Kirk Murphy was a bright 5-year-old boy, growing up near Los Angeles in the 1970s. He was the middle child, with big brother Mark, 8, and little sister Maris, just a baby at 9 months. Their mother, Kaytee Murphy, remembers Kirk's kind nature, "He was just very intelligent, and a sweet, sweet, child." But she was also worried.
"Well, I was becoming a little concerned, I guess, when he was playing with dolls and stuff," she said. "Playing with the girls' toys, and probably picking up little effeminate, well, like stroking the hair, the long hair and stuff. It just bothered me that maybe he was picking up maybe too many feminine traits." She said it bothered her because she wanted Kirk to grow up and have "a normal life."
Then Kaytee Murphy saw a psychologist on local television.
It left Kirk just totally stricken with the belief that he was broken, that he was different from everybody else. --Maris Murphy, Kirk's sister "He was naming all of these things; 'If your son is doing five of these 10 things, does he prefer to play with girls' toys instead of boys' toys?' Just things like this," she said.
The doctor was on TV that day, recruiting boys for a government-funded program at the University of California, Los Angeles.
"Well, him being the expert, I thought, maybe I should take Kirk in," said Kaytee Murphy. "In other words, nip it in the bud, before it got started any further."
This horrendous story took place in the 1970s girls were being taught to feel themselves entitled to whatever had been traditionally more associated with boys and to aspire to a man's job, while regarding traditional feminine expectations as limiting and somewhat beneath them. It was regarded as equality, but a one-way equality where what had been good for boys became good for girls too and what had been beneath the dignity of men, unfit for serious consideration by women too as of equal value. Where Gender Equality in the 1960s implied rejection of valuing men's traditional specialisations over women's and an end to limitations on what either sex might do, throughout the 1970s it came increasingly to mean upholding the superiority of traditionally masculine values and activities over feminine and their requirement at the expense of the traditionally feminine for both sexes.
The implication that a sissy boy is - or will grow up - necessarily gay is something else that has not changed. If anything, the fact that it's alright now has reinforced that expectation to make him feel that to show any heterosexual interest amounts to giving in to social pressure, when the real social pressure is to conform to the traditional stereotyping that sissies are too much like girls to have any interest in girls. The result is as likely to be the same self-fulfilling prophecy when it is alright now as when it was all wrong then since the underlying association of how good little heterosexual boys must behave has not changed at all. The same of course applies to girls even less than it ever did. They can be as tomboy and interested in traditional boys' toys as they like, and very likely encouraged in the hope that they'll make a good career, but very rarely with any implication that it will prohibit them from taking a romantic interest in boys. It may even be considered to make them more desirable.
As later feminists have observed, what started as Women's Liberation asserting that it meant men's liberation too, only accomplished half the task in allowing women to move into traditional men's areas but not men into women's, so that 30 and 40 years later feminisation of the workplace and family-friendly employment (to the extent that the competing responsibilities of employment and family can ever be reconciled easily) remain more talked about than actually acted upon.
It follows then, that parents who might be encouraging daughters to turn from clothes and interests traditional to girls and towards those of boys considered preferable, for just that reason of preference would be discouraging sons from the equivalent extension beyond traditional gender stereotype in the opposite direction. The unintended consequence of teaching girls to expect more than traditional gender typecasting had offered them was to deny boys the same freedom.
It is unlikely to be accidental that the original Women's Liberation was hostile to prevailing views valuing men's military and industrial competition above more communal and domestic co-operation more associated with women, indeed hostile to the entire military-industrial complex and all values derived therefrom, while what it developed into was thoroughly supportive and hostile to the communal co-operative alternatives associated with its earlier form.
There is no need to imagine any conspiratorial subversion. The original philosophy had a strong Marxist input, therefore like Marxists anywhere did not just seek improvement within the prevailing system, but a better more equally balanced system altogether. It developed among people who were not Marxist in outlook and naturally gravitated towards those aspects they felt improved their lot within the system as it was, not to the near impossibility of replacing it with an unknown alternative.
The result, however, has been to enhance supremacy of gender-masculine over feminine and to quietly eliminate any dangers posed to traditional values in giving equal value and access to each for each sex.
If girls are to extend themselves beyond traditional feminine gender stereotyping, then equality requires encouraging boys to extend themselves beyond traditional masculine stereotyping.
If girls are to extend themselves beyond traditional feminine stereotyping while boys are forbidden to extend themselves beyond traditional masculine stereotyping, then there is no equality but only confirmation of the masculine stereotype's superiority over the feminine for both sexes.