President Roosevelt…in a dress?

Speaking of gender….

Ah, an ode to the “gender obsession” that has only recently been exhibited in much of the world. I remember once getting into my parents’ old photo box. My dad got super flustered and embarrassed when I pulled out a picture of him as a baby living in Iran. There he was in the garden with my grandma, sporting long curly locks & a big poofy dress. Haha, I find it hilarious how deeply the photo seems to disturb him. It’s definitely not considered “normal” anymore to grow a male child’s hair out and dress them in dresses.

If the baby has a penis, we gender them “boy” and immediately immerse them in their social training about what it means to be a boy. I recall a particularly amusing episode of Rugrats which commented on this phenomenon. In the episode “Clan of the Duck“, Chuckie and Phil notice that Betty (feminist mama extraordinaire, incase you didn’t catch that when you were 7) wears pants. With a swift kick of radical baby logic, they decide that it’s not fair that boys aren’t allowed to wear dresses. So, they cross dress. The commentary thickens as Chuckie and Phil embark on an adventure wherein they encounter other babies who think that they are girls. Oh mayn. I love Rugrats.

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Gender and The Rugrats

I’ve always been a fan of Klasky and Csupo’s “Rugrats“. I recently subscribed to Netflix and have been going through old episodes. To my surprise, I have reaped much more enjoyment from this than initially anticipated, as I quickly caught on to a brilliant subtext undetected by my 8-year-old eye.

One of my favorite (and…well, relevant) of these statements came to life in the relationship of Betty and Howie DeVille, an aggressively gender-bending couple.

In the show, Betty, Howie’s wife, is often portrayed playing traditionally masculine roles in the relationship, while Howie resembles something closer to the expectations of females. Using the swap as leverage, the Rugrats writers make various–and seemingly inconsistent–statements about gender, our expression of it, and its role in our relationships. That Betty is commonly thought to be a lesbian is a nice example of the [problematic] conflation between gender expression and sexual orientation.

Do you have a favorite character that pushes the limits? Maybe I’ll write about them next. Spill it below.