July 16, 2012. The day we found out we were having a daughter. From that date on, we had one very specific request. Please don’t get us a bunch of pink shit. We don’t need tutus and pants with “princess” or “diva” printed on the ass. We don’t need “girly” legos so Ruby can build a nail salon. Can we please avoid busty yet anorexic, hyper-sexualized dolls? At least half of the clothes we purchased for Ruby we found in the boys department. Did you know they don’t sell awesome pirate attire for girls? Yaaaarrrr!
But this isn’t a post about how we wanted to avoid pushing gender normative behavior onto our daughter. I have much to say on that subject, but I’ll save that rant for another day.
As I began to think about having a second child, it occurred to me that we might have a boy. And if we have a boy, we’ll need to buy a bunch of new clothes because despite our request to avoid a bunch of pink shit, we had a bunch of pink shit. As soon as that thought leaked from my brain, I realized that my views on gender norms weren’t as enlightened as I believed them to be. I can say with 100% certainty that if my son showed a preference for “girly” things, I’d be totally supportive and would encourage him express himself in his own way. But would it occur to me to voluntarily dress him in the pink shit? Nope. Hello, cognitive dissonance.
I suppose what really bugs me about this realization is the implication that there is something inherently undesirable about exhibiting “girly” preferences or traits. It is fine for me to encourage my daughter to play with trucks and to embrace more masculine qualities, but I somehow have an aversion to actively encouraging my hypothetical son to wear sparkles and hearts and pink nail polish. I am not okay with that. I realize this is a self-imposed mindset and it is one that I intend to work on. But it cannot be denied that this way of thinking is a symptom of living in a sexist culture.
At this point, I don’t have the answers. And I don’t have a son. But I do feel this is a conversation worth having. As a society, we need to figure out why femininity is considered to be a character flaw. It isn’t. Please, though, no more pants with gendered messages printed on the ass.