Every time one of my feminist friends cringes because my daughter loves to play pretty pink princess, dress all in frills, and wear a tiara, I quickly remind them that she also loves to look at firetrucks, run as fast as she can, and whip across the monkey bars like a real monkey might. She is all set and they breathe a sigh of relief. But then some of those very same friends freak out when I put my son in pink pajamas.
"Are you trying to turn him gay or what?" one friend asked me once. Well, no. I don't really care either way. He can be whatever he wants, but that is beside the point anyway. I am just letting him use my daughter's hand-me-downs. She wears boy clothing all the time. Why can't he wear her ballet pajamas?
He just can't. It's the unspoken rule of being a mom to boys. You can dress your daughter in any color, but when it comes to boys, anything that even resembles pink or purple is the work of a mom with an agenda. A recent piece in the Wall Street Journal discusses this truth of boys and girls in a piece that asks: "Are America’s boys more confined by gender stereotypes than girls?" The answer: Heck yes they are.
My son is only 2.5, and in his short little life, he has already been told he can't take ballet -- "everyone would make fun of him" -- he can't wear pink, he can't eat from a pink plate or drink from a purple cup (yes, someone actually said this to me), and he can't wear any of my daughter's princess gear.
The fact is, in the world of gender roles, my kids are already pretty clear on how they fit. My daughter loves all things girly and my son loves trucks and cars and fire engines. He won't really let her do his makeup or put a boa around his neck even if she wanted to. I'm not sure why. Maybe already, at his very young age, he has the message that those things are "too girly." It's also possible they're too itchy, but it's kind of impossible to really know.
The fact is, the world is a lot less open to the idea of a "girly-boy" than they are to a tomboy. Don't believe me? Look at the way the world responded to the boy whose mom was painting his toes in the J.Crew ad or the mother who has a "princess son." Girls can be anything, but boys are sissies or wimps or girly or gender-confused if they happen to like princesses.
It's complete BS. My son is more into firetrucks than Tinkerbell, but he will play dolls with my daughter on occasion. He knows all the princesses by name thanks to her and it hasn't made him any less "boy" (believe me). Kids have all kinds of different interests, and even though my children happen to gravitate toward the things that fit their gender stereotype, it doesn't mean I think that is the right way for them to be.
I wouldn't mind if my son were a little more well-rounded. It makes me happy when he says he can't wait to be a daddy and rocks a baby doll. I WANT him to foster his nurturing side. Too few men really did as kids and it shows.
It will not make him gay or less of a man to tuck a baby doll in a bed or play in a play kitchen or wear a pink apron. In fact, it will make him a better one.
Do you worry about your sons in that way?