One day last spring I arrived at my gym to find that the owner had bought a new set of laundry hampers for the locker rooms—a blue one for the men’s locker room and, you guessed it, a pink one for the women’s locker room. Really? I thought. In 2011?
After my workout, I stopped by the front desk to speak to the owner. “Dave*,” I said, “I noticed we got new hampers.”
“Yes, aren’t they nice? They were on sale.”
“Yeah. But really, did you have to get blue and pink? C’mon.”
“The only other color they had was beige,” he said.
“Beige is nice,” I opined. He assured me that it didn’t mean anything that the blue one was outside the men’s locker room and the pink one outside the women’s.
Well, if it doesn’t mean anything, I figured, then it won’t mean anything if the pink hamper is outside the men’s locker room and the blue hamper outside the women’s.
So the next day after my workout, I checked to see if the coast was clear and then I switched the hampers. It was a Friday, and I wasn’t back in the gym until the following Monday. When I walked in Monday morning, the hampers had been moved back.
Doesn’t mean anything, eh? I moved them again. They remained in place for a day or two, but by midweek, someone had restored the expected pink-and-blue gender norms.
I persisted. I moved them again. Again, a day or two went by but once again, “order” was restored.
This went on for several months. I would “genderqueer” the color assignments and someone (who was it?) would restore gender conformity. Sometimes the very next day, sometimes a few days later, occasionally a week. The first time my genderqueer rearrangement stayed in place for a week I felt triumphant—finally, I thought, whoever it was had gotten the message. But then, no! Soon I came in and blue was for boys and pink for girls once again.
Unbowed, I continued my campaign. I lost track of how many times I moved them, or how long it had been going on. I only knew I had a mission: to show once and for all that pink and blue hampers didn’t mean anything, just like Dave had said.
One day at the beginning of August, I moved the hampers for the umpteenth time before taking a month off. I returned after Labor Day, fully prepared to face a renewed counter-offensive. But lo and behold, the blue hamper was still outside the women’s locker room and the pink outside the men’s.
Wow, I thought. But chastened by my previous premature elation, I didn’t assume this was a final victory. I steeled myself for the inevitable backlash.
Another month went by. Blue for girls and pink for boys stayed in place. And a third month, then a fourth! Now, I thought, now it’s really over, the genderqueer campaign is victorious at last.