Friday, November 19, 2010

Geeks, Gender Roles, and Bullying

I'm continuing the chain here--I read this story about a girl in first grade being bullied for having a Star Wars water bottle and just had to pass it along. The kids tease her for liking Star Wars, because that is apparently "just for boys." My heart goes out to Katie, and I can't help but remember the times when I was teased for liking something "different."

Like in fourth grade, when every other girl in my class decided that boys had cooties. My two best friends at the time were boys, and we'd gather at my house to play with Hot Wheels. I always wanted the "boy" toys from Happy Meals, too. The Barbie figurines were useless. The Hot Wheels were cool. Oh, and the pink Lego sets? I can't stand them. It implies that those are the only Lego sets that girls are supposed to like. Please.

Then fifth grade came. I bonded with the new kid (who also happened to be a boy) over this fantastic book the teacher read to our class. Everyone else thought we were strange because we wanted to go to Hogwarts...and then Harry Potter became a worldwide phenomenon. By the way, the reason Joanne Rowling writes under the name "J.K."? The publishers thought boys wouldn't want to read a book written by a woman. No joke.

As I got older, I discovered that as I went to larger schools I was more likely to find boys and girls who shared my interests. Oh, and first grade is a bit young to think about this, but women who like Star Wars are very popular among men who like Star Wars. I met my loving, wonderful, Palpatine-robe-wearing boyfriend Jason through a dating website designed specifically for geeks. He collects Star Wars lightsabers and we've had several lightsaber battles after dark in the park. Words cannot describe how cool that was. We trade Star Wars jokes back and forth, and we're planning on writing a crossover fanfiction where the Doctor (from Doctor Who, natch) ends up on the Death Star. My point is that geeks are cool, and anyone who says differently is either just jealous or feeling insecure.

Who decides what boys and girls are "supposed" to like? Where does this idea come from, that boys are blue and girls are pink? And how can we change it? I was reading some of the other comments that had been left for Katie (and there are quite a few now!) and most of them contained the same advice I'd been given: ignore them, and one day it won't matter. Looking back at it, I remember not believing it...but now, of course, I see they were right. Is there any advice that works *now* and not ten, fifteen, twenty years down the road? At least now Katie knows that she is not alone...and the Force is definitely with her.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Halloween Costumes and Cake

I had a marvelous Halloween. The only little snag was with the vampire fangs. They didn't stick like they were supposed to. Either the putty had an expiration date (it had been sitting around for a year) or it just wasn't that good to begin with. But I am still very proud of my cape.

Isn't the fabric awesome? And I've always wanted to have a cape. I sat outside with Emperor Palpatine (aka my boyfriend Jason) and we passed out candy for a couple hours. As usual, it was interesting to see the mix of costumes. Jason was a bit disappointed at the lack of Star Wars outfits; we saw one kid as a stormtrooper and one mom as a Jedi. The kids that I babysit came by with their parents. I couldn't get any pictures because they came at the same time as a bunch of other kids, but their costumes all came out great. Their mom was smart enough to make everything out of fleece (there was a tiger-in-a-football-jersey, a shark, and a lion). I say smart because as typically happens in Chicago, it was around 50 degrees. I saw more than one little fairy princess whose dress was covered by a winter jacket.

Jason couldn't wait to show off his Palpatine costume. He's working on getting in to the 501st Legion, where the members dress up as Star Wars characters for various charity events. The catch is that all of the costumes have to be movie-accurate, with literally pages of costume requirements. The robes were custom-made, but apparently he still needs shirring done on the sleeves. His brother does really good stage makeup and costume design, so he's going to do the mask. Right now, though, we have the awesome Palpatine robes:

So. Cool.

We followed up the candy distribution with a horror movie fest. We watched "Monster Squad" (a group of kids team up to take down Dracula & Co) followed by "Poltergeist." Jason and I started watching "Trick 'r Treat" but one of us (read: me) chickened out about ten minutes in. It wasn't exactly too scary; I just can't handle gore. Or a kid who eats poisoned candy and then projectile vomits blood all over the guy's porch. That was about when I decided I'd had enough. I did agree to give it another try, though. Apparently the giver of poisoned candy gets eaten by vampires at the end.

One more thing before I go: I promised you cake. And no, the cake is NOT a lie. Here is my Halloween pumpkin cake.

The cake was from a boxed cake mix and the frosting came in a can. I made it in two round pans and layered them (got the chance to use my cake leveler!) and smoothed out the frosting as best I could. The frosting was pale orange, so I covered the top with orange sugar.

I got the face by making a cake stencil. The process is fairly simple. First, trace around your cake pan onto thin cardboard (I used a flattened cereal box). Next, draw your design and cut it out with scissors or an X-Acto knife. Finally, place the stencil on top of the cake and cover the cut-out areas with sprinkles (in this case, black sugar).

To get the sprinkles on the sides, I tilted the cake (verrry carefully) and sprinkled them on. I worked on a small area and then turned it a little bit more to work on the next section. The cake was delicious, and everyone got enough sprinkles.