In our beautifully shifting, kaleidoscopic society, there are few things that stay still for long. Cultural values come and go like the leaves on the trees, but there are some things that remain the same no matter what season it is. Although the particulars have changed ever-so-slightly over the years, gender, it would seem, is one of those things.
Whether you realize it or not, from the moment you were born, you’ve been inundated with culturally charged ideals of how men and women should behave. Although your parents probably never sat you down and laid out the rules of gendered behavior for you, you were learning. The cues were much more subtle, but they were still there. Think about it. The clothes your parents laid out for you, the toys you were given to play with, the chores you were assigned to do — day after day, year after year, from the earliest stages of your life, these simple actions shaped your conceptions of how the world should work. Bombarded by gender, it has become ingrained in you. It’s ingrained in all of us.
As we lay out our own clothing now, choose our own toys, and pick our own chores, we get much more of a say in how we will present ourselves to the world. Everything about us — from the way we deal with facial hair (see “Beard on the Street”) to the way we behave in locker rooms (see “Male/Female Locker Room Codes”) — is gendered. Whether we fall into traditional gender roles or not (see “Androgyny: The Best of Both Worlds?”), gender dictates many of our day to day actions. Beyond that, it plays a key role in structuring our reality and the way we perceive each other.
This special issue is an exploration of gender, it in all of its trite and fascinating politically incorrect and sublime and silly and interesting and boring and bothersome and wonderful and ridiculous glory. There’s no ulterior motive behind this issue; we merely ask you to consider the topic.
Providing both a means of expression and a means of oppression, gender is a contradictory, powerful force.
Let’s confront it.
Editor in Chief