breaking gender norms

Gender By Us

Today NPR published a piece entitled, “For These Millennials Gender Norms Have Gone Out of Style.” To get to the point, these days men wear nail polish, women wear suits, and some Urban Outfitter’s employees wear whatever they pull out of the family dryer.

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To me, it comes as no surprise that the author, Lidia Kott, could round up three gender-benders from New York, San Fran, and D.C., respectively. I expect that people chilling around Haight Asbury might delve a little deeper to create a unique image. But for your everyday 14-to-34-year-old millennial is this really how we perceive reality? As Exhibit A, “normcore” seems to promote a more androgynous look is widely accepted. Also, we can’t forget the man bun — a possible move in the feminine direction? On the other hand, growing up in a Georgia suburb, while girls openly embraced camo, men weren’t really rushing towards nail polish, kilts, or, well, anything associated with a more traditionally feminine identity. Maybe my peers were the missing third in the Intelligence Group’s survey (or they thought people weren’t defined by their gender so much, they just didn’t know where those people were).

As sorority shirts look increasingly like the-shirt-you-wore-home-this-morning (complete with frocket) and frat daddies grow ever more colorful the later you venture into football season, maybe I am being generally unfair. But I fail to see how modern millennial gender norms (or abolishment thereof) seriously rival those of the flappers, the beatniks, or the hippie movement. Men’s hair was certainly more “feminine” in the 1960s and 1970s. And androgyny hardly beats bobbed hair and a straight frock. Ms. Kott does concede, “Mostly, you’ll see millennial women dressed femininely, and millennial men dressed masculinely. But many even conventionally dressed millennials are considering the ways in which gender might be flexible.”

What do you think? Do we dress and act differently? And if we don’t dress differently, do we feel fundamentally different about gender?