Keeping our Offbeatlings upbeat in the face of gender judgement

Guest post by Jessica
Baby Booties for Stella Stiling

When I went to pick up Chubbs from daycare one day, his teacher caught me in the hall before I entered the room. “I was going to call you,” she said, piquing my interest and raising a little fear. “We had a small accident. Somehow his diaper got unlatched and he had a bowel movement…all over his pants and socks. We had to let him borrow a pair of socks, and they have pink on them.”

I giggled at the idea of my little boy in pink socks. When we arrived home, I put the socks aside and washed Chubbs’s soiled clothing. I didn’t give the borrowed items a second thought.

The next morning, I told Chubbs it was time to get his socks and shoes so we could leave for school. He rarely reacts when I tell him this and so I didn’t expect cooperation, yet when I turned around, there was Chubbs on the couch with his sneakers — and the pink socks.

“You can’t wear those, Chubbs, those are girl socks,” I told him, wincing when I heard the words. I tried to recover by saying, “You can put them on later, but you’re going to wear your brown socks today because they match your pants.” But it was too late.

Chubbs began swinging his arms around with a pink sock in each hand, shouting, “GIRL SOCKS! GIRL SOCKS!” I sat and watched, feeling defeated.

Only a few days before, I was fortunate to attend a lecture by Gloria Steinem. I left feeling inspired to raise a compassionate, tolerant child and it didn’t take long before I slipped and found myself saying those horrible words: girl socks.

They are though, aren’t they? Department stores have everything neatly divided. Girl socks are pink or purple and have pretty ruffles on them. Boy socks are blue or red and decorated with trucks or trains. My brain’s processing of the Steinem lecture suddenly finalized and struck me like a lightning bolt when I heard myself utter that phrase, and the socks came to symbolize a fundamental issue I find myself encountering.

I want to raise my son without assigning damaging labels to things. I want him to think freely and respect everyone as people without regard to gender, age, “race” or sexual orientation. I want him to be his own person. The problem is that society as a whole does not take kindly to those that march to the beat of their own drum.

When instilling the belief in children that we can all be ourselves, shouldn’t we also help them be prepared to deal with a world that is going to give them a hard time if they do it? Children of nonconformist parents need to be particularly secure in their own being. It’s something that I never fully learned and am not sure how to teach.

How can a sensitive child feel free to express himself differently from others in a world where “different” is “bad?”

So the dilemma is this: do I try to control how my son thinks/acts/dresses to protect him from the ridicule of others? Or do I let him be himself and risk being unfairly judged (more than usual)? Will his resolve and my own be enough to make up for the judgments of others if Chubbs doesn’t “fit in?”

The world is a difficult place for children, who want nothing more than to be loved, have fun and make sense of things. How can a sensitive child feel free to express himself differently from others in a world where “different” is “bad?” Why is it okay for a girl to play with trucks but not for a boy to play-feed a baby doll? And why can’t boys wear pink socks? After all, no matter what color socks he’s wearing, Chubbs will still have the same beautiful feet.

Comments on Keeping our Offbeatlings upbeat in the face of gender judgement

  1. I relate. Mine are 8 and 10 now and I’ve found it really helps to find like minded social groups and school, where kids and teachers celebrate uniqueness.

    Wearing something “different” to school can start a positive trend, like homemade capes becoming every day wear for second graders. πŸ™‚

    Yesterday, I found myself repeating what I hope are words of wisdom, “When you wear (think, do, etc) something original, it helps shier kids feel more daring to wear their favorite unique items to school too.” You never know, but that lego chain necklace might just start a new trend…..wear it! Celebrate yourself.

  2. “Why is it okay for a girl to play with trucks but not for a boy to play-feed a baby doll? And why can’t boys wear pink socks?”

    Hegemony. Maleness is privileged. Girls doing “boy” things is seen as empowering. Boys doing “girl” things is seen as shameful or weakening.

      • I say give boys their baby dolls! They need to learn to be nurturing, too. They’re going to be fathers one day, after all!
        P.S. my mom fought for my brother to get a Cabbage Patch kid when I got one. He is now a plumber and very “masculine” in the eyes of the world. AND he’s a loving, wonderful father who’s not afraid to express his feelings to his children!

      • I’ve decided to identify as an “equalist” girls should get to play with trucks and boys should get to play with dolls and no one should feel upset or hurt by it lol.

        • While you can obviously identify as whatever you want, a feminist is exactly what you describe as an equalist: we want equal rights for women AND men. So letting girls play with trucks and boys play with dolls is exactly the kind of things feminists fight for.

          • Hmm. Although I definitely believe that SOME feminists believe as you do, there are indeed many feminists who don’t. In particular, most second-wave feminists I’ve met seem to think that there is nothing wrong with men’s traditional cultural roles other than that they oppress women–they believe that women need more rights, but that men’s lives are already perfect, so nothing needs to be fixed there.

            Most of my early contact with feminists were with those of this vein, which is why I personally have never been comfortable identifying myself as feminist.

          • I understand your view, but I feel that in my personal experiences with feminists, they tend to ignore men’s rights. The general opinion is that men (especially European descendant men)have so many privileges given to them at birth that we need to compensate for that by giving women only options.

            That’s why I prefer to refer to myself as egalitarian. (Although, I definitely went through a phase as a “masculinist” for the shock factor in teens and early twenties. That was fun. πŸ˜€ )

          • I’m a radical feminist and very politically active. The contemporary feminist movement is first and foremost focused on /equality/. Most of us favor the deconstruction of the gender binary, which includes freeing men and boys from the restrictive, oppressive paradigm of masculinity. The patriarchy/kyriarchy hurts everyone!
            (And as Ms. Steinem herself said, “We’ve begun to raise daughters more like sons… but few have the courage to raise our sons more like our daughters.”)

            There are certainly ignorant, outmoded feminists (just are there are ignorant people in every school of social, political, and religious thought), but please don’t judge an entire movement on your anecdotal experiences!

  3. I think the most important question to me is, “Am I teaching my child to be a conformist bully?” If some other kid has the (mis)fortune of wearing pink socks to school, will my kid think that it’s OK to judget them as Different? In my experience there is a pretty fine line between “protecting my child from teasing” and “unintentionally teaching my child that differences are and should be teased”.

    • I agree. Hearing the words “girl socks” come out of my own mouth was an eye-opener into what must be deeply imprinted in my mind. It’s not how I really feel…but apparently it was there. Now I know to watch myself for these things.

  4. I have a few thoughts…
    Growing up, my little brother Hunter’s favorite color was hot pink and my father took issue with this fact. But it seemed that his comments about pink being a girl color only made Hunter feel ashamed about what he liked. When Dad let up, Hunter found ways to incorporate his beloved color in ways that made him happy, and luckily wasn’t afraid to tell the kids who commented on the color choice that a color is just a color, that it doesn’t have a gender. Now I work with kids on a daily basis and in my dealings with small societies I find that it’s the kids who are told these gender guidelines by their parents who most often wind up making fun of the kid with the pink socks on.
    Inevitably, our children will do things that bring on the judgments from their peers. I feel like it’s best to encourage your child to not be controlled or tainted by these kids (I know, easier said than done, but I did my damnedest with Hunter and his pink issue and he’s turned into the most unique, loving, amazing kid I’ve ever met). Being made fun of happens to us all, we as parents just get the chance to choose what it’s about, how our child will react, and whether they will be the ones to make fun of others for doing things they themselves want to do but feel they cannot. Best of luck! Your son is lucky to have an introspective parent like you.

  5. My son, who is 4, seems to have figured out a way to work the system: he wears his pink and purple socks at night and on the weekends, but he changes into “boy” socks before he goes to preschool. Apparently, if he wears pink socks to school, the other kids “will call [him] a girl.” It breaks my heart, but I’m glad he still likes pink πŸ™‚

  6. Great post! I think about this often. More and more, I think the most important thing children need to learn is resilience. I think of future environmental problems, of the country’s economic vulnerability, etc, and I look back at the last 80 years and what they have held (assuming as I do so that my son would hopefully live 80 years), and I think of how I gasped when I heard a radio announcement recently about registering with the selective service and remembered I now have a son, and I fear for my son’s future. But I also know that bad things could happen to him and likely will happen to him, and that somehow, we cannot protect him overly much, and need to help him develop resilience.

    So, by that logic, I think it is good to let children be themselves in whatever offbeat (or super onbeat — another challenge!) way they find — and then help them learn to deal with reactions/reception.

    That said, I think it much easier to SAY we should let them be, than to actually DO so. It can be very hard, and I TOTALLY understand your girl socks reaction! I have subtly found myself bypassing some pink lately and feeling very bad about it.

    A recent issue of concern for me, too, is that my son is very short, and people are ALWAYS commenting on it in front of him. I am trying to react with “and he has a big spirit” or something positive like that, because I know he is going to start picking up the subtle criticism and need to hear my reaction. If he stays short, he is going to have to learn to deal with the prejudice out there against short men. Sad, but true. As much as I would like to evil eye the offending people into shutting up, I know that perhaps it is good that I am there and can help my son learn how to process the issue.

    Great post!

    • My son is short and small too, despite the nickname he gets in my posts. I have the same reaction you do, but I can’t help but wonder if “defending” our kids gives them the idea that they NEED to be defended. Maybe deflecting comments is better? I don’t know. Chubbs has a shirt that says, “I’m not small, I’m fun-sized!” πŸ™‚

      • I’m short (5’4″), and I always preferred simple observations of the fact to defenses or even deflections. Pink is just a color, and short is just a stature, if you will.

        • My husband is 5’2″. I always forget that I’m nigh on 4″ taller than him and it drives me insane when people are rude to him about this in public.

          We’ve decided that the universe had to make him smaller so that he wouldn’t have an easy time taking over the world due to his beauty and charisma.

  7. Along with what many of the previous posters have said, I also think it’s important that our children do learn about disappointment and “rejection” so that they can learn healthy reactions to these negative emotions at a young age that will help them deal with the inevitability of facing these issues in the future. Granted, my son is only seven months old, so I have not had the heart-breaking experience of him coming home to tell me he got teased or made fun of, but it seems that no matter what -pink sock wearing, or glasses, or a “funny” last name, or just because – children are going to get teased and I think that if they have the opportunity to learn confidence and a healthy reaction to that teasing, then I would rather have it be over something they honestly find important (ie pink socks or wanting to wear a spider man costume to school everyday). Again, this is very easily said… but growing up, I was very sheltered from criticism, hurt, rejection, and disappointment and it was very, very difficult for me, in my adult life, to deal with the negative emotions when these things inevitably happened. I wished I had learned them sooner.

    Now, I’m not saying throw your son to the sharks πŸ™‚ but just to take each teaching moment as a teaching moment.

    And I hope my actions are as big as my words as my son gets older and that if he leaves the house one day wanting to wear a tiara, I resist the urge to snatch it off his head when he walks out the door and instead, prepare myself for the conversation we will probably have about other kids’ reactions at school later. But, we’ll see πŸ™‚

    • I agree with this! Every time we’re in the shoe department at a store, Jasper will 10 times out of 10 reach for a pair of pink or teal glittery shoes in the girl’s department. Right now, since he’s not old enough to understand me if I explain to him potential social side effects that could happen if a boy is wearing glittery girl shows, I tell him that those aren’t the type of shoes we’re looking for. In the future, if he still wants these kinds of shoes, Sean and I have both agreed to explain to him different things that could happen and experiences he might have if we chooses to wear glittery shoes. I have no idea how this will play out, but hopefully it will go…at least ok.

      So, I kind of agree with this:
      “And I hope my actions are as big as my words as my son gets older and that if he leaves the house one day wanting to wear a tiara, I resist the urge to snatch it off his head when he walks out the door and instead, prepare myself for the conversation we will probably have about other kids’ reactions at school later. ”
      but in our case, I’d want to prepare Jasper ahead of time for the reactions he might get, even if he doesn’t fully understand until it actually happens.

      • I think one of the reasons I debate with myself about this is because I can remember my mom letting me dress myself one day (I chose 80’s rainbow leg warmers and my Punky Brewster doll’s plastic skate key necklace, among other things) when we went to visit her friend. I overheard them talking about my outfit and was so embarrassed. I couldn’t have been older than four.

        So I definitely agree with wanting to prep my son a little bit when I let him go with his own choices.

      • Great point, Stephanie! I think prepping him would be good and just being very careful with my language so that he understands I am by no means trying to talk him out of it, but just preparing him for what he could possibly face.

      • Jonah loves all manner of glittery things, or things covered in frills and feathers. He also loves blinking robots and giant trucks. I think he’s just drawn to the most extremely out-there stuff in either gender direction… probably the result of having parents who have a hard time straying from neutral tones and soft gentle everything πŸ™‚

        • See, with us, it’s the opposite — we’re both all about color! and glitter! and bright shiny things! So I just assumed that’s why Jazz is, also. πŸ˜‰

    • I totally agree. I had lots of experience with being laughed at, etc, as a child. I did not fit in. I think this has served me very very well so many times since then in helping me be resilient socially. BUT, I had very little experience as a child with any kind of failure in an achievement area. This led to a perfectionism/fear of failure that it took me much time and pain to overcome.

      So I really do think that sometimes adversity when young (within reason of course!) can help one develop more strength.

      I read an excellent book a few months ago called The Blessings of a Skinned Knee. It applies Jewish teachings to childraising, and it was given to me by a Jewish friend. It is an excellent book even if you are totally secular (in fact there’s another one out now for teenagers called The Blessings of a B+). The book helped me — also the mother of a very young son now — see how overprotecting children can be bad for them.

      That said, it will break my heart into little pieces the first time being laughed at happens to my child. It is a lot harder to accept certain truths intellectually than emotionally!

    • This is very interesting. I can totally see the need for prep. But how does one prep without reinforcing the hegemonic norms? I guess just a simple, “Now, most boys don’t wear pink socks. It is OK with you if some of them say something to you if you do wear pink socks?”

      It is really SAD that these things matter, but I know they do and pretending they don’t won’t help.

      • Yeah, this is kind of what I meant in my earlier comment — pointing out that people might talk about it, or make fun of it, and just kind of going over the different outcomes that COULD happen. I’d also want to focus on the positive and negative — like, some people might make fun of you, but other people might dig what you’re wearing! etc.

  8. I’m not a parent yet, so I have no specific advice for you about being different vs. avoiding ridicule.

    But I did want to share that I had a similar situation happen to me. In college I worked two jobs: one as a day care assistant and one as an intern at a Women’s Center.

    One day, while at my day care job, a male infant tumbled over, as infants do, and started to cry. “You’re fine,” I told him. Later that day, a female infant did the same thing (I swear, we watched these kids, but they’re little teeter-totters!) and I grabbed her immediately to soothe her. Then it hit me like a ton of bricks. I just gender socialized these children. I just told the boy to suck it up and coddled the girl. How could someone who spends half her days discussing feminist theory mess this up?? But, I did. But from that point on, I was more aware of what I said and did around the children.

    Give yourself a break. We can’t break the entire paradigm with one child. We can give the child the tools to chip away at it a little more. And you still have a lot more opportunities down the road to give your son these tools. πŸ™‚

  9. Before I ever had kids, I was offering my friend’s son a choice of a few toys, one was pink. I said, ” you probably dont want the pink one, huh? Pink is for girls, right?” and this 5 year old kid turned to me and said, ” All colors are for everyone”

    And just like that, I got schooled by a kindergartner.

  10. I worry about this all the time, and explaining differences and combating being made fun of started WAY early for us. My daughter is blind and sometimes its hard for other kids to understand why she needs to reach out and touch them to figure out where they are etc. Clothing is a whole different issue since because she cant see she goes for whatever is comfy and she has a lot of “boy” clothes right now. We are just teaching her to explain her actions to others and she figured out the boy clothes thing all on her own “well i like it.” πŸ™‚

  11. My son has very long hair and at 4.5 years, he’s finally getting made fun of for it. The last time we were at a birthday party, I peeked my head into the playroom to hear two boys screaming “You’re a girl!” at him. At first he thought it was a weird game and kept yelling back at them, “You’re a girl too!” But then they told him no, You’re a girl because you have long hair.

    When we got home, he asked us to cut his hair. We sat down and told him that lots of boys have long hair. In fact, his dad just cut off hair that was down to his waist! We said that sometimes people don’t realize all the different ways people can be. We also told him that we would cut his hair if that’s what he really wanted, but not while he was upset in case he’d regret it.

    The next night, we just happened to turn on a documentary where some Navajo guys were talking about how special it is to have long hair, and our son has never mentioned cutting his hair again. I think it meant a lot to him to see other people so proud to look different.

  12. To be honest, I was a little disappointed when it became apparent that my son was going to be a stereotypical boy obsessed with trucks and dirt. But he’s still innocent enough to make nonconformist choices without any self-consciousness, and I relish that. At a party last week, when he chose to play makeup artist with the girls instead of swordfight with the boys, I know some parents looked at me quizzically. He begged for a pink Dora watch and didn’t care what anyone had to say about it.

    He’s almost 5, and we haven’t yet prepared him to defend his choices. I’m enjoying–and I want him to enjoy–this last bit of innocence before he wises up to the way most people think. Heck, he already comes home from preschool telling me that girls can’t drive trucks and that men have bigger jobs, so it’s coming soon enough. Then I’ll have my work cut out for me.

  13. I’m glad to hear another mom wondering about this. I have a girl, a girl I’ve tried to make into a tomboy. She wears “boy” clothes, “boy” toys. And I realized it’s not fair to her. Particularly, when she picked the Disney Princess high chair over the red and blue chair. So, I’m struggling with trying to help her find her style, be it all pink, no pink or some pink.

    As someone who’s mom tried to shield her from ridicule for being different, shielding won’t help. Granted, he might not be teased for wearing pink socks, but he’ll be teased for other things. So, encourage him to let his freak flag fly and encourage him to encourage others to do so as well.

    • This is exactly how my mom felt about me when I was growing up. She had been a tomboy, and couldn’t comprehend how her first daughter had been a tomboy while her second wanted all things pink and frilly. (I’m #2!) As soon as she came to terms with it, and stopped pushing the “boy” stuff, I turned right around and wanted to play in the mud with my Tonka truck – while wearing a tutu and high heels.

      I am now about 80% “tomboy” and 20% “girly” – and 100% happy with myself and my mother.

      My little guy is still too young to notice comments from folks about gender coding, plus, we’re fortunate to live in Berkeley, CA. He adores his pink pickup truck toy and all things cooking utensil. Will he get teased? Probably. (Did his mama and dada? Heck, yeah!) But if it’s not over that, they’ll find something else to pick on him for. We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it!

  14. Something to bear in mind is that conforming to gender roles is actually a recognized milestone of development. Somewhere around age 3 or 4 children become cognitively aware of some things being “for girls” or “for boys.” Since the idea of gender is very much a socially constructed one, awareness of it indicates that the child is becoming socially aware. He or she will also start to understand manners and that they can’t run around naked in front of strangers. Yay, milestones!

    I would say that having a toddler who is suddenly talking about some things being for girls or for boys just means that he or she is developing normally. You can explain to them that it is OK for them to like something that isn’t usually “for” them, but don’t expect them to totally understand until they get a bit older. When children in this stage become confused by ambiguity, they will naturally seek to categorize themselves and others as male or female and then expect everyone to act in the ways they think are appropriate for those roles.

    The cognitive set or schema they develop for gender will remain quite simple until they are 6 or 7, which is why sex stereotyping peaks around 4-6. They have just become aware of this fundamental difference between males and females and will seek to understand it by separating everything they experience into either being appropriate for boys or for girls. Totally normal and not in any way indicative of how they will be later.

    It’s also important to note that while all kids do this to some degree or another, some kids start to self-identify with a gender different from their sex at this age. That means that sometimes when a four-year-old boy adamantly goes for the baby dolls and the princess shoes, he identifies strongly with the female gender. He may indeed grow up to identify as transgender or homosexual or queer. Or he might not! This stuff is extremely fluid, as we all know, so the generalizations laid out in child development texts can look pretty alien when we’re talking about our own individual kids.

    The thing to remember, in my opinion, is that we need to accept our kids for who they are and understand their cognitive development so that we don’t get too crazy about stuff like a 4-year-old boy who is adamant that girls can’t play with trucks. He’ll grow out of it as long as his parents teach him tolerance.

    • I think the key part of that is how we as a culture gender things. So pink is girly. But so is niceness, quietness, selflessness and a whole raft of behaviors that ultimately deposed women. And they are hard habits to break.

      Pink is less my concern that people, already and without any sort of thought, push my daughter to be quieter, nicer, prettier, decorative as wewll as pinkish her world.

      • Exactly. The expression of it at that age is the milestone, the way it is expressed is cultural. We aren’t going to be able to change the culture that our kids are subject to in an instant, but each kid whose parents teaches them that those roles don’t have to be followed brings us a little closer.

  15. Good topic! I love to see kids out and about wearing stuff you know they chose themselves. I used to teach at a little alternative school, and one 5 yr old boy would consistently wear his older sister’s outgrown dresses. There was some teasing by the older kids at first, but it died out quickly when they realized that the grownups were really ok with it. The boy didn’t seem to mind. I asked him one day what he liked about the dresses and he said that he only wore the ones that were good for spinning. πŸ™‚ My boys always liked having their nails painted. As they’ve gotten older and absorbed the gender identities in public school, they don’t ask me to paint their nails anymore. One of my 13 yr olds has hair past his shoulders now, and is teased quite a lot. When my other 13 yr old was about 7, he had long curly hair, and was constantly getting kicked out of the men’s bathroom by guys thinking he was a girl. Now that boy is trying to be “cool” like everyone else in school. I grit my teeth and refrain from judging his choice (out loud). I just assure them that I like who they are, and I support them through whatever means of expression they choose for their personal appearance. People can be mean. I point out that people’s comments usually say more about those people than they do about my kiddos. I do agree that it’s better to help them learn how to deal with it when they’re young; I’m almost 40 and I’m still meeting intolerant bullies!

  16. I was a very, very odd kid who went through all kinds of phases. In Junior High, I was just plain weird. And I got teased A LOT. Cruelly, to the point of harassment, and I was picked on physically, as well. It got so bad that my mom considered quitting her job and homeschooling me.

    But I decided to tough it out and as I got older, the teasing subsided. Kids can be cruel, but I’m glad I was never afraid to be myself. And it taught me not only to have a thick skin, but to be very empathetic and compassionate towards others.

    Childhood/adolescence was sometimes miserable, but I think I’m a better person because of it!

  17. This is such a great topic! I don’t have any idea what the answer is, but I do know that I’ve been a parent for nearly a decade now and when my daughter was born I was sure I’d go the Adam Sandler/Big Daddy way of letting my kid wear whatever s/he wanted. But then reality hit, and I realized that if I let my kid wear whatever, whenever she wants…she’d be alienated from the word go. She’s old enough now to show her creativity in great ways-today for wacky hair day she used bobby pins to attach silly bands to her hair and she looked awesome. She has enough confidence that she’s not afraid to try new things like that and she ends up as a bit of a trend setter in her class. Of course she has bad days where kids make fun of her favorite shoes, but she still loves the shoes and bounces back fairly quickly. I think the bottom line is that we have to remind our kids of what we already know-they are unique and fantastic the way they are. πŸ™‚

  18. “It’s something that I never fully learned and am not sure how to teach.”

    Thank you for this sentence. This thought runs through my head all the time about a hundred different things, but it’s comforting to hear someone else articulate it.

  19. As a socially awkward gender equalist who is happy that I wear dresses and my boyfriend does not (I just wish gender norms weren’t enforced on anyone who felt differently), I worry about this so much.

    Growing up, my baby sister was one of the least conformist people I knew, mostly because she just wasn’t aware of social norms. She was always thoughtful and articulate, but unspoken rules like “don’t bark in class” needed to be spoken to her. I thought she was pretty cool, and figured she would grow up to be an artist or a race car driver. Instead, she has made some really bad choices with her life (though she’s still young and has time to, I hope, turn it around). My family & I think this is partly because of the influence of a set of friends she has kept since high school, all of whom are coasting through life without drive or direction.

    We wonder if her inability to conform as a child and teen left her with self-esteem issues that prevent her from leaving a toxic social situation.

    That said, my boyfriend’s niche in high school was basically the same type of group, and now he’s a hardworking, productive member of society, as are many of them. You never really know what caused a person to turn out the way they did.

    My parents taught me to be thoughtful and not to conform when it came to ideals, but never taught me to fly a visible freak flag. I don’t know if doing otherwise would have been doing me any favors. I also don’t want to force my child into boxes that don’t fit. And I worry…

    • Is it possible your sister falls somewhere on the autism spectrum? I’ve got Asperger’s, and regularly find that unspoken rules need to be expressed to me, and that people I trust and would spend time with are usually the people I look to for the “appropriate” ways to behave in a situation – this might be the issue with her bad decisions and her friends.

  20. I’m so glad other parents are talking about this. I was recently painting my toenails when my 2 year old son put his feet up so I could paint his as well. I was surprised that my first thought was how I was going to explain to him that boys don’t paint their nails. My next thought was that I was being stupid so I went ahead and painted them and was surprised that very few people had a negative reaction to it. This makes me hopeful that by the time he’s going to school maybe it won’t be the norm to tease those that are different because we as parents are leading by a better example.

    • My son also asks me to paint his nails. For now, I tell him no because he still likes to put everything in his mouth and I wouldn’t want him to ingest it. If he persists, I hope that we experience the same reaction you did. That makes me hopeful too.

  21. I was so considering this issue for the last few days! Well the identifying certain things with male and female, like colors. My son likes to play with my jewelery and I think as he gets a little older he is going to love playing dress up. So his grandmother said we need to get him “boy friendly” dress up clothes. I thought this was the silliest idea ever. He can dress up in whatever he likes, hence it being dress up, playing pretend, etc. I’m having a hard time identifying with how I feel about gender roles. I’m not a feminist but I’m an uber tomboy as they say and I think I play the role of the “man” more than my husband. So I’ve been thinking about these things and how I want my son to have an open mind, even though it will be hard at times to foster it with the rest of the world (and family) forcing ideas on him. Yay pink socks!

    I also find it very frustrating that “girl” things (toys, clothes, bedding) are more flexible than boys and there is just a lot more of it. Finding bedding without a truck, race car, or some similar motif is so difficult! It’s the same with boy clothing. Bright colors are hard to find, but of course I scour everywhere for awesome finds. It just shouldn’t be so damned difficult is what I’m saying. On the flip side finding “girl” things that are not pink and purple might also be a little difficult. Stupid color prejudices.

    • I have a younger brother that played dress-up with “girl” things when he was a kid (although not entirely by choice). My little sister got the little sister she always wanted, and my brother turned out just fine. Well, there’s nothing wrong with him that would be attributed to gender-bending, anyway. πŸ˜‰

  22. My two year old son has long blonde curls, and loves wearing his big sister’s pink “little miss chatterbox” t-shirt. It looks like a dress on him *heart*.

    so far, his penis has failed to drop off πŸ˜‰

    We don’t buy into gender based clothing choices for any of our children. I’ve always encouraged my kids to wear what they like, as long as it is weather appropriate. I’ve gone shopping with faires, pirates, and loads of dinosaurs, and that’s with just with my 9 year old daughter…

    Sometimes we get comments about my son wearing pink – the “no penis dropping off” comment above nips that in the bud πŸ™‚

  23. I’ve been thinking about these issues a lot lately. I’m 21 weeks pregnant with my first child and found out 2 weeks ago that it will be a little girl.

    I was a major tomboy growing up and was more likely to be found covered in mud and holding a frog than in a princess get-up.

    While planning my daughter’s nursery and registering for items I have had great difficulty with the “gender-ization” (if there is such a word) of every product I need to choose.

    I don’t want to completely steer clear of pink and purple because she is, after all, a little girl. But the clothing options the stores offer all have phrases written on them such as: “Daddy’s Girl”, “Cute”, “Adorable”, “Little Princess”, et cetera. I don’t want my daughter’s clothes to display these phrases as I feel they are degrading to both genders.

    Am I bringing this burden upon myself? am I over thinking it and giving the whole topic far more mental energy than it deserves?

    I don’t want every item she touches to be pink and purple. I don’t like the traditional princess storyline (women are needy and in constant search for a man to save them) but I also want her to embrace her femininity. I think of Maureen Dowd’d article –

    The topic has also reminded me of two books I had growing up –

    Anyone else struggle with wanting to downplay the pink and princess culture for little girls without coming out seeming like there’s something wrong with being feminine?

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