Mechanic chicks and fairy boys

Real men wear pinksource

Zoot had a great post today about gender and kids.  She talks about how great everyone thinks it is when her little girl, who is fond of pink tutus and princess dresses, wants to play sports or use her brother’s tool set.  But then she hesitates to post or talk about it when her younger son wants his toenails painted, or wants to be like his sister and wear his own fairy costume and tiara.

I think this is all too common in this country.  When you walk down any toy aisle it’s painfully clear.  You can see the girl toys from a mile away… a swath of pink and frilly made up of purses, dolls, makeup, and dresses.  And the boys?  Camo, trucks, and tools.  But why?  And why is it alright for girls to break out of gender roles and embrace their love of tools or cars or spaceships, but when a boy wants to dress up like Princess Jasmine people are uncomfortable?

The original feminist movement has done a lot to open minds and hearts in this country, giving women the right to do more than work outside the home.  Now women are (hopefully) encouraged to make whatever choice makes them happy, and women who fill traditional male roles like firefighters, soldiers, and mechanics are seen as strong, butt kicking role models.

But what about the reverse?  Although stay-at-home dads are frequently likened to saints for their choice to take on a traditionally female role, I don’t see anyone applauding men who choose to be hairdressers, ballet dancers, or nurses as paragons of their gender, pioneers who are stretching the boundaries of gender definitions.  Instead, everyone thinks they’re gay.

Statistically speaking, one or two of those men probably are gay, but not because they chose a “girl” job.  Why are men still encouraged to be the epitome of testosterone fueled, emotionally closed HeMan types while woman are (at least mostly) being cheered for their breakthrough efforts to reclaim what it means to be a woman by becoming CEOs, construction workers, and surgeons?

Right now, my daughter’s favorite toy is a tool set.  She’s played with it so much that the batteries died yesterday as she hammered away in a dress and pink tutu.  For me, I’d hope the scene was exactly the same if she’d been a boy.  After all, pink used to be a boy’s color and women warriors are just cool.  Why do we care what our kids wear or play with?  Why can’t we just let them explore whatever interests them and see where it takes them?

In the end, I’d rather have a happy child who feels free to play with all the toys, wear what she likes, and think of the world without the black and white filters the adults put on it.  But it’s easy for me, right?  I have a girl.  I also have two younger brothers, who were routinely dressed up by my sister and I in jewelry and makeup and dresses.  One is a military police officer and the other is a firefighter/EMT.  Both are smart, well adjusted boys who were not warped by the time they posed (happily, I might add) in full girly regalia for pictures.

Do you have boys?  Would you let them wear pink or dresses?  In public?

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More from me:

Raising kids without gender bias

Taking a break from running

French style white wines from Australia and North America

Viognier explained

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Comments
106 Responses to “Mechanic chicks and fairy boys”
  1. Moranna says:

    Excellent blog, with which wholeheartedly agree!
    Our kids are coerced by peer pressure to grow up far too early – they really need to be free in thier young formative years.

  2. I’m firmly on the side of nature (as in Nature vs. Nurture) and believe that the “resistance” to self-indentity is the root of many of these hateful intimations. But these issues always bring up sociopaths and serial killers such as Henry Lee Lucas who was FORCED to wear dresses as a young boy as opposed to CHOOSING to. I thought I would get it out there before the religious militants did.

    With that, one could dress me up in the most beautiful gowns, slather on the heaviest makeup and sit me on a pile of nude men ad finitum, and I would still only like women. Why? because that is how I am wired.

    You’re about 20-30 years ahead in your thinking with this article. I occasionally deal with this issue with my art.

  3. Raul says:

    This was very interesting and throught provoking.

    http://www.wutevs.wordpress.com

  4. breaaire says:

    And you know, in ancient times in Rome and Greece, the men wore the shorter skirts…

    My son used to have a set of anatomically correct “baby dolls” that he played with regularly, and even slept with on occasion, like a teddy bear. But he grew away from them when stereotypes took over in the form of friends and school… Making kids “fit the mold” can also screw up their imagination.

  5. Brittany Horst says:

    right! our brothers are perfectly fine…. and so is the next door neighbor who also got dragged into it from time to time….

  6. messages In Smoke says:

    I believe that children should not be limited by their parents taboos, such as gender roles. children simply need to be children. it should not matter if a little boy wants to be a ballerina or if a girl wants to be a fire fighter. it is also wrong to allow the female gender to cross over into formally male dominated field and not have the same leniency when the role is reversed. after all people just want to be happy especially as children!

    Iris Crix

  7. onesmallgirl says:

    very interesting.. and thought provoking

  8. tougo says:

    I am always wearing Pink clothes (mostly t-shirts) so in what sense do I got the right to forbid that from my son.

    As far as it concerns dress depends the age small kids should be allowed to wear anything but between 14 and 18 at least they should follow a proper dress code, not because of whats wrong and whats not …its just that our society is not ready yet for such changes.

    There is a peacefull gay pride for example around here next week and some mindless people complain about it….cause they believe that it will corrupt their children.

  9. evanscove says:

    Good points to bring up. It’s been my observation that people tend to think that the cultural/societal norms they grew up with are the “natural order” of things–that they are the way things are supposed to be–when in fact many such norms are simply the product of cultural conditioning. They may in fact change from one time and place to another (as you noted by pointing out that pink is not an inherently feminine color). Certain tasks that are considered “woman’s work” in one culture may be strictly men’s duties in another.

    But people frequently think that anyone who goes against the grain is misguided, if not an outright deviant or subversive. And you know how kids can be–there’s all that pressue to be “cool.” It’s unfortunate that guys get labeled “gay” just because they don’t fit others’ preconceived notions of masculinity.

  10. Lorissa says:

    I love Patrick Stewart. Also, good post.

  11. celine says:

    NICE POINTS to make

  12. Lu2Ar says:

    I wonder why babies should be differentiated based on colors
    baby boy – blue
    baby girl – pink
    what if we break the old tradition, and put pink clothes for baby boy? I don’t think pink is the color of girl
    this has been discussed as well in Germany
    nice post! it reminds me of my staying in Germany
    🙂
    Greetings from Java,

    • Rico says:

      This tradition of boys = blue and girls = pink isn’t all that old. In fact, up to 1918 boys would wear pink because it was considered a strong, vibrant colour, while girls would wear blue because it was softer… just google “boys wear pink girls wear blue” for better explanations.

      Another interesting note is that baby boys and girls used to be dressed in dresses. http://people.howstuffworks.com/gender-color1.htm

      Anyway, excellent post!

  13. Irene says:

    I think it’s the “homophobes” syndrome.

    You fear that your little boy might have “gay” tendencies if he wears that red nailpolish.

    My boys have worn my red, pink, white AND lavender nail polish, and it hasn’t hurt their psyche.

    Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with gays. I have many gay friends and love them to death!

    But some moms are afraid that others might think their boy is heading in that direction and that’s the wrong way to go. Oh, to shame!

    “Her little boy is wearing nailpolish…..I think he’s going to be gay when he grows up. Why would she allow that?”

    I’m tellin’ ya, it’s been said!

    As for little girls…”Aw, she’s a little tom boy…how cute.” Not sure why, it’s ok for a little girl to be athletic and sporty, but not be labeled a lesbian. It’s just more accepted.

    And men look great in pink! I know of a certain British presenter that wears a pink gingham button down and looks hot in it!! Love him in pink!

  14. gotta go against the grain here and say gender roles aren’t created by adults or culture. they’re created by God. And they are good. Are they sometimes abused? Absolutely. But the abuse of a thing does not negate it’s proper use.

    A hammer can be thrown at your neighbor to kill him, but does this mean that a hammer is evil? of course not.

    I’m not going to slap my boys if they’re goofing around playing dress up and put on their sister’s tutu, as a joke. But I’m also going to remind them that they were created to be a man and that men dress one way and women dress another way. and it’s a good thing.

    the idea that gender differences are somehow contrived is ludicrous and no one in any society actually believes this and takes it to it’s logical conclusion. we’re different. and we ought to celebrate it, not try to destroy it. It’s because we overreact to the abuses of our differences that we come up with this psychobabble talk of eliminating any and all gender differences.

    great book that I highly recommend to all: Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood by Grudem and Piper.

    have a great day all!
    http://www.allthyngs.wordpress.com

  15. Jonas says:

    One of the things that has always bothered me the most about many feminist authors/academics is how they describe “patriarchal” gender stereotypes as only affecting women. You don’t even need to dress up in pink as a boy to feel plenty of oppression – in most cases, it’s bad enough if you *read*.

    Also, yay Patrick Stewart!

    • Yes, I am heartened to hear more discussion of the gender-based discrimination faced by boys and men. It’s a reality, and the more we talk about it, the better.

  16. asad123 says:

    Parents should lighten up about their boys. If a boy cries or tries on high heels, it’s not the end of the world.

  17. Darcy says:

    I would be ashamed of myself if I couldn’t make my kids feel comfortable with their own choices, I want them to know that I love them no matter what.

    The colour or style of their clothes is of no consequence to me. It’s always nice to hear other people that feel that way.

    If you haven’t already heard of http://www.truechild.org you might be interested in some of the articles and links there.

  18. tulleruska says:

    I can’t understand why some people are so obsessed with gender roles. The are so many other important things to focuse on in the world…

  19. Pirogoeth says:

    Right on! I am so sick of everything for little girls being so frilly and pink. Why?! If you give me a choice between a skirt and sandals or camo and boots, I’ll choose the camo and boots!
    My husband has pointed out many times how women have so much more variety in what they can wear versus men. I can walk around in my men’s dress shirt with a t-shirt underneath and the aforementioned camo and boots and I may get some looks, but nothing like if he were to go out in a cami and a skirt. Even in Cosplay it’s not nearly as common for men to cross-cosplay as women. Socitey has so many notions and rules that need to just be destroyed. What is “appropriate” for girls and boys to respectively play with should be one of the first!

  20. Mortira says:

    Thank you for this thoughtful post! It makes me sad to see other parents around me acting so tongue-in-cheek when a boy has a strong feminine side. I like to think that I will be proud of my son, whatever he chooses to be or do.

  21. BothEyesShut says:

    Dear Skinny Sushi,

    A new term appeared in yesterday’s newspapers, one which the various writers proposed as a viable combatant to the year 2000’s, “metrosexual.” This new term is, “retro-sexual.”

    Apparently (they say) the global financial crisis has caused an already-burbling undercurrent of annoyance with the so-called pink-wearing men, annoyance of men and women alike, to roil into outright rejection. Sociologists suppose that the lack of stability in Western culture at home may be raising the value of the traditional breadwinner, the dependable defender, leaving wussified man-bag carriers much less than fashionable.

    Several examples of pop culture were cited in the media yesterday, examples which I regrettably forget, but there were such instances as described disdain, revolt, and even outright mockery of the pink-wearing male. I wrote about the effeminization of American men a few months back, myself, in fact. No link though. That’s tacky.

    Anyhow, you write a fine piece, Miss, and I appreciate your open mind and liberty of thought.

    Yours Truly,

    -BothEyes

  22. Josh says:

    My little boy used to like putting my wife’s shoes on when he was two…..but he has always liked wrestling with me, watching super-hero stuff, he even (unlike me) likes fixing things. He has a great sense of humor too, yesterday I came home and he had my little girl’s bow in his hair, when I noticed he started laughing.

    I agree that we shouldn’t freak out about our kid’s interest when they don’t fit the mold, but let us not forget where our kids pick up much of their interests and tendancies…their culture, enviroment, and their parents.

    With that said, I don’t want my little boy dressing up like a little girl on a regular basis. No, I don’t say that with shame…call me what you want but there you have it.

    It’s silly to say that we should just let our kids do what tickles their fancy without us guiding them and instilling our values… If I believe that gender confusion is dangerous spiritually, physically, and socially for my kids then I’m going to lead my boy deep into the woods of camo and my girl into the palace of pink with my head held high.

    http://enochroute.wordpress.com/2010/05/26/what-to-do-with-answered-prayers/

  23. raisingable says:

    When shopping in home depot in work clothes, my daughter, 22, must put up with comments like, “You like wood,” and unsolicted assistance from male shoppers.

    I sometimes wonder why we botehred to have the women’s movement 40 years ago.

  24. sabrinaswindow says:

    Very interesting fact about the color pink. Thanks!

  25. Southern Comfort says:

    A possible consideration that is perhaps less “savory” is that the reason for the one way flow of crossing gender norms from male to female is that those acceptably masculine “things” are generally more valued in society – parents like it when their girls pretend to be like “boys”, because it means they’re practicing for social power, high incomes, independence, etc. Boys dabbling in the “girly” toys represents a potential loss of power, because those things are associated with the lower status placed on feminine behaviors.

    The thing about patriarchy is that there weren’t just strong gender roles for the sake of having gender roles – it established a society in which men had the power, the influence, and the wealth, and were able to value the things that men did (that is to say, that were reserved for men and forbidden to women) as good and productive. Certainly homophobia plays a large role in this, but it’s also a symbolic abdication of the power that comes as birthright to white males. What good could come of your little boy playing with fairy wings or wigs? That he takes an interest in wardrobe design or musical theatre? Not exactly a field known for producing future presidents.

  26. ikaikamahine says:

    Hooray for the discussion, but I think that what we allow and do not allow is not at the heart of the question. More to the point, what do we accept.
    I am not a parent. I can’t say what the proper boundaries are for anyone else as far as how they allow their children to dress or with what toys they may play. But allowing the expression of masculinity or femininity in a child has nothing to do with their eventual realization later in their lives of their heterosexual or homosexual (or bisexual for that matter) orientation. Whether the “proper” gender identifying attire and mannerisms are prescribed or even demanded by parents or other authorities, a child is still going to be who they are- they will either accept themselves as they are, or have been taught, or they will reject themselves.
    There is a reason youth and suicide is often heard in the same tragic soundbite: young people are dying to be accepted. Whether by themselves, their peers, their parents, or society as a whole, troubled youths tend to feel rejected, that is, not accepted. There is a fundamental breakdown in our (as adults, mentors, parents, etc) communication to youths about the difference between their not being allowed and their not being accepted. Children and young adults need boundaries–most of us do, although we often police those boundaries ourselves. The adults need to be clear, however, that their kids know that they are, for better or worse, always accepted.
    Does this mean you should allow your 5 year old to wear the pink princess dress? Do you think they are old enough to understand your discomfort with their choice of gender expression at the moment? If not, you might want to examine your motivations for disallowing it. Do you feel you are protecting them? From what? The message you send to a small child is often devoid of grey area, I would err on the side of acceptance.

  27. cannwin says:

    I have a three year old boy who loves dresses. He’s constantly stealing them out of my closet or his sisters closet and running around in them.

    He also loves to play in the mud and wrestle with his brother, but if you force him to take off the dress he’ll burst into tears.

    Do I think my son is going to be a transvestite or gay? Nope.

    I think my son is three and is playing around with what he see’s the people he loves doing.

    It’s when he leaves the house and gets teased that it hurts so I’ve done something to accommodate him.

    I make him ‘man dresses’ lol like a “prince” outfit with a long shirt and a cape and sword belt. He’s very happy with this and wears them until they are falling apart. Then he goes back to his sisters dresses until I make him something else.

    I’m sure he’ll grow out of it…. if he doesn’t then when he’s a little older we can discuss the ramifications of such choices. But right now he is a child, a young child who barely knows his colors.

    (cannwin.blogspot.com)

  28. aschmid3 says:

    A lot of guys think it’s the ultimate compliment to tell a girl, “Wow, you’re so cool, you’re like one of the guys,” but on the other hand, those same guys take it as the ultimate insult if they’re told they “—— like a girl.”

    That’s why it’s acceptable for girls to do “boy” things, but not the other way around. It’s like it’s seen as a step backward for boys.

    I score major points with guys when they find out I can and do change my car’s oil, but if my husband ever let it slip that he’s started using face moisturizer on a daily basis, he’d never hear the end of the teasing.

  29. Jala says:

    Well said. I have twin daughters that routinely participate in traditionally “male” activities, and we applaud it. But, when our 4 year old son tries on my heels or wants to play with our daughters’s toys — we discourage him.
    Thanks for pointing out the paradox. Never quite thought of it that way.

    http://www.4girlsblog.wordpress.com

  30. reneamac says:

    Good post. I agree with many points brought up here. I think many young men feel pressure to become gay because society says, “You like fashion? You must be gay.” It’s very limiting. We all do this: we all find ourselves being labeled by social forces (parents, peers, TV shows like Glee–which I love by the way…) and taking on those labels as our identity. But some labels are easier to break out from under than others, and labels glued onto our sexuality are labels that have attached to a very deep part of what it means to be human.

  31. Erin says:

    I’d like to think that I’m an enlightened sort who would let a boy wear whatever he wanted, but I have to say that it would depend upon his father, and how comfortable he felt with it.

    Gender roles suck, but for now they exist, and in a lot of ways, encouraging your child to break them will only result in tears.

  32. sarocq says:

    Hi!
    I’m a young French mother with a fabulous little girl (8 1/2) and a great little boy (5). Both of them like to play and sometimes I really wonder how it is possible that my girl is SUCH a girl, while my son is SUCH a boy… I never intended to make them so. LOL As a matter of fact, my daughter is changing and wants to wear trousers and experiment more “tough” games or experiences. I just let her try.

    However I totally agree with what you write. Especially regarding the fact that everyone admires great CEOs women but it doesn’t strike your mind when a boy decides to be a fashion stylist or even a dancer. I recently met dancers (boys) who weren’t gay. And I first was surprised. As if dancers had to be gay. But why should it be so? I looked at myself thinking that and smiled because I realized I had fallen in the trap of prejudice.

    Juste like you, my younger brother used to dress up as a girl (with my help) and turned to be a engineer with two great kids.
    So, to answer your question, if my son asks me one of these days if he can wear one of his sister’s the fairy dresses, or if he can try my lipstick, I think I’d say yes.
    The problem starts, I think, when they go outside because people judge and I do not want my child to feel that kind of social pressure.
    This is probably why very few people go outside the lines…
    Very good post of yours!

  33. Brasilmagic says:

    I would certainly let my son, if I had one, wear pink and even dresses in public, if that’s what he wanted. But if became the norm, I would believe I had a gay child, and would have to accept that.

  34. Jahriel says:

    Good article, I agree that kids really shouldn’t be forced to fit into anyone’s temporal ideals as they learn and grow into whom the Universe obviously meant them to be. How else could nature take its developmental course unless nature was involved in the developmental process in the first place?

    The cookie-cutter mentality of various forms of leadership, from as local as the home to as far up as governmental levels (don’t ask, don’t tell type of thing) is a phenomenally hypocritical pressure, as we preach freedom and individuality from our soapboxes, yet oppressing those who actually choose distinction for their lives.

  35. 3dotsforme says:

    My nephew played dress up, in a strapless blue numbers, until he was at least 9 years old. My middle daughter always plays the boy in whatever games are on the offering. Who cares what they wear or play as they will be who they are meant to be regardless!!

  36. Julia Uz says:

    Oh Yes! I have two boys , mostly grown now, both in college. I never made distinctions about what boys should do. My youngest often wears pink he always has. My oldest, always wanted to and got to wear my pearls from the time he was 2 until he decided to move on to something else about at 5.

    By the way, pink, especially on men with blue eyes is very sexy!

  37. gloriadelia says:

    If I gave my kids (boy and girl) a pine cone to play with, for instance, my boy would pretend to bite the top off, duck for cover from the pretend explosion.

    My daughter would rather wrap and blankie around it, cuddle it and sing songs to her “baby”.

    I don’t know, at least in our family, there is DEFINITELY a difference in the sexes.

    I do think, however, that my son (now 21) wears pink now and then, and my daughter (now 19) loves baseball caps. 🙂

  38. Portland Dad says:

    I am a stay at home dad raising my two boys and looking after a third and we play dress up all the time. That includes dresses, pirates, race car driver, and princess. I think it fosters creativity.

  39. Lia says:

    I think a really important perspective is missing from both the Zoot post and this FenceTalk post.

    The reason that people laud females for breaking gender roles is because of their status as a traditionally oppressed group. So when they take steps toward liberation (ie.-playing with tool boxes instead of dolls), it is seen as a step of progress.

    Men, however, are a traditionally privileged group; their freedom have always been generally greater than women’s. So males taking steps toward even greater liberation is not impressive to the same degree as it is when women do it.

    Compare it to race. Black pride is lauded because blacks have been traditionally oppressed, so now having pride in their ability to break racial barriers is a feat that deserves applause and praise. However, white pride is rightly seen in an entirely different way. Whites have been traditionally privileged, and their privilege was achieved specifically by stripping the the privileges of other races, so celebrating pride in that will obviously not be seen in a positive light.

    In laymen’s terms, the point is this: men generally have an easier time doing whatever it is that they want to do, so no one is impressed or interested in them having it even easier.

    • andartos says:

      I agree with almost everythng you have said, Lia. Almost. Your last paragraph is flat out not true. Is a male no less oppressed when he is forced, how ever subtly or with rewards, to be other than who he is? No, is ANYONE no less oppressed when they are forced into being who they are not?
      Being male has NOT made my life easier. I was born in 1961. I was raised to be one of those men you think has such an easy time of it. I was raised to be stoic, aggressive, and sports-oriented. I am an artistic, peace-loving, passionately emotional person; I don’t care for sports and aggression.
      My life has been so privileged. Beat up for having long hair. Beaten up for not wanting to throw a football. Beaten up for being able, and wanting, to draw. Expected to be a “bread-winner” when I am much happier being home with the kid. Yes, Lia, my life has been so much easier because I am a male. Thank you for telling me that my unhappiness has all just been an illusion. Thank you for denying me right to be me. Thank you for oppressing me.

      • Lia says:

        Andartos, pointing out your privilege as a man is not in itself an oppressive action on my part. I never said that being male should bring you more happiness, or that your unhappiness is thus an illusion. Obviously, as both an individual and as a man, you will have your own challenges, such as the societal pressure to be the breadwinner for your family. Obviously, males have their own stereotypes to grapple with.

        The questions raised in this post was this: Why is not seen as “cute” and acceptable when boys want to to do traditionally female things, while it is seen as cute and acceptable when girls want to do traditionally male things?

        And my answer to that question is this: males are expected and encouraged to break boundaries and barriers. So continuing to break boundaries by, for example, becoming a nurse (a traditionally female role) is not going to be seen as some amazing feat because it is really only continuing a long tradition of males being able to break out of their boxes.

  40. Matt says:

    It matters not, in my opinion. I’m 24 and trying for a child with my partner. I intend on whole heartedly encouraging any form of playtime imagination to inspire his/her creativity. If that cute little bugger wants to dress in a tutu while he plays army, then a tutu’ed army we shall have!

    I think discouraging your childs imagination is a heinous thing to do…

    Gender issues can start later on in their life, but I’ll be damned if anyone makes my child feel weird for testing the limits of his mind.

    Let nature, not nurture, define who my child should be.

    http://zenanarchyfoundry.wordpress.com/
    http://welcomehomecreator.wordpress.com/

  41. rltj says:

    I have boys. Two of them are real boys and they’ve always been my watch and worries. Gang wars and petty criminality in a neighborhood that must be like harlem in its bad days, things like that.

    I have one boy that I think is gay. I have tried painting gays as creatures lower than undesirables hoping to bring him to where I think he should be without getting into confrontation. I have given up that on acceptance that the trait could be genetic. At least I don’t remember asking anybody his where about and what he is doing at anytime and at any day.

    No, I don’t really interfere with any of my children when it comes to things of gender i.e. clothes, soap, perfumes, colors etc. They are all free except wherein they might possibly get themselves [and me too] into trouble. 🙂

  42. Justin says:

    There is a wonderful short story by Lois Gould called “X: A Fabulous Child’s Story” about a young child who was brought up secretly as an “X” (not a boy or a girl), and winds up tweaking the perspective of the society around the child.

    Wonder story. I hope your’e familiar with it. If not, please check it out. It’s adorable and thought-provoking.

  43. andartos says:

    Everytime our midwife tried to sex our baby via ultra sound all she could get was a butt shot and no clear view of the genitalia. When asked what colors to get for baby clothes we answered green.
    When Arthur popped out (actually we had to dig him out), THEN suddenly did we get gifts of clothes. Blue clothes. *sigh*
    Since his early childhood was centered around my ex getting her Ph.D., while I carried the bulk of home-schooling, etc., Arthur got a fairly balanced (not in the Fox sense!) idea of the importance of gender roles. They mean diddly-squat. He is not a sports-type, he is not ashamed to cry or show affection, he can handle tools and cookware equally well (as do I!), has played with toys guns and faery wands.
    I want my son to be who he defines himself as, not what I, his mother, or ANYONE else sez. Each life is too important to be shoved willy-nilly into an ill-conceived, artificially constructed box that fits no-one. FREEDOM!!! Long live the eVolution.

  44. atwistedpair says:

    The powers in play when we “walk down any toy aisle” (as you put it) have a lot to do with what has traditionally motivated walking down that other, older aisle. The human species continues to explore new and diverse possible ways of being in the world (which is always good, in my view). I’m watching with interest.

  45. Jeffrey Puukka says:

    You know, I am quite happy to see entries of this sort being posted, so thank you.

    -J.P.

  46. Bald History says:

    Children’s notions of masculinity are not only shaped by their own instincts and culture, but also their parents. I remember when my little brother, at the age of four, informed my mom that someday he wanted to be like our father: Bald, glasses, and a hearing aid. Not your typical male prototype, but he was a good model. And all his wishes came true. Like father like son.

  47. A Mall Cop says:

    Well, speaking as a boy who once borrowed his sister’s Barbie doll for playtime at school, I advise that boys at a certain age tend to beat up other boys who are guilty of feminism.

    It wasn’t even a pink Barbie. Sis and I wrapped up the doll in an old piece of black cloth so it would look ‘evil’ and thus ‘manly’. But alas, the other boys saw through the disguise. First they laughed at me, then they kicked me during recess.

    You might also want to consider the long-term ramifications of letting your boy dress up as a girl. Sometimes kids do things just to grab attention, and if he gets used to all the ‘awwws’ and fawning, that habit (of dressing up as a girl) might stay for a little longer than you intended. Then it would be a matter of Aesthetics and not just Political Correctness.

    I would say wearing pink is one thing, but a dress designed for a girl is another kettle of fish.

    Oh! On another note, you might find it interesting to know that traditional Chinese parents in the old days had this superstition about giving boy babies girly names. I think the boy would also be dressed up as a girl during early toddler-hood. However, that was not done to promote gender neutrality, but because the older Chinese families believe that evil spirits were jealous of male heirs and disguising sons as ‘daughters’ could help avoid attention from these evil spirits.

  48. Alex M. says:

    Boys are much different from girls and left to their own devices I bet you’d find the boys much more likely to be playing cops and robbers or something than with dolls.

    However it shouldn’t be forced upon them and not all kids want to play cops and robbers all day I bet. Gotta stop to enjoy a nice cup of tea. 😉

  49. love your writing style. love the content. keep the nice ideas coming.

  50. J says:

    My son pretty much almost always has a pink something in his wardrobe, normally a t-shirt or something. I don’t know what it’s like in the US but in the UK there’s now quite a lot of trendy pink clothes for boys, doesn’t /didn’t make my husband or father in law comfortable with it though! I let my son play in his sister’s fairy costumes if he wants to as well, however one problem I do have is if his choices make him more prone to bullying, so then I may try and steer him away from something, not because I have a problem with him having it but because others might (my son is autistic which makes me worry about bullying anyway, so I don’t want to ‘make things worse’). An example would be is that I sew a lot at home and make alot of stuff for my kids and I’ll let them chose the fabric but if my son chooses a fabric with flowers on, for something that is going to be used out of the house, I will try and steer him to something else, which I think is a shame and I hate doing it, as he really likes flowery fabric!

  51. barrymanana says:

    i used to cross-dress my Action Man doll (a UK ‘army’ doll) with my friend’s Barbie.
    Grenade belts and pink tutus – the perfect juxtaposition!

  52. Interesting observation, something I’ve thought about too. I am past toys, but have such trouble finding decent clothes that I wish I was a boy for dressing’s sake. I don’t like pink clothes or pastel clothes or trendy clothes, and it’s easier to sidestep in the boys’ aisles. I mean, they have brands like Carhartt. If I want Carhartt or Mtn Hardwear, I have to cough up the big bucks – not many knockoffs for girls! Also…very interesting Wikipedia link on pink! I find that somewhat hilarious.

  53. josepht1987 says:

    I really enjoyed your post and it’s a matter I’ve discussed in my head on many occasions. Not that I ever had the urge to wear pink tutu’s and run around with toe nail polish on, but had I wanted to shame any discourage to come my way! Unfortunately many people are too close-minded and too set in their ways to allow for different ideas to enter in to their world. That is the problem fighting against adversity.

  54. Halo Reach says:

    Men have never been a oppressed, so no one will ever take note of anything their gender holds them back from. They don’t have the sympathy of other formerly oppressed people, so nobody really cares.

    It’s kind of a shame, but unfortunately that’s the way it is.

  55. I have to say that while my 5 year old grandson says pink in his favorite color, he doesn’t own any pink clothes yet – if the more generic stores had something in guy pink I’d buy it though. But for me in a small town, there are not too many options. Still, I work hard at making sure he has a variety of toys, experiences, and that his talents are encouraged. If we can just help our little ones be the best they can be, most of this stuff would go away. sigh.

  56. Scott K says:

    It disturbs me as an adult to look and see that “boys toys” mostly related to construction, duty, or violence. At the toy store the other day (and I LOVED these toys as a child) and it was aisles of monsters, tanks, and good vs. bad images.

    I thought childhood was supposed to be about fun and games. 🙂 Maybe if we stop TRAINING boys to be “boys” and girls to be “girls” and started helping them to be PEOPLE we could erase this kind of conversation.

  57. David says:

    It is very sad that we as a society have not come to terms with the fact that everyone is different and that’s what makes us special. Gay, straight, black, white, pink or blue!

  58. atxjoe512 says:

    I really liked this post and you make some great points. It’s ashame the world we live in today is so close minded and judgemental. There doesn’t seem to be much room for improvement but hopefully that can change.

  59. Ben says:

    I never used to wear pink. It was until I was in Auckland when I saw a Korean Marketing manager wearing pink. He was one of those macho chauvinistic sort of person and yet, here he was, in pink! Not one of those gaudy pink, but a light baby pink.

    Well too me a couple of months later, I mustered up the courage to put on a pink shirt. The first day I wore it to work, my colleagues commented that I looked good. I have never looked back since. As far as I know, no one has made any comments about me in pink and I think it shows that I am in touch with my feminine side.

  60. A Mall Cop says:

    Speaking about ‘boys toys’ and the color pink, I just remembered an interesting fact from my childhood.

    The Care Bears were really popular back then, and both sis and I got one each. I was a typical boy, playing rough games (such as Soldiers) with the other boys, so I have no idea even now why I chose to ‘adopt’ the Cheer Bear (the pink one with rainbow on its tummy) and my sis who was the girly one with all the Barbie dolls and pink dresses, chose the neutral green Good Luck Bear.

    And no, I don’t know the psychological implications of our choice. I am just sharing an interesting childhood story here. 🙂

  61. bearhunterfl says:

    Thank you for this post. It’s so refreshing to read progressive thought these days. Sometimes it seems to me that we are coming under increasing pressure from shrill and annoying voices promoting fear over free-thinking, and calling for a return to “traditional” values, which for them means clinging to Guns and God and damning everybody who does not agree with their narrow view of the world.

  62. I posted on facebook who I thought would win the Eurovision Song Contest and got a barage of gay jibes.

    I always thought it must be them that are worried about their sexuality, because I can enjoy a little camp sing-song without ever feeling sexually confused

  63. Nikole Hahn says:

    I think our society is thinking too hard about that stuff. I have heard of the opposite though with feminists trying to encourage their boys to play with barbies and with girl things and discouraging them from playing with what they wanted to play with–trucks, tonka toys, matchbox cars, etc. Let kids be kids. Enough with feminism. Life does not revolve around us. LOL.

  64. Melody says:

    Very good article. I have a 4 year old little boy and have given much thought to this issue as well. For now, I’ve tried to guide him towards gender-neutral toys or whatever seems to follow his interests. Books and blocks are favorites… he also has a play kitchen and a train table. His baby doll (bought for him a few years ago when I was thinking he’d have a little brother or sister much sooner than he has!) is his friend and “little brother” (to the point I’ve had preschool teachers ask me if he has a little brother!) and he has whole families of stuffed animals. I also know that both of our lives are about to get harder when he goes to school… and that really concerns me. I agree with so much of what you have written!

  65. bless82 says:

    Funny the timing I am reading this, I just signed up my 5 yr old boy for ballet and tap. I’ve been struggling with my fears that I’m not teaching him how to be a “boy”. I wish I could say I don’t care–and I try not to–but the truth is that I do. It would be safer to just not do dance, but he would be missing out on something he could love.

    • Skinny Sushi says:

      You know, people keep talking about the potential for their children to be made fun of because of habits that are perceived as girly. Guess what? Every. Single. Kid is going to get made fun of for something at some point. Frankly, I’d rather my son be made fun of for being a dancer (which will make him healthy and strong, and likely able to kick the butt of people who’d make fun of him for it) because it’s an “easy” target, and it will keep the kids from finding another issue to make fun of… as a kid people made fun of my last name, and in a way I was thrilled because it meant no one was calling me fat or ugly, which would have hurt much worse.

      • michaelbowen says:

        I actually just did a synthetic essay on this topic in my AP English class. lol

      • A Mall Cop says:

        @ bless82 and Skinny Sushi,

        How about some sort of compromise? Now you sign him up for dance lessons, and maybe a year or two later, you let him try out some martial arts lessons?

        Being a martial artist myself, I can tell you that there are some really really good drills in traditional ballet that would help a martial artist tremendously. Such as the leg raising thingy.

        Dancing can be ‘macho’. Especially if you can convince one of them jock types to hold the pad for you while you show him just how hard a dancer can kick. 🙂

  66. reen says:

    Well done.
    I do not have my own kids, yet, but my old neighbour has a son who loves to dress up and play with Barbies/princesses. It’s funny when he and my little brother play; my bro is a trucks-and-dinosaurs kind of guy.
    That said, I tried to sort of “classify” whether the little boy’s family was supportive of his interests or not, and just couldn’t figure it out. His dad is in tourism and hospitality, and given his general clientelle (American conservatives, mostly), and the economy, he can’t afford to “weird people out” with a pick-clad helper. So the boy is allowed to dress up and play dolly… But there is a time and a place.
    On the other hand, I was employed there and it seemed completely acceptable for a transgendered ftm to work with the real boys -I could handle boats, carpentry, plumbing, etc without a second thought.

    I wonder why this is.

    Captain Picard would know!

  67. Capt. No-Marriage says:

    Guys catch crap for being guys and women are encouraged to be anything but a woman. No wonder there’s a gender war. Men need to go on a marriage strike!

  68. taro says:

    love your writing style.thank.

  69. campingshop says:

    Wow, I am speechless you write with such passion and clarity on the matter and I agree 100% with you. I am a primary school teacher and have been for the past 6 years and it is not uncommon for the 8 year old boys in my classroom to be in the dress up box wearing heels dresses and jackets taking on different roles. I must say though regretably that I have had some unhappy fathers when they see their child’s picture in our classroom and their tough manly son is dressed in a dress and heels.
    My 2 year old son plays for hours in my cupboards putting on my heels and jewelry he comes for coffee dates with my girlfriends and sits up chatting and having his morning tea, my son has also had his toenails painted…much to his fathers disgust. But my son also loves nothing more then to play with his trucks and wrestle with his father. Its all about balance and your article truly touches on this. I can’t wait to read more!!

  70. florb63 says:

    It’s very true that a lot of the gender separation we see later in life begins in childhood. You made good points, nice post.

  71. etcher101 says:

    It’s interesting that this blog is about this subject. I was just listening to “The Moth” podcast the other day and a story was about this very subject. It was called “Oliver and his pink bike”. It’s basically about a father (who’s father was a hard line Marine) who wanted to give his 3 year old son, Oliver, choices that he didn’t have growing up. The subject was that Oliver loved the color pink. It’s laugh out loud funny to listen to but a very tender lesson at the same time.

    http://etcher101.wordpress.com/2010/05/

  72. Nick says:

    We just had this discussion in my Soc class. Honestly, I would LIKE to say that I would support my son in his decisions, but I would neither dress him in pink or let him wear a dress. It’s hard to break that mentality after so many years of it being hammered into you.

  73. Rohit says:

    Greetings from India.

    I had worn a pink shirt for my cousin’s wedding (Who lives in US). He said – “not bad you are wearing this colour. In US they would have branded you as a gay”. I have been careful in wearing that shirt ever since. I wear it to only those places, where I feel the crowd really dont know “pink=gay” 🙂

    The famous ‘Indian Male Ego’ is very much around. Societal acceptance is on everyone’s mind. Whenever someone crosses a line, he is warned with a sanskrit shloka.

    Things are changing slowly. There are not too many mechanic chicks, but there are a few. Indian women have been an oppressed class. There were hardly any female engineers in India a couple of decades back. An engineers job was found to be tough, outdoor work, always sweating etc. Thanks to IT. The engineers are places in Air-conditioned rooms, frequent tours to foreign lands etc and females didnt have any problem adjusting to this lifestyle. This is the first generation of Indian women who are earning so well and today dictate the terms when it comes to finding a match. The ‘Indian Male Ego’ has dented a bit.

    India in general have been happy at the progress of women, making inroads in the man’s professional world. Men will be men as far as the ego still remains.

  74. runwayicon says:

    Pink? That’s what I’m talking about 🙂

  75. g531 says:

    Hooray for the post! Kudos

  76. doyoulikemyponytail says:

    A few months back, I was involved in a discussion with a group of nursing student colleagues of both genders. One girl begins to tell a story of a particularly touching experience she had with a “male nurse” in the ER, when a male colleague stops her bluntly.

    “You mean, with a ‘nurse’ you had in the ER…”

    She says, “Yeah, like I said, a male nurse in the ER,” to which he replies, “No, you must mean a NURSE in the ER, not a MALE nurse. We don’t say ‘female lawyer’ or ‘female doctor,’ so why should you qualify ‘nurse’ with ‘male?'”

    I think he makes a great point on many levels, as does your post. Why are we trained to qualify traditionally female careers when they are performed by men, but not the converse? Also, this conversation reminded me that it is up to my generation (and future ones) to work on changing these stigmas. If a group of future nurses is still using the term “male nurse” in 2010, how could we think the public would do otherwise?

    I’m pleased to have come across your blog, and congrats on being Freshly Pressed!
    -Sophie

  77. Zone Blog says:

    i like the photo..
    reminds me star trek…my favorite film when i was a child…and really you make good writing too..
    thumbs up for you

  78. I remember when I was pregnant with my son, my OB asked if he was kicking. My response was that he kicked so much that he was either going to be a place kicker for the Toronto Argonauts or a principle dancer for the National Ballet of Canada.

    My OB looked at me, blinked confusedly and said: “But I thought you knew your baby was a boy?” as though imagining such a pursuit was somehow wrong for a male of the species. *SIGH*

    Now, he likes to watch Cinderella and play with my make-up. And I have no problems with it except for the swath of lip gloss spread on the walls.

  79. Number Seven says:

    the point, Capt. No-marriage, is that NO ONE should catch crap for being who they truly are. Define “guys”. I am definitely male, and enjoy many things that other “guys” enjoy, but not everything… and the same holds true for them… and you.

    As for a marriage strike, HA! As a recent victim of divorce, and make no mistake – my ex is a victim of it too, I could be expected to be sour on the idea. I am not.
    I think marriage is a very sound social and psychological concept. Mostly, I think it does live up to the minimum of doing what it should. The issue currently facing us vis-a-vis marriage is that we have formed very stultified and constricting marriage practices. This goes hand in hand with the gender- and sexual preference- issues. One might say they are intimately entwined.
    Long live the eVolution.

  80. Songbird says:

    Excellent write up, and so on the money. I do not have a son, but I do have a god son who is 10 years old and loves to dance and loves pop music (miley, lady gaga etc) and he was just telling me with tears in his eyes, why do all the things he likes are meant for girls, and “girly things”..as he is obviously starting to feel the pressure of conformists in his little mid-western town. it was heartbreaking to me. Who says dancing is for girls and football is for boys etc. We need to break this idiotic gender stereotyping. We are what and who we are.

  81. drew says:

    color are all unisex… love this…

  82. Scary Girl says:

    People will wig out over boys doing girly things until society says it’s okay to be a girl.

  83. J.C. says:

    It’s monumental hypocrisy to complain of men being “encouraged to be the epitome of testosterone…he man types” yet at the same time praise women for being “strong, butt kicking” and “women warriors.”

    It just shows that it’s not the behavior you dislike but just the gender of the person engaging in the behavior. Like I said, monumental hypocrisy.

    • Skinny Sushi says:

      How, I wonder, is that “monumental hypocrisy?” I have no issue with the behavior necessarily, but with the inequality of social expectation. My specific point (perhaps reading for content versus scanning for keywords would behoove you) is that there is a divide in what is allowed, that women who exhibit typically “male” behaviors are often hailed as leaders who challenge gender stereotypes, while generally men who behave in “female” ways are harassed, berated, and even abused.

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