Ungendered Sleeping Pads and Boys Joining Girl Scouts, Could This Be a Path to a Genderless Society?

Photo by Patrick Hendry.

Last night I did some research about sleeping pads to take backpacking, and it turns out that there is a lot to consider. Not only do you have to account for their weight and how small they pack down, but different lengths, widths, thicknesses, and warmth ratings, not to mention their cost.

I also, apparently, need to consider whether I want a women's sleeping pad or a unisex sleeping pad. Since the women's ones aren't pink or outfitted them with tampon holders, but tend to be around the same size, the only logic I can think of is that the manufacturers think that women are all the same size and so we will all be served by this one particular model.

It's an obvious example of unnecessarily gendered products since they could just have the different size options and let everyone pick the size that works best for them because women and men are both a lot of different sizes and so why on earth would you narrow the market by creating an arbitrary gender restriction?

I have written in the past about imagining a world where the concept of gender just doesn't even exist. I am not convinced it would solve all our problems (people will still need to categorize other people somehow, and so maybe we just learn to stop being jerks about the categories we create instead of eliminating them and then inevitably creating some new category to be jerks about). This article about the stifling nature of masculinity and boy scouts being open to girls but girl scouts not opening to boys made me think about the possibility again:

If it’s difficult to imagine a boy aspiring to the Girl Scouts’ merit badges (oriented far more than the boys’ toward friendship, caretaking, and community), what does that say about how American culture regards these traditionally feminine arenas? And what does it say to boys who think joining the Girl Scouts sounds fun? Even preschool-age boys know they’d be teased or shamed for disclosing such a dream....

...I thought about the amazing one-step process for getting a bikini body I read recently: “Put a bikini on your body.” It’s not perfect and this is a lot to ask of society, but perhaps an analogous definition for masculinity is that when a man or boy does something, that’s masculine. Chugging a beer is masculine. Wearing a dress is masculine. Being brave is masculine. Crying is masculine. Playing sports is masculine. Not playing sports is masculine. Comforting a friend whose team lost before celebrating with his team is masculine. Anything and everything is masculine. You might argue that broadening the definition of the word to this degree diminishes its power to denote anything meaningful. And you’d be right, that’s the point.

This is the kind of genderless world I can fathom: we, as faulty humans full of cognitive biases, may always categorize people based on whether we perceive them to be masculine or feminine, but those words don't have to mean very much in terms of what we expect from those people.

In the meantime, I need to pick a sleeping mat.


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