Saturday, July 4, 2009

Guest Blogger Piece: Second best T-Shirt

Rubin on Wry is thrilled to welcome guest blogger Dianna, a talented journalist and web producer for a popular media outlet. She's also extremely innovative - she thought of this "guest blogger" thing. Oh, and she's my girlfriend, too. Interested in being a guest blogger? Leave me a message in the "post" section below.

I'm a sucker for a gift shop. I have been since I was a wee one. I have vivid memories of dashing through museums, scurrying past animals in a zoo and being fidgety in my seat at baseball games. More than anything, I wanted to be in the gift shop -- the promised land of useless things, with jacked up prices and absolutely no "collector's item value." I wanted that shirt that proudly said "Cubs" in bright pink; the stuffed animal that I would lose interest in by the time we got home; the pen that I would never use.

I've since grown out of that phase, mostly. But I still, on occasion, enjoy going to the gift shop. I'm going back to Chicago in a week and thought it would be cute to get my three-year-old cousin Sophie and my just-under-a-year cousin Dominic "Future President" T-shirts. They're everywhere in D.C. and, yes, they are cheesy. But they are also adorable, so leave me alone.

While heading toward Chinatown, Jon and I stumbled upon some sort of "official" visitors center; I felt certain I would find the gifts. And I did. But I didn't buy them. Not there.


Because of this atrocity that was in the store.

My first reaction was "What. The. Fuck." I made a beeline toward Jon and demanded he take a photograph. His response? "Oh that's cute." After gut punching him, I explained why this (the T-shirt, not the gut punch) was completely outrageous.

Here is my beef with this: It is implying to little girls that being the president's wife is just as desirable goal in life as being president. I'm not some sort of crazy women's lib-type. I still expect men to take out the garbage, ward off burglars, squash bugs when necessary. But encouraging girls (even at the age required to fit into the tiny size shirt I held today) to aspire to be the woman behind the man is just sad.

My second reaction, if you were counting, was "Is this what a female president would be called? The first lady?" Maybe it's just the fact that we haven't had a female president. Her title hasn't been defined, nor has that of her hypothetical husband or partner. Perhaps, I misconstrued the message of the t-shirt. But the fact that the shirt was made in China, cost under $8 and was sold in a place that panders to Southern (sorry) tourists, I'd place money on that not being the case.

Growing up, I was always told "Don't marry a doctor; be a doctor." I'd like to think that other mothers are sending similar messages to their daughters. But when you see shows like "18 Kids and Counting," where the girls aspire to be housewives, or any of the "Real Housewives" series, where women aim to be "kept," you sort of get the feeling that my mother's teachings are not the norm.

Maybe my next gift shop adventure will prove more successful.
- Dianna


Zeyev said...

Now that you've had your fun pounding on poor, little Jon (ha!), have some more fun and read Ephesians 5:22. I think it's obvious that's where this mentality comes from in some quarters of the USA. If you go a little further, you can also, according to the Wiki, find a justification for slavery. Jeepers.

I probably would not have noticed the offensiveness of the shirt (it may be a guy thing) but I'm glad you did.

Has Jon told you about our office tradition of bringing back tacky items from our trips? I have sacrificed both sanity and bucks in pursuit of just the right (and cheap) tacky item for my coworkers. I feel your pain. Good luck in your hunt.

Dianna said...

Warren, only you would quote Ephesians 5:22. I've heard that passage many times (but only when I'm watching trash TV about families with umpteen kids. See: Duggars). I don't know how many are on a "first-name basis" with it outside of the Evangelical set.

You had better watch out; Jon says you're his next guest blogger. Brush up on genus prunus.

George said...

I enjoyed the reality TV tie in.

One of the creators of 'The Biggest Loser', 'Real Houswivers' and other Drek programs was on NPR a couple of months ago trying to defend her work as being uplifting/a public service etc. I see it as comfort food for our unhealthy archetypes. Same thing with that type of shirt/the whole pink thing in general for that matter. It is kind of telling though that me, Jon, and the other commenter missed its hidden meaning at first glance. Doesn't speak well for future guest blogs!!

Zeyev said...

There is vindication for The Dianna in this morning's fishwrap. Take a look at page B5, a sidebar on the other Senator from Minnesota. And I quote:

On her husband, who she says is the first man to be consistently involved in the Senate Spouses organization:

"I knew things were getting out of hand when [Missouri Sen.] Claire McCaskill and I were driving out of the Senate one day and we looked out the window and we see my husband. And he's carrying this pink box. . . . We called him over, and it's a baby present. I said, "What are you doing?" He said, "Well, I'm here for a Senate Spouse event. It's Jim Webb's wife's baby shower." At that moment I thought, "This was a great victory for women."

-- Interview with The Washington Post, published June 8, 2007

Ilan Goodman said...

1) Dianna is an excellent blogger.

2) I'm not sure I buy it. I totally see where you are coming from D, but first lady (or in some hopefully not too distant future, first man) is an incredibly distinguished office in its own right. Look at how much Michelle Obama (just a current example, there are many more) can accomplish on a range of issues because she is first lady. Isn't that something that little ones can look up to? She is certainly a role model, and one I look up to for certain.

Dianna said...

Ilan, I think contemporary first ladies are someone to look up and aspire to. Michelle Obama is an amazing woman. But Laura Bush didn't do much while living in the White House. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, is a former first lady to look up to. I guess it's more of a case-by-case basis.

What I'm trying to say is that maybe we should be teaching little girls that, while being No. 2 is great, there's nothing wrong with striving to become No. 1.

Zeyev said...

Thank you, Dianna.

In other words, offer shirts in pink that say both First Lady and President. Offer shirts in blue that say both President and First Man/Husband. The absence of the latter speaks volumes about the issue. We expect little boys to aspire to go for the highest position. We tell little girls - in so many ways - that they can try for number 1 but that number 2 is OK.

Like many forms of discrimination, it is deeply imbued in our society. There are people who think that "Jewing down" is not an insulting phrase, even if they know Jews. There are, in the same vein, some things that men don't feel and have to be taught. Let us resolve to be taught.