I Always Feel Like... Somebody's Watching Me!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Boys will be Boys

Boys can wear dresses too.

 Boys will be boys. Girls will be girls. Saying that "boys will be boys" and "girls will be girls" is often an excuse for bad behavior. Think about it - when I stress that Jackson is a year older than Ayla was when she was potty trained, most women are quick to say that "boys will be boys" as a viable reason. What? Boys are somehow expected to poop in their pants longer than girls? (Ha ha, that might be true!) But even at the tender age of three, boys are already given a pass that is not as excusable for girls? When I discuss the level of drama, backtalk and mood swings that I encounter with Ayla, here comes the response faster than a toddler temper tantrum; "girls will be girls". Why? Because girls are naturally unreasonable?

 How about people will be people? Doesn't have the same ring to it.

 But I prefer to think of my children in that light... as people. Not merely a girly girl and rough and tumbly boys. I am not mapping out their personalities based on a prescribed agenda that girls and boys must follow separately. They are individual human beings, products of both nature and nurture, that I can help develop from small, helpless babies into mature adults. Help, not control. I want them to explore every aspect of life, not be confined to what is acceptable within their gender.

We as a human race have a problem with this. With gender roles, expectations and extreme efforts to mold children into Extreme males and females. I remember watching a video in a college psychology class about how adults treated the same baby very differently when told that the baby was a girl and then a boy. The adults coddled the girl, told her she was pretty and spent time preening "her". With the same baby, now believed to be a boy, the same adults put "him" on the floor, encouraged "him" to explore and let the baby get into more dangerous situations.

The video was from the 1950's, one could say that we have evolved since then. In some respects, we have. Title IX gave equal funding to women's sports in educational settings: ending the unfair assumption that girls should be given less money in the realm of tough, physical, competitive play. In some circles, a man can stake his claim as a "stay-at-home-dad" and get genuine street cred. Even the change in Disney movies has depicted the overall shift in gender neutrality; from helpless, cleaning-obsessed Snow White (1937) to empowered, strong, brave Rapunzel (2010). Women have the ability to save themselves - and men can still love them for it.

 I've written about this before, and I could go on for pages now. But what brought this up, yet, again, was an article shared by a friend of mine. A person who would rather not be confined to any specific label. You can follow their blog and thoughts here.

 The recent upsurge in gender obsession was caused by a J. Crew email that was sent out, showing the creative director's son with long, blond curly hair and pink nail polish. Can you see where I'm going with this? It literally could have been a picture of my Jackson. Only instead of me painting his little toenails - (twist!) - it is his father. This article discusses the backlash from so-called accredited news pundits.

 The article does a great job debunking Dr. Ablow's criticisms. I don't care about his degrees and success (a book with Glenn Beck? success?), his opinion on this matter is simply moronic. His criticisms of a mother engaging with her son are absurd. He seems to allude that she and J. Crew have an "agenda". I guarantee that this mother did NOT force her son to put on pink nail polish. News flash!: you pretty much cannot force toddlers to do anything that you want them to do. Should the mother instead be arm-wrestling her son into watching WWE and throwing a football in his face? Maybe that's exactly what they did after painting nails.... we can't assume that they didn't. But what the picture does depict is a bonding moment between a mother and child. It is sickening that a man who knows nothing about the individuals is trying to turn it into a social debate.

 Another point in which he (and a lot of people) are entirely confused is with the use of colors and their gender-appropriateness. I read a fantastic article in Mothering magazine about the historical and social contexts of color. Of course I can't find it now - but it discussed how recent our obsession with dressing only girls in pink and boys in blue was quite the opposite 100 years ago. Pink was a royal color reserved for boys and blue was the choice for baby girl clothes. So, any assumptions that a boy in pink will somehow turn out "wrong" or gay or confused is ludicrous. WE have made these claims about color and gender-specific behavior in the current culture - should we expect that each and every individual child will adhere to that?

 In my house, we couldn't care less about what girls and boys are supposed to be. Jackson has an older sister, which dictates a lot of the current activities. Am I concerned that Ayla dresses him up in tutus and they perform Swan Lake? Hell no. I couldn't be happier, especially if that is the one activity that keeps them from fighting. As for the pink toenails in this house - Gregory painted his nails (1) because Ayla did it first and (2) it kept him sitting on the potty long enough to actually use it! If that is a parenting fail, so be it. I hope Jackson is always secure enough to want pink toenails.

  Jackson's long hair is staying long, even though he is called a girl at least once a day. Elliot is going to wear pink pajamas because I already have them (and he is so beautiful in a pinkish hue). Ayla will continue to watch Star Wars and other "boy" movies. Are they any less physically boy or girl because of those desires? Am I damaging their future abilities to navigate the world?

 Children, and people in general, need love and acceptance above anything else. We are raising our babies in the hopes that they will be strong, confident, real people. Not a girl who doubts her interest in science or airplanes or sports. And certainly not boys who can't show their "feminine" side.

1 comment:

  1. Such a great post, Alexis- thank you! We have these discussions in our house, too. The ridiculous notions that girls can't play sports or boys can't have dolls is just that- ridiculous, and frankly insulting to the individual and the parents. Rock on- you're a model for the rest of us!