This issue has already been over-discussed so I’ll do my best to leave out what’s already been said.

I am commenting on it because most people are looking at this issue on the level of this particular family. (Some have taken a historical perspective though, pointing out that men’s fashions, in other cultures and/or at other times in history, have been much more colourful, ornate, flamboyant even).

I am going to look at it on the level of our society.

We have created “modern” North American society such that old-fashioned gender divisions are becoming obsolete. Women can not only (theoretically) have just about any career they want, they also in most cases have to work in order to financially support themselves and their family (see this video for discussion of US median family income trends). Men not only have the option to stay home and raise children, also in an information and technology-based economy, increasingly the jobs available to them require that they sit at a desk and collaborate with their colleagues. No hard labour is required, and there are no predators or other physical dangers to protect against, so the aggression of times past would be highly out-of-place in that setting.

“Biological instincts are still there,” you might argue, “that mild-mannered computer guy might need to get out his aggression at the boxing ring.” Quite possibly. However, it is pretty hard to argue for the sanctity of gender (specifically how important it is for boys to dress and act like boys and for girls to dress and act like girls) when most of the practical things we do from day to day minimize it or do not require it. What remains of gender roles aside from the biological aspects of sex and reproduction (which I’m sure most people can figure out on their own) is an image, or a fetish.

What concerns me here is not the gender issues specifically but viewing this in the larger context of what I call “sound-biteism”. In our information-based society, every day we are exposed to progressively more information competing for our time, attention, effort, and money. It creates a situation where if you are going to get through to people, both in marketing and in everyday communication, you had better be short, snappy, and easy to understand.

I completely support making communication understandable. My concern however is the side effect of sound-biteism….if the simplest and clearest communication wins, then people start expecting everything to come to them in sound bites that are easy to understand, and require no effort on their part to understand them. “I must know immediately upon seeing this product what it can do for me. I must know immediately on seeing this person what their sexual preference is based on the way they are dressed.”

People become far less willing to take the time to understand complex issues, to ask questions to find out what is going on.

Is this a concern to anyone else?

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