The Park Slope Hat Spat: Read All the Emails


New York mag has a cute front-of-book item today on an only-in-Park-Slope battle that recently raged on an email list for earnest and progressive parents in that earnestly progressive Brooklyn neighborhood. As Ben Mathis-Lilley explains:

A few weeks ago, a member of the Park Slope Parents e-mail forum who'd encountered a stray piece of winterwear in the neighborhood posted a notice to the group titled "Found: boy's hat." ... [S]ubscriber "Lisa" went public with her problems regarding the gender-specifying description of the hat. Wondering how such a categorization would feel to a spiky-hat-wearing girl, Lisa wrote, "It's innocent little comments like this that I find the most hurtful." A third member responded soon after, saying such political correctness drove her "up the wall," and a heated discussion ensued. Lisa's supporters questioned their opponents' commitment to "the free interchange of ideas and questions" ... while an opposing faction expressed facetious dismay that the original poster, who had described the hat as likely belonging to "an older child," was not more considerate toward "younger children who happen to have large heads." ... [O]ne poster questioned the use of "hat," asking if the object might be more sensitively labeled a "soft, porous bowl."

It's all pleasantly, kookily amusing, right? Not quite. In summarized form, yes, it's amusing enough. But we had a chance to read the entire exchange — stretching on for days, with charges of political correctness and anti-political correctness, sexism and stereotyping — and we're much less amused. The whole thing is after the jump; prepare to be intrigued, amazed, disgusted — and quite certain you could never, ever be paid enough to move out there.

Date: Mon, 20 Mar 2006 12:25:27 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Found: boy's hat

Hi:

Friday, at the corner of 11th street and 8th ave, adorable navy blue or maybe black fleece hat with triangles jutting out ofit of all different colors. Sorry did not post right away.
For older child.

-Helene

===============================

Date: Mon, 20 Mar 2006 17:34:48 -0500
Subject: RE: Found: boy's hat

Helene,

I'm sorry, I know that you are just trying to be helpful, but what makes this a "boy's hat"? Did you see the boy himself loose it? Or does the hat in question possess an unmistakable scent of testosterone?

It's innocent little comments like this that I find the most hurtful...

What does this comment imply about the girl who chooses to wear just such a hat (or something like it)? Is she doing something wrong? Is there something wrong with her?

Lisa

===============================
Date: Mon, 20 Mar 2006 16:34:55 -0800 (PST)
Subject: RE: Found: boy's hat

Lisa,

Its emails like yours that drive me up the wall! Is it that you have so much time on your hands that you can take the time to make such a comment. The original poster was just trying to do something nice and return a lost item to someone. If it was my hat I wouldt care if she posted it as a dogs hat found Id just be happy to get it back.

Since it was obviously not your "boys" hat then there really was no reason for you to write other that to make sure that everyone complies to your PC view of life.

What does the fact that you felt the need to post this comment say about you?

Trina

===============================
Date: Mon, 20 Mar 2006 19:44:13 -0500 (EST)
Subject: RE: Found: boy's hat

Lisa,

yes, my apologies

Helene

===============================

Date: Tue, 21 Mar 2006 09:34:14 -0500
Subject: Re: Found: boy's hat

It's emails which try to suppress all matter of interesting dialogue which are my pet peeve.

I appreciated Lisa's email very much and I am glad she wrote it. I imagine it has nothing to do with some rigid standard of "PC" which led her to post her response.

I know that many people like to think they are beyond these issues and that sexism doesn't apply to them, but truthfully it is alive and well. "Rambuctious" girls are still "punished" for the same actions which for "active" boys are not. Boys are still noted more for their math skills, even when there are girls in the same class who are equally skilled. I've witnessed it first hand. The emphasis on how a girl should look and dress and act is much stronger than it was when I was a kid, and frankly it's very oppressive to a girl who doesn't fit or want to fit "the mold."

Lisa's post could have led to an interesting discussion about sexism, marketing, gender neutral child-rearing (does it work?), education- how can we encourage and develop styles of playing and games which enhance girls skills and love of math and science? Why is it that society is suddenly obsessing about how boys are falling behind in reading? Are they really and is it a function of sexism that everyone cares so much about the sucess of boys when girls have been shut out of math and sciences for decades? Doesn't it rebalance in middle school and high school when boys pick up speed and girls start dumbing down so that they can be cute for the boys? And what about puberty itself, how does that effect academic success?

I could go on and I hope I have provoked someone out there into a more interesting conversation than what to buy and where to buy it.

Abbey

===============================

Date: Tue, 21 Mar 2006 11:51:04 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Re: Found: boy's hat

I used the term 'boy's hat' as a department store indicator to help parents identify whether it might belong to them...Is every context saturated by gender politics - even a lost hat?

Why do we all jump to conclusions about each other's motives? Recently, I bought my three yeat old nephew pink Dora flip flops because he loved them. Did I tell him I was buying him girl shoes? No. My son Jake nurses his baby doll every night.

I agree the participants I agree the participants of great discussion are pioneers of new thinking. My eyes have been opened here. And that is good, and a start...

Helene

===============================

Date: Tue, 21 Mar 2006 13:26:52 EST
Subject: Re: Found: boy's hat

I can tell you this, my nephews (2-8) would not wear a girl's hat, and they would know exactly how to discern a boy's hat from a girl's hat. Perhaps no buttons would've been pressed had the lost hat been described as a "boy's-style" hat? Yeesh.

Karen

===============================

Date: Tue, 21 Mar 2006 13:40:27 -0500
Subject: a little humor re: Found: boy's hat

Helene:

I'm sorry but, HOW DO YOU KNOW it's for an older child? What does this say about younger children who happen to have large heads? Is something wrong with them??

OK, I'll shut up now and crawl back into my hole. :0)

Susan, mom to Aniella (3) and Ina (1)

===============================

Date: Tue, 21 Mar 2006 13:54:27 -0500
Subject: Re: a little humor re: Found: boy's hat

LOL. And along those lines, how do really know this is a "hat"? Doesn't this just speak to our conventional understanding of what a "hat" really is?

I'm shutting up now too. But thanks for the laughs.

Jennifer
Mom to Andres, 15 mo

===============================

Date: Tue, 21 Mar 2006 19:32:21 -0000
Subject: Re: Found: boy's hat

Helene,

I think this group owes you an apology. I mean, really people. The posting was about a hat. Perhaps she used words that could've possibly in some context been taken to mean something more. However, do you really think she was trying to do anything except return a hat to its rightful owner? My goodness she even apologized in her posting for not posting about finding the hat right away.

It's true what they say.... No good deed goes unpunished.

-Dave

===============================

Date: Tue, 21 Mar 2006 15:04:00 -0800
Subject: re: lost boy's hat and language

I feel that I need to defend Helene, even though I don't know her. I think she made an innocent comment/observation about the style of a hat which did not deserve the kind of public scolding she received. An interesting conversation about sexism would be very interesting, but not at the expense of another member.

Thanks, Helene, for your post and kindly trying to find the hat's owner.

Thanks,
Lisa H (Mom to Lily (who recently lost her girl/boy winter hat) and Annabelle, almost 18 months)

===============================

Date: Tue, 21 Mar 2006 16:33:52 -0500
Subject: RE: Re: Found: boy's hat

Helene,

I am glad that you understood that I was simply pointing out that I found your language hurtful. I do not fault you for your post: you did not know — until I replied — which is why I did so! Thank YOU for understanding.

From the start, my parents encouraged me and my sister to do whatever we wanted (despite, and even in spite of, gender stereotypes). I chose Wall Street computer systems, and she became a master carpenter and draftsperson. Both are traditionally men's jobs in male-dominated industries. Even at this point in our country's history, both continue to be difficult paths for a woman to choose.

....I've been humming Peggy Seager's "I'm gonna be an engineer" all day.
http://lionslair.com/Lyrics/I'm_Gonna_be_an_Engineer.html

These days, I spend a lot of my time around kids. To underscore why I was compelled to point out the impact of a subtle and innocent reference to a hat, here are some statements that I've had to reply to this week:

from a 2nd grader: "I can't be President, I'm a girl" (can't she?)

from a 5th grader: "MS51 is where the smart kids go."
(and those who don't go there aren't smart?)

from a kindergarten kid:
"Are you a man?" "No" "...but you have short hair"
(this one is interesting, because there are so many women with short hair in our community, and I don't know any man who would wear his hair as I do! This kid is clearly struggling to make sense of a newly-learned stereotype)

They learn these labels and stereotypes from the everyday language used in our community. Yes, even in an innocent post about a lost hat.

Lisa

===============================

Date: Mar 21 2006 - 8:03pm
To: Lisa
Re: [ParkSlopeParents] Found: boy's hat

Lisa,

I can't believe the amount of negative response your post has generated. You really touched a nerve. I'm really astonished by how constricted people are in their thinking....

Abbey

===============================

Date: Tue, 21 Mar 2006 18:50:27 -0500
Subject: Re: abbey's post on "the hat"

Abbey:

I have a difficult time taking the hat post wording this seriously, but I think it's unfair to suggest that our girls are the only ones that have to confront issues of sexism.

Have you ever tried walking through the world with a three year old boy who is proudly carrying a pink poodle under his arm? If not, try it some time. I have with my friend's son. The response is astonishing.

This world is not only a challenge for GIRLS who don't fit the mould.

—Susan,

Still cute to boys at age 38, but also STRONG and SMART single mom to Aniella (3) and Ina (1)

===============================

Date: Tue, 21 Mar 2006 18:56:11 -0500
Subject: Re: susan's post on" the hat" and sexism

you know Susan,

etiquette would have you direct this to me instead of to the entire list. I'm not sure why you have decided to attack me personally. I wasn't attacking you or anyone else. I was simply supporting the idea that someone might respond to a post on a list serv even if it was tangential to the initial posting. I respected that a post elicited an unintended, yet interesting response from someone and that instead of suppressing her response, she posted! It wasn't something I had given much thought to actually (I hadn't even noticed the initial post), so thank you Lisa. Your point was valid. So was yours Susan- I have walked around with boys who don't fit the masculine mold, and I agree it's tough for them too. I'm not at all astonished that a boy carring a pink poodle would be the receipient of unwanted attention. I don't think I ever suggested that "our girls are the only ones that have to confront issues of sexism" though I did point out a historical discrepency in education which I believe still persists.

It's a challenge to raise children to be comfortable in their own skin, and as a parent, I see it as the most fundamentally important aspect of childrearing. I support all interesting conversation to that end because frankly, it's easier for some people to be comfortable with who they are than it is for others.

Abbey

===============================

Date: Tue, 21 Mar 2006 15:11:15 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Re: Re: Found: boy's hat

Sure, "Lisa's post could have led to an interesting discussion about sexism, marketing, gender neutral child-rearing (does it work?), education- how can we encourage and develop styles of playing and games which enhance girls skills and love of math and science?

Why is it that society is suddenly obsessing about how boys are falling behind in reading? Are they really and is it a function of sexism that everyone cares so much about the sucess of boys when girls have been shut out of math and sciences for decades?

Doesn't it rebalance in middle school and high school when boys pick up speed and girls start dumbing down so that they can be cute for the boys? And what about puberty itself, how does that effect academic success?"

But Helene simply wanted to return a hat to someone who lost it. If you want to begin a dialog about all those things then do so. Don't jump down Helene's throat for trying to do someone a favor.

Tracy
Mom to August 3.5

===============================

Date: Tue, 21 Mar 2006 16:11:15 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Re: Re: Found: boy's hat

IS THIS SOME KIND OF JOKE?

kim

===============================

Date: Tue, 21 Mar 2006 17:18:55 -0800 (PST)
From: kristine
Subject: Boys' hats

Let's assume that civilization continues in some form recognizable to us for the next 200 years and the hat that Helene finds is discovered in an archaeological dig. It is then turned over to a fashion historian who must classify it for his dissertation. How would he do so? Boy's hat? Child's hat, frequently worn by boys? Suppose a competing university theorized it was a gender neutral hat, but the archaeologist then turned up a Target catalog with an extensive photo spread of many boys wearing many similar hats. But another dig uncovers a photo album with a girl wearing said hat. My point is, that when Helene said it was a boy's hat, I'm pretty sure that if you have ever bought clothes for a boy or a girl, or hung out at a playground, you knew what she meant. If you want to discuss what makes boys' clothes, boys' clothes then why not pose it as a question, rather than a jibe at someone communicating precisely and effectively in an attempt to be helpful?

I'm curious. What would you all do if your seven year old boy wanted to wear a pink dress with a satin sash and patent leather mary janes to school? (This is a hypothetical question, just in case you're curious.)

kris

===============================

Date: Sat, 1 Apr 2006 15:33:17 -0500
Subject: Re:Boys' hats

Kris,

Hilarious! Just when the issue was getting really tiresome (albeit an interesting topic) I stumbled upon your post. Thanks for the laugh and introducing a bit of levity to the situation.

- Elizabeth
Mom to Max (2.3yrs - who's blond curls and chubby cheeks get him mistaken for a girl whenever the grown-ups dress him in something 'gender neutral').

===============================

Date: Wed, 22 Mar 2006 02:33:33 -0000
Subject: Re: helene's post about the boy's hat

This medium is one such that I can think before writing something, which does not happen as much in every day conversation. How many times have I thought to myself when in a conversation or a quick conversational happening in the street, "boy I wish I would have said this or asked that". Also at times in regular face-to-face conversation we/I are to shy or are too concerned about what others think if I say/ask the wrong thing or if I might think the other person thinks that I over stepped a boundary which can be a drag intellectually especially because some people are more open then others. So mostly I/we will use the ethic of the strictest boundaries that can stifle interesting and juicy conversation essentially being more concerned about etiquette then the free interchange of ideas and questions. Well the great thing about Internet writing is that I get to think before writing, can plan it out and even edit and spell check. How many times have the older generation said: in our day we used to write letters now with telephone service being so cheap and easy everyone has lost the art of communicating through writing. Well now we have something in between, something that does not have to be planned out as well as writing through snail mail but also can be more thought out and planed then face-to-face conversation. Boy do I wish when in High School this kind of communication was popular because I would have been much better at writing. In fact when this kind of communication became popular and I was using it a lot, I completely attribute to it why I did so much better in writing when going to college the second time around. In High School and my first time in college any writing I did was a complete failure.

-shveckle

===============================

Date: Tue, 21 Mar 2006 17:33:35 -0500
Subject: helene's post about the boy's hat

i can't help but chime in here. i wrote to helene privately as i felt she had been treated quite badly. but in all honesty, i think this is an internet age issue. would lisa have reacted in the same way had she been face to face with helene? had helene stopped lisa in the park and said "excuse me, does this boy's hat belong to you by any chance? i just found it on this corner," would lisa have allowed herself to act offended and outraged by helene's practical assumption that this was a boy's hat?

i feel that there are inherent problems with internet use in the way that people react to each other's words. i won't try to dissect what it is about the internet thatcreates these situation, but maybe there are internet experts out there that can shed some light on this issue. in general i feel that it is important to consider whether you would say what you type to the person if they were in front of you - human to human. or does this medium allow us to lose inhibitions, boundaries and a fundamental respect for each other? and to assume the worst about the other.

best,
-nati (leo and sasha)

===============================

Date: Wed, 22 Mar 2006 04:02:36 -0000
Subject: my post to abbey

Abbey,

I took seriously your words "Lisa's post could have led to an interesting discussion about sexism," etc. and that is why my response to you was sent to the entire list. I thought you wanted to discuss the such issues with the group.

I apologize if it came off as a personal attack. It was not my intent.

It's very hard to decipher things on-line. I found Lisa's initial response to H's post (which she sent to the entire group and which you defended) to be far more confrontational than what I wrote to you.

Personal interpretation...

Susan

===============================

Date: Tue, 21 Mar 2006 20:53:35 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Re: Re: Found: boy's hat and bad hospital experiences

Thanks Dave,

That saying was going around and around in my head, and I couldn't remember past "No good deed goes ............". It was a nice, neighborly thing to do, and was just worded in a way some disagreed with. It's one of the big problems using e-mail, which doesn't give opportunity to discuss, or rather, explain what you meant after hitting "send". It was a good deed, and I hope the hat found it's owner's head.

Anne mom of Tara

===============================

Date: Wed, 22 Mar 2006 07:52:10 -0500
Subject: Re: Re: helene's post about the boy's hat

I think you hit the nail on the head with this observation.

Abbey

On 3/21/06, Shveckle wrote:
This medium is one such that I can think before writing something, which does not happen as much in every day conversation. How many times have I thought to myself when in a conversation or a quick conversational happening in the street, "boy I wish I would have said this or asked that". Also at times in regular face-to-face conversation we/I are to shy or are too concerned about what others think if I say/ask the wrong thing or if I might think the other person thinks that I over stepped a boundary which can be a drag intellectually especially because some people are more open then others. So mostly > I/we will use the ethic of the strictest boundaries that can stifle interesting and juicy conversation essentially being more concerned about etiquette then the free nterchange of ideas and questions.


===============================

Date: Wed, 22 Mar 2006 08:04:07 -0500
Subject: Re: my post to abbey

Susan,

I think if you hadn't put my name in the subject line, I wouldn't have seen it as an attack. But maybe I was defensive, because there was so much negative response to Lisa's post and even if she went about it in the wrong way, it was still a valid observation. I have found in life, that when the subject matter is difficult- for example, racism or sexism, there is never really a good time and there is always someone who wants to stifle the conversation by telling them that the way they went about initiating the conversation was inappropriate.

But back to your topic about boys and pink poodles- It takes alot of guts to deal with it and I think it's really hard. How did you respond to the attention?

I'll never forget how angry I felt when my upstairs neighbor's kid who is my daughters age adamently refused to touch anything pink because that was a girls color. And he was 4 at the time! I had to really supress my feelings because it wasn't his fault that his father was teaching him that kind of stuff....

Abbey

===============================

Date: Wed, 22 Mar 2006 08:43:13 -0500
Subject: Re: helene's post about the boy's hat

Look — everyone stop ! ! !

It is my hat, OK? I'm a 42 year-old man and I like wearing little boy's and girl's hats, as long as they have little triangles on them. In fact I'm pretty much fixated on all kinds of triangles. Gosh, what a great shape. Three sides!

It's my pathetic little obsession, and yes I'm seeing a shrink about it. OK? I'm sorry I dropped my little hat. I miss those triangles so.

Helene, can I have my hat back please and can everyone stop speculating that I might be a little boy or little girl? I'm sad now.

Ben

P.S. I'm good at math.

===============================

Date: Wed, 22 Mar 2006 06:19:01 -0800 (PST)
Subject: boys hat discussion

last fall i lost my work notebook. it had absolutely no value to anyone but me (to do lists, contact names and #'s, timesheet hours, etc.). but no one ever turned it in. i wondered why wouldn't someone just turn it in where they found it so the owner could come back and get it. now i realize they probably figured it was more trouble than it was worth.

it seems that there are too few good samaritans in the world anymore, and now i know why. someone went out of her way to try to do something nice (and even apologized for not doing her deed more asap) and instead she was publicly accused of being a sexist, predjudiced person. have we really gotten to the point that we have to check our politically correct handbooks for something as benign as a lost and found post? is every single word that comes out of our mouths (or fingertips in this case) subject to scrutiny and interpretation?

yes, i think the discussion of sexism in relation to common descriptors and social stereotypes is a good one to have. in fact it occurred late last year and on this list and was quite an interesting one. but, the way this one was provoked was completely inappropriate. wouldn't it have been better, to simply bring up in a separate post, something along the lines "you know, helene's post got me thinking about describing brown as a boy color and how social norms like this seem to bring up certain predjudices one way or another." instead, helene's innocent, well-intenioned post was turned into an incorrect accusation of her attacking girls who wear brown and boys who wear pink. because of this, what could've been another interesting debate on sex and stereotypes has been lost.

cheryl

===============================

Date: Wed, 22 Mar 2006 09:47:41 EST
Subject: Re: Re: helene's post about the boy's hat

Ben -

Thanks for the levity - I started to wonder if I was losing my mind here following this post.

Cheryl
Amanda's mom

===============================

Date: Wed, 22 Mar 2006 10:30:07 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Re: helene's post about the boy's hat

Oh no!

Ben, you're too late. My niece fell in love with it, so she's proudly wearing it, running down seventh ave. as we speak.

and I hope with this, we are done!!!

Best to all,
Helene

===============================

Date: Wed, 22 Mar 2006 10:43:06 -0500
Subject: Re: boys hat discussion

I know the horse has been beaten to death at this point, but I can't resist.

I have been a little bit saddened by the tone of the boys' hat discussion. I certainly agree that Helene was awfully kind to try and return said hat. But, I also think that Lisa's post might go into the "no good deed goes unpunished" category as well. As someone else pointed out, this was the very same forum where, just recently, all kinds of people wrote of the anguish they felt about their young children already acting in gender-stereotyped ways. Although I myself did not realize at first that there was anything amiss about saying "boys' hat," and I say things like that, unwittingly, all the time, I do recognize how such expressions are caused by and contribute to gender stereotyping. Without people to point this out to us, how do we change our language, and thereby change the way our children perceive gender?

Feminism frequently provokes both mockery and hostility, and I was sorry to see those very reactions in this forum. In a recent book review in the New York Times, Anthony Lewis reminisced about how conservative southerners tacked a provision about sex discrimination onto the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Why? To make the bill look so ludicrious that it would never pass. Here's a quote from his piece: "A page 1 article in the NYT in 1965 raised the question whether executives must let a 'dizzy blonde' drive a tugboat or pitch for the Mets."

Full disclosure: both of my daughters have taken their sweet time growing a full head of hair and are frequently mistaken for boys. I, their feminist mother, have tried to cajole my 3 year old into wearing barrettes many times, even though I really should know better. Gender stereotyping is powerful stuff, and while I don't like being corrected any more than anyone else, I appreciate the effort to interrupt some deep-seated assumptions. Sure, equal pay and childcare might be more important issues in the short term, but language defines our reality for the long haul.

Yours,
Liza

===============================

Date: Wed, 22 Mar 2006 10:40:23 -0500
Subject: truce on the hat?

While some interesting and valid points have been made along the way, the hat issue seems to be devolving into unproductive nattering. Can we all agree to consider ourselves enlightened and move on?

Just a thought.

Thanks—
Dan, father of Bobby (doesn't like hats) and Lulu (too young to care)

===============================

Date: Wed, 22 Mar 2006 13:02:07 -0500
Subject: Re: boys hat discussion

I had to finally chime in. This is absolutely ridiculous!

It's amazing! I cannot believe that in this day and age this topic is actually worthy of all the discussions and explanations!

Full disclosure: My son has been mistaken as a girl plenty of times. In fact, on numerous occasions people have commented that he's "too pretty" to be a boy. But, I've never lost any sleep either way.

What is the big dea here? Am I missing something?

Just my 2 cents.

-April (mom to Bryce)

===============================

Date: Wed, 22 Mar 2006 18:47:08 -0000
From: "Lisa"
Subject: Re: Found: boy's hat

This is my last word on the topic:

1. Yes, this is exactly what I would have said to Helene had she approached me in the playground to inquire as to whether I had lost a boy's hat. I never post anything that I wouldn't say to someone's face. Again, my issue is with the commonly accepted language that she chose to use, and not with Helene AT ALL.

2. I meant my post to be somewhat comical. Many people read it as such, and some replied with similar humor. I am VERY SORRY that my attempt at humor was more subtle than I had intended. Aw, c'mon! I am still amused by the image of the mysteriously all-knowing mother putting the hat to her nose and proclaiming "Ah, yes! This hat belongs to a BOY child!"

3. Ironically, if I had omitted the comment indicating that I found the language hurtful, it might have been received differently. I cannot fathom why people interpret my statement that *I* am hurt by admittedly innocent language to be an attack on someone else. AGAIN, I am sorry that my comments were vague enough to allow for this misinterpretation.

4. I am dismayed at the huge number of hurtful and hateful posts that have been posted subsequent to mine, and the many more that have been sent to me personally. It has certainly been enlightening.

Lisa
Mother, small business owner, PTA member, teacher, community volunteer, good Samaritan, good neighbor, and mortal.

===============================

Sent: Wednesday, March 22, 2006 4:23 PM
To: Lisa
Subject: RE: [ParkSlopeParents] Re: Found: boy's hat

I thought it was a funny post.

Susanna

===============================

Date: Wed, 22 Mar 2006 20:18:40 -0000
Subject: Re: Found: boy's hat

actually, there is an unmistakable boy scent, comprised of equal parts snips and snails and puppy dog tails.

Amy

===============================

Date: Wed, 22 Mar 2006 14:37:16 -0800
Subject: the hat goes on

I remember once staying at a nice B&B with my husband in Virginia. It was a small family run place with great food. When we were sitting down for breakfast, the cheery young waitress asked the couple at the next table, "Would you guys like more coffee?" The woman turned to her and said, "Excuse me, but we are NOT guys. Speak to us correctly." The waitress turned and ran into the kitchen, in tears. I was really angry and said to the woman, "that was really rude." She defended herself, saying that (1) she had a right to speak her mind and (2) that someone had to stick up for proper English. This whole hat thing reminds me of that incident. While it is important have interesting and juicy conversations about topics like sexism and racism, there is a line of civility (especially towards someone who has done something out of the kindness of her heart). Perhaps if the comment on the board read something along the lines of, "thank you so much for taking time out of your day to find the owner of the hat. That was awfully nice of you. I would just like to make a comment or start a discussion about what makes a boy's hat or girl's hat...", I wouldn't have felt any need to respond.

I find that personally I am more willing to listen when I don't feel attacked or chastised.

Anyway, Helene's right, we should move on, although I agree that she deserves an apology.

Thanks, Lisa H (Lily and Annabelle, almost 18 months)

===============================

Date: Thu, 23 Mar 2006 00:35:29 -0000
Subject: A very funny moment

I joined this list serve a week ago because my spouse Jill, our son Timothy (2 years old) and I are moving to Park Slope.

We are currently in Washington Heights. I think you can all imagine that I laughed out loud when I saw a light pink winter hat with pink beads in the playground today...

I decided to leave it there thinking the owner might come back for it but I had a good time envisioning the email I might have sent out about it.

Mercer
Timothy's Mama

===============================

Date: Thu, 23 Mar 2006 01:52:09 -0500
Subject: My hat

In order to make certain that inconsequential items like childbirth and education do not interfere with the worship of my hat, I have created a new YahooGroup.

This new group should allow the neighborhood's deconstruction of my hat and its impact on society, as well as the history surrounding the critique of my hat and the social consequences of that history, to be debated without comment from naysayers who do not appreciate the import of my hat.

To join my new YahooGroup, please send an email to ParkSlopeParentsDiscussingBensHat-subscribe@yahoogroups.com

Perhaps this might finally remove any further hat talk from my beloved PSP.

# # #

This is a group for people who would like to address the myriad ways in which a 42 year-old man's little boy hat can cause gender stereotyping, bulletin board rage, and the decline of western civilization.

Group Email Addresses Post message: ParkSlopeParentsDiscussingBensHat@yahoogroups.com Subscribe: ParkSlopeParentsDiscussingBensHat-subscribe@yahoogroups.com Unsubscribe: ParkSlopeParentsDiscussingBensHat-unsubscribe@yahoogroups.com List owner: ParkSlopeParentsDiscussingBensHat-owner@yahoogroups.com

Give me my hat back, Helene!

Ben


===============================

Date: Thu, 23 Mar 2006 16:18:23 -0000
From: "Tricia Nagy"
Subject: Re: My hat

Ben,

thanks! i was just sitting around with nothing to think about except my yet vocalized and so invalidated rage over your son's hat. now i know where i can get some real support!

Tricia, mom to Chloe

===============================

Date: Wed, 22 Mar 2006 23:22:22 -0500
Subject: Re: Re: helene's post about the boy's hat

Ok, here are my measly 2 cents...

I totally agree with Abbey and Shveckle.

I am all for all the good points raised, and having discussions about the gender specific world we live in.

What I am so alarmed by is how quickly an attack is posted to the entire list. Why not just write to the individual privately first? And then if it is a topic that should be discussed — not argued — then post to the list for discussion.

Just a suggestion. It has been a humorous, silly, and informative ride after all.

-Vivian

===============================

Sent: Thursday, March 23, 2006 9:56 AM T
o: Lisa
Subject: the PSP hat discussion (empathy)

Hi Lisa,
I haven't been following the discussion until now, when I stumbled on some of the past day's postings. Therefore, I'm not privy to the hurtful comments posted, nor your original posting. However, I wanted to let you know you're not alone in being misunderstood; I fell on both sides of the issue a number of months ago. I misread someone's comical posting to the group, took it to be sarchastic and took it too personally (when I shouldn't have.) I responded to the group, THINKING I had chosen my words well, but my tone was totally misread from my intentions and received emails chastizing me for what I said. I, too, posted another time to group, acknowledging my error and took responsibility for my part in the matter. As well, I apologized to the person whose email I misread. It was not fun to get those responses from readers who thought my post was even worse. Subsequently, I am MUCH more careful about what I respond to and how I respond. Still, I find that there is so much room for misinterpretation when it comes to email: black and white letters, same size, "slant," etc.

All of a sudden, I feel my brain starting to shut down: I have a 22 month old and a one month old. I'm assuming last night's sleep deprivation is hitting me. Anyway, I just wanted to send some kind words in the midst of the negative emails you received. And like you, I did find even my unpleasant experience interesting and certainly learned something in the process. And by the way, thank you for posting/forwarding the info regarding alt. side of the street parking notices! I hope you have a good rest of the week.

best,
angelique

===============================

Date: Thu, 23 Mar 2006 12:50:42 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Re: Re: Re: helene's post about the boy's hat

HOLY COW — IS THIS REALLY THE PROMINENT ISSUE FACING THE EVERYDAY REALITY IN THIS COMMUNITY? WASN'T THIS HAT POSTED AS "LOST"?

Kim

===============================

Date: Sun, 26 Mar 2006 22:02:12 -0000
Subject: Lost! Tiny blue hat on Carroll St. betw. 8th Ave. & PPW

I know this is a long shot, but we lost a hand-knitted infant's hat today (we think) on Carroll St. between 8th Ave. & PPW. It's light blue with a pom-pom on top, and has lots of sentimental value.

If you happen to have picked it up, please e-mail to Elissa@...

Thanks,
Elissa (Isaac, 2, and Ethan & Ruby, 3 mos.)

===============================

Date: Sun, 26 Mar 2006 22:02:12 -0000
Subject: Re: Lost! Tiny blue hat on Carroll St. betw. 8th Ave. & PPW

thank god you didn't say boy's hat !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

;-)

i hope you'll find it,

andrea

===============================

Date: Sun, 26 Mar 2006 22:02:12 -0000 S
ubject: Re: Lost! Tiny blue hat on Carroll St. betw. 8th Ave. & PPW

And yet, she did say "infant's" hat. Why? Is there something ineffably "infant-ish" about the hat? And if the hat is worn by, say, a 9-month old with an unusually small head, does that mean there's something wrong or evil about that 9-month old? Who are we to judge that a hat is "for" an "infant"? What gives us the right to even slap it with the label "hat," when for all we know it's a very soft, porous bowl, or a cozy for a tiny soccer ball? It's throwaway comments like "infant's hat" that hurt me to the quick.

(In all seriousness: hope the hat turns up.)

Carolyn

Tot's Hat Triggers Slope Spat [NYM]