Below are pictures I took at the Dydo Arena in Higashi-Fushimi, Tokyo. The hockey player denotes the men’s restroom, the figure skater the women’s.
The implications of signs like this are’t subtle. Sports that are faster, harder and meaner are for boys. Sports that involve more grace, agility and sequins are for girls. The reality of this annoying and damaging trope is being chipped away at gradually. Very gradually. Because even when a woman is strong and powerful and athletic, commercial images of her still have to assure us that she is pretty and sexy and feminine. And men can try more artistic, expressive pursuits if they dare, but only if they have the fortitude to be the potential target of homophobia. So. Progress.
And anyone who argues that seemingly small things like this aren’t part of the larger picture of our culture’s limited scope of gender roles probably fits quite nicely into their assigned slot and doesn’t ever feel the friction of trying to be yourself in a world where your options are limited. It’s so ingrained in our minds it almost hurts to start questioning it, but once you do I bet you will never be able to stop.
An important note, though, for those in charge of signage a this arena in Tokyo: on Sunday the Japanese Women’s National Ice Hockey Team qualified for the Winter Olympics in Sochi in 2014, while the Men’s National Team lost out several months ago and won’t be playing in the Sochi games. I can already hear some misogynist blabber about the competitiveness of the pools and the level of play in men’s versus women’s hockey at the international level, but this victory is sweet and these signs are bullshit.