Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Color Me Feminine...

Gender...it's all monkey business, right? You've never been so right! In 2002 Texas A&M (author places hand over heart in respect for the mere idea the word "Texas" brings about) conducted a study in which male and female vervet monkeys were given the choice between masculine and feminine toys. Monkeys were used because they supposedly have not been socialized to know "boy" toys from "girl" toys. The result: male monkeys went for the masculine toys while females went for the feminine. Suggested reasons: toy movement and...appearance!
"Females may have evolved preferences for object color, relating to their roles as nurturers. A preference for red or pink – the color of the doll and pot – has been proposed to elicit female behaviors toward infants that enhance infant survival, such as contact."
Appearance can affect the perceived masculinity or femininity of an object. As a female, I'm not particularly interested in tractors (something my younger brother is fascinated by) but when I saw a PINK tractor...now we're talking!
The Reainssance, with all its transvestite and homosocial glory, is the perfect time period to do a "Now and Then" comparison. Here's the "Then," the "Now" comes in the next post.
Queen Elizabeth, the female King of England, knew how to shape public opinion concerning her gender through words (as discussed in my last post) and appearance. An excellent example, her reaction to the threat of the Spanish Armada. Against the counsel of her adviser, Elizabeth dressed in armor from the waist up (wearing a skirt waist down) and stood boldly before the crowd of militia to address the men in what is one of her most famous speeches, the Tilbury Speech. The militia being so large, runners were sent into the crowd and on a cue they read Elizabeth's speech in sync with her. Here Elizabeth, a female, is standing dressed as a man and the audience hears her proclaim in a man's voice (due to the male runners reading the speech) "I have the heart and stomach of a King- and a King of England too." Elizabeth used visual appearance to her advantage, here dressing as a soldier to address her military and aid her in convincing the men she is their "King" "Leader" and "General."
How much do visual gender cues dictate what you perceive, buy, and even think? You thoughts:


  1. I like the androgyny-to-the-extreme quality of that outfit. She didn't dress in full armor, but rather kept the skirt.

    I think visual gender cues dictate how we think quite a bit. They really set expectations for what people or things are going to be like.

  2. The monkey study is interesting and the "Then" example of Queen "King" Elizabeth is an empowering feminist story.

    What about tomboys? I have always preferred pink things and barbie dolls but what about my girlfriends growing up who played with trucks, tractors, and boy things, hated wearing dresses, and loved the mud? The tomboy might be something interesting to think more into.