I’ve debated writing this post for a while because of emotions on both sides of the debate, but the idea keeps coming back to me so I wanted to put it into words. I am a mom of preschool aged children. Three of them to be exact. They are each unique and wonderful! I have two boys and one girl. God made them this way, male and female. Around two years old (maybe a little before) they become aware of their sexual organs and start to ask if they are a “boy” or a “girl.” I’ve explained to two of my children so far that one is a boy and one is a girl. One has boy parts and one has girl parts. My third hasn’t gotten to this point yet. It was emphasized for my oldest son because he noticed the differences when his sister was born. I had to explain to him that she had girl parts and he has boy parts. So I am teaching them gender identity. Basic human anatomy.This is NOT what I want to talk about in my post. I want to speak to gender roles. Gender roles are socially prescribed. Gender roles can change as society changes and I am honestly tired of the emphasis put on them. People on both sides of the fence put too much emphasis on gender roles and I would like to look at the dangers of this focus in todays culture.
On one side of the fence, more in the Christian circles, we have people who only let their little girls wear pink, purple, or pastels because those are “girl” colors. These people also prescribe a gender to sports, games, play activities, and so much more. Little girls should only be in cheerleading, gymnastics, and ballet; they shouldn’t work in the garage with dad, and they should stay clean. Little boys should play soccer, football, and wrestling; they should work in the garage on cars and get dirty. Little boys should wear blue and green. Don’t get me wrong there is NOTHING wrong with these activities, colors, or sports if your little girl or little boy fit into these “girl” or “boy” sports, but what if they don’t? What if your little girl wants to play hockey or your little boy wants to be in dance? Are you going to tell them “no” because that is the wrong gender sport for them? The problem with this is YOU are the one who prescribed the gender onto that activity, game, or color. Society says little girls should only wear pink but my little girl looks beautiful in blue or green! Society says my little girl should play with baby dolls, and she does, but when she’s home with her brothers she wants a dinosaur to play with. When her brother gets a superhero toy she wants one too. She runs around with the boys and enjoys their toys. I don’t take her Iron Man doll and give her a baby doll to play with. I totally enjoy it when she wears her princess costume, and wants to put bows in her hair, but I also don’t mind when she picks up a “boy” toy. I don’t flip out when my son picks up a baby doll or a little pony. Who says boys shouldn’t play with baby dolls? Won’t they become dads one day? Why wouldn’t I allow my son to play with the toy kitchen? Are we forgetting that some of the greatest cooks are men? I have talked to women who felt stifled by their parents because they shoved them into socially acceptable gender roles. Why don’t their parents understand that society placed those norms to begin with? If your girl wants to wear blue then she’s a girl that likes to wear blue. She’s still a girl, period. If a boy wants to wear pink then he’s a boy who likes pink, but still a boy.
Before children come into puberty they don’t have sexual desires and attractions, so it is not a time to worry about changing gender identity. Kids just want to play and be kids! I don’t think we should get too excitable when our children display a proclivity for the toys, activities, and sports of the opposite sex than what they are. This does NOT mean when they come into their sexuality they will become gay or transgender. Remember, they are learning from society but they are not defined by it to the letter. If the majority of society, especially their parents, adhere to normal gender roles they most likely will too. I fear that when a boy slips on his sisters princess costume his parents might shame him instead of laughing it off. I just don’t believe this is the way to handle the situation with a child. We may know that society says boys don’t wear dresses, but he doesn’t know that! So if you don’t teach your children cultural norms, because you’ve decided you don’t want to adhere to them, then you are forcing your child to go against societal norms and NOT EVEN KNOW IT. That part is important -NOT EVEN KNOW IT-, because you made a choice, not your child. When they know it THEN they can make a stand and a choice for themselves, but until then it’s all you, and that’s a shame. You shouldn’t allow your child to be put in a situation where he/she feels different until he/she knowingly and pointedly makes that choice. This doesn’t happen at three or four years old, I’m sorry.
On the other side of the proverbial fence you have parents who have little girls and intentionally only purchase them “boy” clothing. I don’t understand this mentality because if you wanted your child to express their individuality then you should be allowing them that choice. My children don’t work, so currently I purchase their clothing, stock their closets, and help them dress in the morning. So when I see families saying things like, “my baby boy only wears princess dresses” I have to wonder who bought their little boy a princess dress, and did you also buy them a cowboy costume to choose from? Or let’s take that one step back, why did you feel the need to buy your little boy a princess dress? To me it looks more like YOUR “self expression” or desire to break gender identity is being displayed here! Your child isn’t purchasing their clothes and costumes, you are. If you decide to dress your boy in a dress, and intentionally go against social norms, then you are setting your child up for confusion. Kids learn their gender roles from their parents, so unless your husband wears a dress on occasion your child is going to wonder why you always dress him in one. Why doesn’t daddy wear a dress? If you and your boyfriend or husband live together then your child will see and associate himself/herself with one of you. It’s natural! Many children ask their parents the following question, “daddy is a boy, am I a boy?” Or “mommy is a girl, am I a girl?” They then want to dress and act like mom or dad because they associate themselves with you. This is the primary way children learn gender roles.
I will add a side note here that I think some clothing is specifically purposed for males or females. Yes they are societal, but to some extent we are molded by society. We also must remember that how we choose to adorn ourselves says a lot about who we are. How we dress, the make up we wear (or lack thereof), the way we do our hair,etc. are ways of self expression. When a male wears female specific clothing he is trying to say something about himself. He is trying to say he thinks he IS a female, and vice versa for females. Obviously this can be different depending on the culture and demographics of the day.
Planned parenthood defines gender as , “our biological, social, and legal status.” They go on to say as I said above that “each culture has standards about the way that people should behave based on their gender,” and our gender identity is our “innermost feelings about our sex and gender.” They say some people have “a gender identity that strongly conflicts with their biological sex,” and this is what they define as transgender. Well gosh, what IS normal?! Why can’t a little girl have short hair and play hockey without being questioned about her gender identity? This is the danger in placing “gender” on objects, hair styles, some clothing options (see side note above), and sports. It used to be that a girl who liked to wear jeans and a t shirt with tennis shoes and short hair was a tomboy, but now she might be transgender or lesbian. WHAT?! Why do we have to confuse kids like this and introduce this concept? Take for instance the little girl who became a boy at about four years old ,whose video went viral on “You Tube,” she liked boy costumes– SO WHAT?! Who said those costumes were “boy” costumes anyway? My daughter runs around the house and wants to play iron man, dinosaurs, or cowboy just like her brother or the cartoons she sees on T.V., but I don’t start wondering if she really wants to be a boy. I certainly don’t introduce that idea to her, especially before puberty! I’ve also had my kids jokingly say they were members of the opposite sex. I nicely tell them “no, that God made them male or female” as indicated by their sexual organs, their chromosomes (XX or XY), and their hormones!!!! As they age their hormones will reinforce their gender and shape their behaviors. By introducing the idea that maybe God didn’t make them male or female, but that they could choose their gender identity, you are introducing a great deal of confusion and self worth issues. As facial hair grows, menstrual cycles start, and voices start to change there will be much confusion! It is much easier to act like the opposite sex when kids have baby faces and no puberty hormones! Kids want to hear that they were fearfully and wonderfully made. They want to hear that God made them unique and wonderful just the way they are. That they perfect just as they were created. If they like “boy” colors that is fine, but their organs are female and so are their hormones. So it is better, and causes less confusion, if they can identify to a mom or a dad, brother or sister, male or female who look like them. If we can reinforce these roles they will feel more secure in themselves! I hear all the time, “love them for who they are,” and -to me- that means who they were born as. We need to reinforce gender identity and show them how special it is to be made male or female. It’s o.k. for you to like superheros and be a girl, or care bears and be a boy. Your still one or the other! Stereotypes don’t have to define who you are and shouldn’t make you change your God given identity.
It is dangerous when we fall into these stereotypes because we can make our kids feel uneasy about who they are. I’m a boy and therefor I’m not “suppose” to cry. Well who said that? You can be an emotional man and still be a man! How confusing would it be to not only be emotional but also questioning who you “really” are sexually. Is the new socially acceptable thing to ask, maybe you are emotional because you’re not “really” a man? From the time your parents saw you on the ultrasound, saw a penis, and said you were a boy you were a boy. The hospital wrote on your birth certificate that you were a boy. They didn’t wait 10 years for you to figure it out and let them know. So, changing that years, or even decades, into a persons life has to have serious emotional consequence! If one must take hormone replacement therapy to change their chemical composition, and outward appearance, one must wonder what confusing circumstances made them consider this option. Why can’t we happily reinforce the gender given to us and cut out the confusion? Whether you believe biology made you this way, or God, you were created male or female indicated by your sexual organs. You have a penis or vagina, facial hair or no facial hair, mammary glands or no mammary glands, the ability to carry a child in your uterus or not, etc. etc.. Your clothes do not dictate these male or female characteristics nor do your color preferences or activities. My boy cries, my girl poots and thinks it’s hilarious, both carry around rocks and are loud. They are children! Let them be children. We must remember that WE create stereotypes.
Our creation of stereotypes is the reason I wonder why so called progressives think they are progressing simply because they put their little girls in culturally acceptable boy clothing. You aren’t making your child an open minded human being, you are just teaching them to go against mainstream culture. This might be cool for you, but what if your child can’t handle that yet? What if they aren’t secure enough in themselves to stand up to the social pressure of going against the grain? What if you quit trying to fight social norms through your children and did it yourself? Then your child might just follow in your footsteps. This means that Mr. Progressive dad should be out in his dress on occasion. If he allows his son to wear a dress -or make up-, and go against the grain, then by golly I hope he’s out there setting a good example too. He might say, “well I don’t have the same convictions or feelings as my son who wants to wear a dress,” but to that I would say, “would you be so sure of your child’s convictions if they said, and were convinced, that they were an animal, cartoon character, or a fairy?” You are a parent and they are children. You help guide them because they might not always understand what is best for them. They might not even understand who they are until early adulthood, but of course you would politely tell your child that they aren’t a dog and can’t crawl on the floor everywhere they go. You would tell them that they can’t eat like a doggy out in public. So why would you enforce a feeling that they were the opposite gender of their genitalia? Why would you allow them to deliberately go against culture when you know they will get looked at, and even laughed at, in public? How horrifying! At least warn them before they go out in public, that’s the least you could do. I suggest, however, that we should not confuse our children like this, let’s reinforce gender identity without getting so caught up in stereotypical gender roles.