You’ve seen the signs I mean – silhouette figures of two children about to cross the road: one boy, one girl. (How do we tell? One’s wearing a skirt.) (That’d be the girl.) (Really, do most girls still wear skirts to school?)
So, yes, let’s emphasize sex. Boy and Girl. Ms. and Mr. Nothing else matters.
And nothing else is possible.
Note that the boy is taller. ‘Oh, but they are.’ Not at that age! Taller suggests older which suggests more mature, wiser. And just in case you miss this not-so-subtle suggestion of male authority, look, he has his hand on the little girl’s shoulder – guiding, protecting, patronizing. It will be there for the rest of her life.
Just to make sure of that, we have this social understanding that in a couple, the man should be two or three years older than the woman. Such an arrangement gives the illusion, and the excuse, of the man being in a position of authority over the woman – after all, he’s older. (But since, as they say, women mature two years ahead of men, such an arrangement merely ensures the two are ‘equal’. If they were the same age, they’d see in a minute that the woman should take the lead, being more mature intellectually, emotionally, and socially.)
And to really really make sure the message of male authority gets through, mothers encourage their boys to be the man of the house. So a fourteen year old boy comes to consider himself more knowing, more capable, than a woman twice his age (his mother). Is it any wonder that at eighteen, he assumes he’s more knowing, more capable, than all women?
Now I confess that if the crossing sign had things the other way around, a taller, older girl guiding a younger boy, I’d protest the nurturant mommy-in-training role model. Which just goes to show we can’t win. As long as we insist on pointing at everything and saying ‘male!’ or ‘female!’ As long as we live in an apartheid of sex.
The ironic thing is that the signs point the way to (or from) school, the institution at which we supposedly become educated, enlightened. Looks like we just learn how to colour – in pink and blue. (In black and white.)