“Gender construction” starts, as Butler states, with the assignment to a “sex category” based on genitalia at birth. But more importantly, children are then treated for what is “appropriate for their gender status”. There is no law enforcing these social rules, so how do so many individuals collectively begin to follow the norm? Perhaps the media?
In this Tide commercial, the “gender-proper” mother dressed in a white dress, ballet flats, and a pink cardigan is placed in a furnished living room, representing what a stereotypical female home should look like. When the mother embarrassingly looks at her “tomboy” child who refuses the “whole pink thing,” she is giving the impression that her child is not what she originally envisioned her to be or wants. With Tide, it is as if she found a solution to fix her child’s “problem”. But really, what her daughter wants to play with, whether it be Barbie’s or bricks, is the free will of the child. Like the school community in Gould’s story about Baby X, many parents will have their socially constructed binary gender-roles re-enforced by watching this commercial. In the end, it says that “Style is a option,” but is there a right or wrong one? This mother sure believes so.
Butler, Judith. (1990) “The Compulsory Order of Sex/Gender/Desire,” “Gender: The Circular Ruins of a Contemporary Debate.” From Gender Trouble.