(Slate) -- Every holiday season, service journalism stages a gender reveal party for the American consumer. These kinds of celebrations, when they’re held for fetuses, often have cutesy names that pit traditionally masculine objects against traditionally feminine ones: “Rifles or Ruffles,” “Footballs or Fairies,” “Staches or Lashes.” Holiday gift guides serve a similar function for adults. In the pages of lifestyle magazines and product review sites, it’s “Beer Caddy or Birchbox,” “Hot Sauce or Hair Dryer,” “Meat Thermometer or Meditation Mat.”
Most real people have aesthetic and gustatory interests that span these narrow, binary categories. Even the most basic, traditionally feminine woman enmeshed in a culture that enforces strict gender norms—the kind of woman, say, who would host a “Bows or Arrows” party for her forthcoming child—might like a nice beer, portable campfire, or T-bone steak. Her husband would probably enjoy a cozy blanket and eating breakfast in bed off a little wooden tray. The imaginary gift recipients evoked by “50 Stocking Stuffers for Dad” or “28 Gifts for the Woman in Your Life” are far less complex. In their world, womanhood is a prison of nice smells, kitchenware, and body adornments, while manhood is best performed in the woods, clad in leather, blind drunk.