Intersection of Race and Gender — In My House

KMart back to school ads.

Kmart back to school ads.

My teen son, an excellent student and high achiever is the oldest and the only boy.  We are black.  (I’ll explain another day why I use black instead of African-American).   The television was on in the background and I made mention of a commercial I’d found mildly annoying.   He responded, stating that the only commercials he really hates are the Kmart back-to-school commercials.   If you are not familiar, the commercials feature rapping black kids in hip-hop style.   There might be one white girl in back of one, I’m not sure — I change the channel whenever they come on.  Now that school is in full swing I hope the commercials go away forever.

I told him I agreed, “I hate those commercials, too!    They are awful!”

“Yeah,” he said,  “I wanted to file a complaint.”

“You should.”   I felt proud that my kid, who usually only talks to me about Zombies or funny things that happened at school,  was exhibiting some sort of interest in social justice.    I felt proud that he noticed and was offended, and was angered by the stereotypical portrayal of his people, particularly with regard to education.  I felt proud that he even considered doing something about it.   It was very unlike him.

Maybe he does have a sense of something larger than himself, I thought.

Hours later, however, he told his sister she couldn’t throw.  His sister is slender, stands almost six feet tall, is a four sport, record holding, medal winning athlete.

“What?  I can throw.  I play softball.”

And yes, yes, she does play softball.  In fact, she plays third base — the hot pocket.  If a batter hits a ball anywhere near her, she will catch it.  She has caught it in the air.  She has caught it on the ground.  She has caught it while falling down, she has caught  it bare handed rolling backward, and she has caught it while in a full split.

In "A League Of Their Own"  Dottie catches a ball in a split.

In “A League Of Their Own” Dottie catches a ball in a split.

But wait, we’re talking about throwing, right?   Okay, once she’s caught the ball, it becomes a bullet shot with precision to her twin sister who guards first base.  The runner doesn’t have a chance when this girl throws the ball  — to my other daughter, who WILL catch it, gloved hand outstretched while one foot remains on the base.   She will catch the rocket launched to her by her twin, that is, when she’s not pitching, which is her second position.  So yes, his other sister can throw, too.  She can throw strikes, sending multiple batters back to the dug out — to sit down.

And softball is only one of the four sports the girls play.

So the statement, “You can’t throw” has no basis in fact.  It is a stereotype, just like it is a stereotype that black kids rap happy about going back to school in their hip-hop style.

In response to my daughter correcting him, my son, incredibly, said,

Him:  “[Softball] is not a real sport.

Her:  “What???  Why??? ”

Him:  “First of all, what gender plays it?” 

Her:   “What does that matter?”

Him:  “Oh, it matters.”

Suddenly, I was not quite as proud of him.   I guess his sense of social justice, his sensitivity about the proliferation of stupid stereotypes,  does not extend beyond the black thing.

That says a lot.

In the end, he did register a complaint on the Kmart site.   He has not, however, apologized to his sister.

By the way, I’m divorced.   My son is the only dude that lives here.  Despite all of his academic abilities you’d think he’d be smarter than this.

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2 Responses to Intersection of Race and Gender — In My House

  1. Irrelevant says:

    I actually saw that commercial on tv when I was in the US (I’m white, btw). I was just as appalled. It’s the one where the kids are riding a yellow school bus and a stereotypical girl with braids is rapping snoop dogg style to the camera, right?
    Your son’s on to something, but still has to outgrow the sexistic side of society 😛

    • Yes, there are a couple of versions of those commercials. Awful. Yes, I’m hoping my son will outgrow his sexist attitude. He’s not a stereotypical boy in many, many ways so when these comments pop up out of nowhere I’m always taken aback.

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