A BOY IS A BOY IS A BOY IS A . . .

A rose is a rose is a rose (Gertrude Stein).  A boy is a boy is a boy, except when he is not, except when he is a ‘pink’ boy.  Today’s New York Times Magazine article “Boy/Girl” raises the question of why it’s OK for girls to wear pants and Converse sneakers (even if they’re not pink) and, yet, wrong for boys to wear dresses.  Pink shirts for men are in.  Earrings and long hair are not shockers.

In fact, men have worn long wigs and ruffled shirts in different periods of Western Civilization.  And if you look at different cultures, even in 2012, men wear caftans and other items of dress that could be considered feminine.

I think there is a spectrum of gender identification somewhat influenced by culture (“Real men don’t eat quiche.” Now they make it) and definitely by hormones.

As a woman who was required to read Betty Friedan’s “Feminine Mystique,” the summer before her college freshman year, I have always been a feminist.  For me, that meant I wanted to have choices based on my interests, my talents and my ability to work hard.  I wanted the same opportunities and the same pay for exercising those opportunities that men received.  I wanted control over my body and my life choices.

I wanted choices for my children too.  My first born, a son, came home to a room decorated in primary colors, red, yellow and blue figures of toys on squares of white.  When he was a toddler he played with a grocery cart, dishes, a doll – “Joey” and grandma’s handmade Raggedy Ann.  He also had blocks, cars and trucks.  When his sister came along 3 years later, a stroller, Cabbage Patch Dolls and a fancier tea set were added.  Sara played with trucks, blocks, her brother’s friends and was in a play group with 2 other boys.

They grew up seeing their father vacuum and do his own laundry.  I went back to work full time when Sara was 3, but I had a very busy schedule as a community and political activist before that.

My son was definitely a boy, now a man, and my daughter was definitely a girl, now a woman.  It was hormones.

A story is told of Nick, a 10 year old who has 36 Barbies. (I wouldn’t let any child, boy or girl have 36 Barbies) who likes to design gowns for them and himself, and has had no play dates since a friend stopped by unexpectedly and saw his collection.

Why do we look at Nick as a she/boy rather than, perhaps, a future famous designer?  Why do interests have to be gender specific?

If we can’t let children be true to their core- even if that core is sometimes in a middle space- we will all lose.  As a parent and as an educator of children with over 30 years of experience, I know that children are unique.  It is our job to love them and teach them and to make sure that they feel loved and that they learn.  Most importantly, they need to love themselves whether they are girls wearing auto mechanic’s overalls or boys wearing pink dresses

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