My oldest son marches to his own beat. And sometimes, his beat fits a gender role that our society has assigned to girls. He likes dancing, the color pink, wearing my high heels, and princesses. What’s more, when he has a streak of good behavior, I paint his fingernails as a reward. However, he also fits society’s gender role of what it means to be a boy. He has a Matchbox car collection that would make Jay Leno jealous, he thrives on searching for worms in freshly tilled dirt, loves picking up lizards (if he’s fast enough), and he thinks that fart and poop jokes are the epitome of comedy.
My son’s most recent obsession is the movie Sing. He particularly loves the scene where Rosita (the SAHM Pig character) dances to Taylor Swift’s hit song “Shake it Off”. And really, who can blame him? It’s catchy! He has the entire scene’s choreography down, including the facial expressions. His performance starts with him grabbing my high heels from my closet, followed by him clearing away scattered toys to bust his moves in our living room. I tie two of his super hero capes together to achieve a longer cape for his reenactment. Each time he performs it, he gets better and he’s more into it. After his performance, he’s positively shining (partly due to sweat) and is beyond proud of himself. He performs the routine half a dozen times in a row, and each time it warms my heart.
After watching him perform countless times, it dawned on me to recruit a family member to make him a Rosita cape for Christmas. I waited for the conversation to happen organically, and sure enough it did. A family member sent an email asking, “What do the boys want for Christmas?” Immediately, I replied with my idea and stated how much my son would love an authentic cape for his favorite dance performance. After all, this family member sews and what better present than a homemade gift that will get hours of use. It seemed like a no brainer.
The Response Was So Ignorant, I was Seeing Red
I opened the email to read their response, which read as follows:
I think I’ll pass on this one. It’s too much like a dress and not a cape. Too Girlish.
My mouth hit the floor, and I had to read the email again to be sure I hadn’t misunderstood. To say I was disappointed would be an understatement. Those three, short sentences sent me into a tailspin of calling this family member out for their ignorance. Would it be worth the time and energy? Should I take the high road? Would it open a civil conversation of understanding, or simply spark a futile argument? I thought of all the ways I could respond back, and in the end, I combatted their ignorance with facts.
Gender Role, Schmender Role
Do we really need to explain that kids of either gender can like it all? He’s a four-year-old. He doesn’t stick to society’s “boy” gender role. Rather, he sees every day as an opportunity to be a silly, loud, funny kid. Why does my boy only have the option to like the things that a “boy” is supposed to like? I will protect him and encourage him to explore everything that makes him who he is. I know that parents want to see their children happily exploring, learning, and being imaginative. So the next time you think that boys should race cars and little girls should have tea parties, just forget what others think. Allow them to be themselves, regardless of society’s archaic concept of gender roles.