Transphobia’s newest target: Winnie the Pooh

Transphobia’s newest target: Winnie the Pooh November 22, 2014

winnie_the_pooh_and_rabbit_by_zdrer456-d37nmfkThe transphobic Polish town council of Tuszyn has banished Winnie the Pooh from being a mascot for their playground, and Fox News wants you to know all about it. The reason: Pooh doesn’t wear any pants (just a shirt) and there is no bodily indication of which gender Pooh is. I’m used to defaulting to a “he” for Winnie the Pooh, but I’m realizing that might not be Pooh’s preferred gender pronoun. After all, Pooh’s character is not depicted with anatomical correctness, as the Tuszyn council rightly points out. Furthermore, it’s not just Pooh whose gender-ambiguity is problematic, but Rabbit and Piglet also seem to be on the fence. This is every bit as scandalous as the Teletubbies or Frozen conspiracy. It’s an attempt to normalize gender ambiguity in the minds of our children, and by God, we’d better boycott Winnie (whose last name Pooh has a suspiciously eastern sound to it and if you google it, you can find a book called the Tao of Pooh). So Winnie the Pooh not only promotes gender ambiguity but Taoism as well. Oh my!

Can animals live together in a hundred acre wood without explicitly defined gender roles? The only full-blown female in the Pooh stories is Kanga, because she’s a mother. Eeyore, Owl, and Tigger are pretty clearly masculine, but Pooh, Rabbit, and Piglet really do tend to be a little bit ambiguous, particularly in the voices that are used for their characters. I suppose that Pooh’s laziness and tendency to sit around with a hand in a honey bowl is a pretty masculine trait, but Pooh certainly isn’t much of a macho bear. Bears are supposed to be predators that growl and claw at other animals. Pooh is the most un-intimidating bear in the history of bears. What does it do to our children’s minds to see a Pooh bear who’s not only gender-ambiguous but lazy and doesn’t seem to suffer any consequences for it? Pooh gets to sit around and “think” all day like some kind of Taoist sage. There’s an endless supply of honey that Pooh never has to work hard at a decent job to get his hands on.

Likewise Rabbit and Piglet are too fastidious to be perfectly masculine. Rabbit is so obsessed with his/her garden. Piglet is always sweeping his/her house. They should be lifting weights or playing basketball if they’re male animals or at least bouncing like Tigger. Furthermore, Piglet is pink and s/he wears a vague, gender-ambiguous pinkish leotard everywhere. Rabbit is a complete nudist with pink ears and a pink nose who sometimes wears an apron which only girls are supposed to wear. What kind of message is this sending our children?

I’m not nearly as clever a satirist as Andrew Wilson, so I can’t stay in character for the whole post. But this story illustrates the incredible silliness of the recent reactionary movement of neo-patriarchy which apparently is now happening in Poland too (I wonder if the town council of Tuszyn was evangelized by Southern Baptist missionaries). Winnie the Pooh was created in the 1920’s, when patriarchy was certainly the norm, but its proponents weren’t scouring animated characters to make sure they fell into appropriate gender roles like the paranoid reactionaries of today. Interestingly, Winnie the Pooh’s creator A.A. Milne named his son Christopher Robin because he thought he and his wife were going to have a girl whom they would name Robin, so when they had a son, they just gave him a boy name and the name he would have had if he were a girl.

As I was reading this article that my wife shared with me last night, I was chuckling about the way my youngest son had previously run over to me and demanded that I watch him do the ballet routine he learned as part of his kindergarten curriculum at the charter school we have our boys in. Their physical education class is called dance and fitness. There is no concept that dance is something that girls do. Once a month, they have a school-wide performance for all the parents where boys and girls alike perform complicated dance routines led by their choreographer/gym teacher who seems like a regular old, loudly hetero/masculine bearded giant Cajun dude.

What if my son eventually becomes a champion ballet dancer? That would be awesome! He could just as easily become a really good soccer player. I’m sure the ballet is helping him a lot with his foot skills. It would be awesome if both of my sons could continue to live in a world where activities aren’t segregated into boy-appropriate and girl-appropriate. Some people are terrified that we’re moving that direction as a culture. I see it as being no more harmful than an episode of Winnie the Pooh. But I guess if you see things differently, you’d better burn those Winnie the Pooh DVD’s before they corrupt your children’s minds.

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