and stronger color, [pink] is more suitable for the boy,” the article stated, “while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl.” Whether or not people listened (and blatantly sexist rationale aside), they at least seemed to accept a much wider variety of color options for their infants until sometime around 1940, University of Maryland historian Jo B. Paoletti notes, when preferences switched to the color divide we’re familiar with today.Persian soldiers wore high-heeled shoes in the name of necessity when riding horseback, since shooting an arrow from a saddle was easier with a heel to secure the foot in its strap. As the European elite became fascinated with the unfamiliar culture, men adopted the horsemen’s masculine footwear for their own (totally impractical) use around 1600. After the (gasp!) lower classes began sporting heeled footwear, the leisure class responded as only they could — by making the heel higher. Continue reading “Changing times”