sexual orientation

Cross-posted at Jezebel.

This holiday season, a dollhouse may be a feminist gift for a little girl.

A tweet from Natalie Novik inspired me to look into the toy.  She had discovered a gender-neutral dollhouse being sold at Etsy.  Following up on her lead, I went over the Toys R Us website to see what gender messages dollhouses were sending.  Some of the results surprised me.

Among the 22 best selling dollhouses at Toys R Us, four came without people, six came with a preponderance of females, ten came with a male, female, and children, and there were two I couldn’t categorize.  (All humans were white — some dollhouses included non-human creatures — and just about everyone appears to be wealthy.)

The majority of dollhouses, then, came in two types.  The first was an explicitly family-themed toy.  The message of these was heteronormative, for sure, and also pro-coupling and pro-reproduction.   The Fisher-Price Loving Family Home for the Holidays Dollhouse is an example:

The second type of house, however, had themes of friendship and, dare I say, female-independence.  These houses had only women or, more often, a group of women and one man.  They gave the impression of female home-ownership and female-dominated social interaction.  The Exclusive Barbie Malibu Dreamhouse is an example:

Interestingly, most of the dollhouses that fell into this second type were Barbie affiliated.  People disagree as to whether Barbie is a good role model for young women.  She is roundly criticized for upholding a harmful standard of beauty, but she also tells women they can run for President and go to the moon.  In this case, Barbie is sending girls the message that they can have fulfilling lives and own homes without a husband.

As if to capture the paradox completely, the dollhouse featured above comes complete with a Barbie in a bikini doing astronomy:

Children, of course, play with toys both creatively and in resistance to the messages they send.  We’d be happy to hear your stories and observations in the comments.

Lisa Wade, PhD is a professor at Occidental College. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture, and a textbook about gender. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Wanna get clear on the relationship between sex, gender identity, sexual and romantic orientation, sexual behavior, and gender role?  Watch this video by the Vlog Brothers, sent in by Jeffrey B.:

UPDATE: Comments closed.

Lisa Wade, PhD is a professor at Occidental College. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture, and a textbook about gender. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Last spring I posted a map of the legal status of same-sex marriage in the U.S. Given the results of the election, it’s time to update that map.

Greg Stoll posted an interactive map that lets you look at changes in in statutes regarding same-sex marriage from 1990 to now. On Tuesday, voters in Maine and Maryland approved referendums legalizing same-sex marriage, reaffirmed marriage equality in Washington, and defeated an effort to put a ban on same-sex marriages in the Minnesota constitution. That makes this this first time same-sex marriage was legalized by voters, rather than a legislature or the courts. (NOTE: As a reader pointed out, there’s an error in the map; Maryland should be colored blue now.)

Here’s the current map, with blue states having full marriage equality and red states banning both same-sex marriage as well as civil unions in their constitutions:


Gwen Sharp is an associate professor of sociology at Nevada State College. You can follow her on Twitter at @gwensharpnv.

Yesterday I posted about how “couples costumes” seemed to inevitably include a man and a woman.  Since then I found one top listed online costume seller that doesn’t follow this heteronormative trend, PartyCity.  While most are male/female, here are four of the couples costumes they feature:

Interestingly, I didn’t see any costumes for two women, which is consistent with the lesser visibility of lesbians relative to gay men (if, of course, that’s part of Party City’s logic for offering guy-guy costumes in the first place).

UPDATE: Sara P. found an online flyer for iparty that had both guy/guy and one girl/girl “double the fun” costumes:

Lisa Wade, PhD is a professor at Occidental College. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture, and a textbook about gender. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

We’ve posted before about how our changing collective awareness of homosexuality in the U.S. over the last several decades often leads us to see implicit(or even explicit) gay themes in vintage ads and photos that likely wouldn’t have carried those connotations at the time. My colleague Gregory R. sent in a set of ads from the 1940s for Cannon Towels that perfectly illustrate this. The ads, part of their True Towel Tales campaign, focus on the experiences of U.S. soldiers fighting in various parts of the world during World War II. They seem intensely homoerotic by today’s standards:

Found at Retronaut.

Editor’s Note: This post inspired me to put together a “Before Homosexuality” Pinterest Board.  You can see our whole collection there.

The Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation released the results of a survey of 3,130 adults about their position on same-sex marriage. The survey found that just over half of all adults and registered voters thought same-sex couples should be able to get married:

Unsurprisingly, this varies greatly by political affiliation, with Democrats and Republicans mirroring each other — 2/3rds of Democrats support same-sex marriages, while the same proportion of Republicans oppose it. Well over half of Independents also agree that same-sex marriage should be legal:

You can also see the results by party clusters — that is, different groups within the parties (the Post unfortunately doesn’t describe the clusters). Urban liberals were most supportive (93%), while those identifying with the Tea Party were least (6%):

These numbers tell us a lot about why the Democratic party appears to be on the verge of adopting a platform that explicitly includes marital equality as a goal. This position is unlikely to alienate many people within the party or Independents who might lean Democratic, since only a small minority of both groups “strongly” oppose same-sex marriage. We’re at a point where a major political party can make the calculation that openly stating they support allowing gay and lesbian couples to get married helps its political chances more than it potentially hurts them.

Via the New Civil Rights Movement.

A version of this post originally appeared at eGrollman.

Over thirty years ago, Black feminist scholars and activists began emphasizing the importance of recognizing every identity and status of which each individual is comprised.  The crux of the perspective known as intersectionality is that we must account for the intersecting nature of our identities and statuses, as well as the intersecting and mutually-reinforcing relationships among systems of oppression, especially racism, sexism, classism, and heteronormativity.  For example, a full understanding of the lives of Black women cannot come from considering their lives as Black people only, as women only, nor as the sum of these two sets of experiences.

There is solid evidence demonstrating that one’s experiences with discrimination are consequential for one’s mental and physical health; however, these studies generally have not examined whether the relationship between discrimination and health depends upon the number of forms of discrimination individuals experience.  Could it be the case that individuals who face sexist and racist discrimination fare worse in terms of health than those who experience sexist discrimination or racist discrimination only?

In an article I published in the June 2012 issue of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, I find that the answer is yes, at least among youth. Using a sample of 1,052 Black, Latina/o, and White youth aged 15-25 from the Black Youth Culture Survey of the Black Youth Project, I looked at patterns in discrimination based on race, gender, sexual orientation, and class.

First, disadvantaged youth report more frequent exposure to their status-specific form of discrimination. That is, Black and Latina/o youth report more frequent race discrimination than White youth, girls and young women report more frequent gender discrimination than boys and young men, and so on:

Generally, more frequent exposure to each form of discrimination is associated with worse self-rated physical health and more depressive symptoms in the past month.

Youth who are disadvantaged due to multiple statuses (e.g., Black working-class boys, Latina lesbian and bisexual girls) report facing more forms of discrimination and more frequent discrimination overall:

Youth who face multiple forms of discrimination and more frequent discrimination report worse self-rated physical health and more depressive symptoms than youth who face fewer forms and less frequent discrimination:

These findings reiterate the importance of examining the intersections among systems of oppression.  Only examining racial or gender discrimination, for example, would miss the fact that youth who are disadvantaged in more than one way face the greatest amount of discrimination.  Unfortunately, scholarship and popular discussions of forms of disadvantage in isolation from one another continue to gloss over the experiences of individuals whose lives are constrained by multiple systems of oppression.


Eric Anthony Grollman is a PhD candidate in sociology at Indiana University.  His research focuses on the consequences of prejudice and discrimination on the health, well-being, and worldviews of marginalized groups.  He blogs for the Kinsey Institute at Kinsey Confidential, and maintains a personal blog.

Earlier this month NPR profiled Alex Hernandez, a member of a Mexican third gender.  This prompted me to re-post our discussion of muxes from 2008.  Images of Hernandez, taken by photographer Neil Rivas, are added at the end.

A New York Times article this week briefly profiles muxes, a third “gender” widely accepted in Oaxaca, Mexico.  According to the article, this part of Mexico has retained many of the pre-colonial traditions.  One of these included flexibility around gender and sexual orientation.  From the article:

There, in the indigenous communities around the town of Juchitán, the world is not divided simply into gay and straight. The local Zapotec people have made room for a third category, which they call “muxes” (pronounced MOO-shays) — men who consider themselves women and live in a socially sanctioned netherworld between the two genders.

“Muxe” is a Zapotec word derived from the Spanish “mujer,” or woman; it is reserved for males who, from boyhood, have felt themselves drawn to living as a woman, anticipating roles set out for them by the community.

Not all muxes express their identities the same way. Some dress as women and take hormones to change their bodies. Others favor male clothes. What they share is that the community accepts them; many in it believe that muxes have special intellectual and artistic gifts.

Robin B. pointed us to a slide show at NPR.

Lisa Wade, PhD is a professor at Occidental College. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture, and a textbook about gender. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.