Posts Tagged ‘gendered norms’

When you live according to the idea that labels are for jars, but most of the world thinks labels are for people? And the labels bring with them boxes? And the boxes are intended to contain you?

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nail polish is on. Ponytail is in.

Intriguing, eh? Thoughts, anyone?

he's so proud to have reached pony tail length!

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Gender markers, that is. I’m continually fascinated by how folks read gender markers on Q. For example, this weekend, he was wearing jeans and a turquoise shirt (not too “loud” turquoise). He declared it “a blue day” — nothing about gender, just really about style. We were walking around our liberal town and he was on his scooter. His helmet, by the way, is VERY boyish — sort of monstery, in fact (who knows HOW we ended up with that style…). We passed a 3 year old in a stroller who asked her parents, “Is that a boy or a girl?” First, so intriguing that that’s the question she asked. I know that young kiddos are all about organizing their world by what’s like them and what’s not, but still…fascinating. Her mom replied, “It’s a girl.” The only clear reason I can point to for the response was the tip of purple bandana peeking out below Q’s helmet. That’s it. Just a glimpse of that marker and for sure it’s a girl in there.


So fascinating, in fact, that it really makes me want to know more about how people read faces, hair, etc, as I know we as humans are “supposed” to be able to discern sex/gender by faces alone. Not sure I agree with that premise at all.

Earlier this weekend, at cello class, Q had a substitute teacher who referred to him as “she.” I stuck by our agreement not to correct, but later, when explaining what solo Q was practicing, referred to him as he. Clearly, I’m his parent. In spite of this, the teacher kept referring to Q as “she” through the rest of the class. Q was wearing brown shorts and an orange shirt. And boyish sneakers (though they do have lots of silver on them!). His shorts have the slightest gather at the pockets, which I think is the clue that they come from the “girls'” side of the aisle. I think that the gender markers that the teacher picked up on, whatever they might be, were even stronger than my referring to my own kiddo as a boy.

Again, fascinating. Clearly, we are pulled to organize our world based on how we experience our world. And we experience so much through seeing. And what we see is filtered through our stereotypes, our prior experiences, etc. It’s so interesting how much is revealed when we hear folks talk about what they see through those lenses. Suddenly, the invisible filters in our minds become highly visible. And strong. So strong that they can withstand “correction” even by the parent of a child whose gender might be in question.


Of course we know what that pink schoolbag means...

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Recently, I was introduced to the AcceptingDad blog, which chronicles the life of a dad with a kiddo much like mine. A child born a boy, but who eschews many of the labels that so often come along with being a boy.

He’s got an amazing post that, to me, summarizes the “mission” of my blog. It’s always good to renew that purpose, that mission, so I figured I’d link it here. Thanks for these words, AcceptingDad.

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This morning, Q was looking through a catalog, pointing out things to me that he was interested in. The list included a take-apart model of the human body, a model of a solar house, a robotic arm, and many marble runs.

He’s really interested in how things work — looking carefully, taking things apart, etc. Out there in the wider world, one might say these are typical “boy” things that he’s interested in. Having only one kiddo, I don’t have a good point of comparison. I know, clearly, that there are both boys and girls interested in these things. For those who have boys similar to Q/who have pink boys, what are your boys interested in? There are plenty of fairies, etc in our house (of course!), but I always am intrigued when Q gravitates towards something more “traditionally boyish,” to follow stereotypes. I think my intrigue comes from seeing what natural likes and dislikes kids have when they are hemmed in less by gendered constraints.

I’d love to hear how this plays out for others.

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I’m so not a fan of “holidays” that are trumped up opportunities for commercialism. For me, Halloween is one of them, though not as bad as some.

We don’t do much in our family for Halloween, though Q usually has some sort of costume — last year, an entirely purple fairy. This year, a vampire. Mighty flexible in his presentations, that kid!

What irks me the most is how maddeningly stereotypical we (society) are about costumes and costume choices for kids. We expect boys to be pirate and girls to be princesses. Or perhaps boys to be lions and girls to be cute puppies. Or pandas. But the moment a girl dons a ghoulish costume or a boy puts on a fairy costume (or a tutu, for that matter), it’s shocking. Furthermore, that girl is accepted, and is perhaps “daring” to take on such a scary identity. The boy — the on in the fairy costume — he gets little more than sideways glances, perhaps a few whispered comments passed behind his back. Because society isn’t okay with that type of crossing the lines. Not for boys. And Halloween just turns a huge magnifying glass on those dynamics. Hence contributing to my distaste for the holiday. Call me uncool, lacking in the ability to have a good time…fine. All I’m saying is read between the lines a bit, and Halloween provides us a perfect chance to do just that.



This photo fails to capture the accompanying patent leather shoes.... 🙂

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Today Obama signed into law the Hate Crimes Bill. Inclusive of gender identity. Groundbreaking stuff, I tell you. And not an easy path. I have yet to hit the airwaves, so to speak, to here from those who decry this action. And yet I can’t help but honor those who have given their blood (literally), sweat, and tears in the fight to bring this bill to fruition. For that deep courage, thank you.


My own little guy’s fight against stereotypes, while certainly not as monumental, has definitely hit some bumps of late. Hence the many questions I’ve posed here. It’s been wonderful hearing from you. Those of you just stopping by for the first time (thanks NY Times parenting blog commenter for the mention!), welcome, and please do join in the conversation!

Q is in first grade, and the gendered pressures are definitely hitting him in a new way. While in kindergarten he wrote for his first writing assignment that something he likes about himself is that he breaks stereotypes, he’s now hitting some bumps in that road. Recently, his pink and purple bandanas have garnered him some teasing. And as he grows his hair out, he’s VERY choosy about what he’ll use to hold it back out of his eyes. Whereas headbands used to be de rigour last year, they are off the table as an option for school. He’s also making certain choices, explaining that they work “only on the weekends.” Partly, this breaks my heart, as he encounters the reality of society (albeit in his generally lovely and accepting, sheltered school environment). Yet he’s also been able to take this opportunity to grow his strength. To tell other kids that he can wear pink “because I like it!”

He has a new conviction behind his choices, and I so love that about this boy. He’s learning a bit more about what it means to stay true to his own likes and beliefs, and that will surely serve him well in life, whether it’s about what he wears, who he hangs out with, what he does for fun, or what he does for work.

And, this journey does take courage on his part. And brings some sadness and frustration on his part (and mine/ours). But I’m thinking that today’s signing of the Hate Crime Bill is a fine example of where these little acts of courage can get us. And I know that my boy’s courage will get us far, too.


All it takes is love as the lens!

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Recently, we attended a family wedding. When we first told Q about the wedding, he proclaimed his desire to wear his butterfly skirt and “get all fancy.” He was excited. But it wasn’t really the kind of place where that would work. I know, I know, we could have used it as a growing/learning/pushing boundaries opportunity, but really, other peoples’ weddings are about them, not about us and I think that toning things down, for want of a better word, was totally appropriate.

So we tried to get Q excited about a tie. It could have sparkles! Or Donald Duck! Or rainbows! Or something else wacky. He wasn’t buying it. I was certain we’d have a boy in black velvet pants (fancy yet hard to discern the material from afar) and a knit shirt. Not even one with a collar, as he’s really really not into collars.

Then out comes my brother at Christmas with a tie — a green, purple, and blue tie — some great colors. He bought it, cute guy, failing to realize that it was a kids tie (he’s got his first real out of college job, so we have to cut him some slack). He asked if Q might like it. We told him perhaps, but he never got to actually ask Q.

A month or so later, the tie arrived in the mail. And gracious could this boy have been more excited?!?!? A tie from Uncle S? It was like the best, fanciest thing he had ever gotten, according to his reaction. We had to put it on IMMEDIATELY. This involved wearing a tie with a knit shirt. And me watching a video to learn to tie it (I sheepishly admit). Thank goodness for the internets.

To capitalize on this excitement, I got two button down shirts the next day and he eagerly consented to trying them on with the tie. And then practiced cello in soft pants, button down shirt, and tie. My lovely wife’s jaw dropped upon viewing him.

Fast forward to the wedding and the real point of this post (other than getting back on the blogging bandwagon which I have recently fallen off hard). Q wore his tie, his button down shirt, his black velvet pants (and his snazzy zipper boots) to the wedding. And I can’t tell you how many people said the following,

“That boy or yours is so beautiful!”

And that, my friends, is amazing. Because, yes, I think he’s beautiful all the time. He loves feeling beautiful. But boys are so rarely equated with beauty. Especially in their “male fancies,” such as ties. And it’s not that I want the world to think Q is good looking. It’s the fact that folks could look at him and reach in their hearts to name their reaction and to call it beauty. Not to say he’s handsome. Or dashing. Or good looking. Or will make all the girls swoon. Or some other gendered compliment. No, they saw beauty. Which is what I see every day, but I think it’s hard for some to name when it comes to boys.

My beautiful boy!

My beautiful boy!

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