Sparkles and Stretchmarks’ blog post this week about Disney’s confusion over allowing a boy to attend their Princess day experience has got me thinking.
I’d consider myself a feminist. I try to educate myself about the issues facing LGBT+ people, and I hope I’d be considered an ally! I am anti gendered toys (I write, as my son charges around the kitchen with his baby doll in a buggy).
But what would I do if my son asked for pink sparkly shoes?
I’ll be honest, this has already happened once, and I’m not sure I’m proud of the fact that I said no.
In my defence, as weak as this sounds, I could only afford to get him one pair of shoes, and they had to be suitable for every occasion – I’m sure parents of girls would try to divert them away from the sparkly ones if they were in the same situation.
Now that he’s a bit older, and I don’t mind the thought of him being in cheap Primark shoes instead of expensive Clarks ones from time to time, pink sparkly shoes don’t sound as financially scary. Obviously, I’d worry that he’d be the butt of some less than intelligent comments, but I know that the people who matter would not have a problem with it.
X is an intelligent 3 year old who knows his own mind. He wants long hair, he often has his nails painted, and on the rare occasion we go clothes shopping, I let him pick. He loves cars more than life and that’s entirely his choice – they were never pushed on him, and he’s always had a variety of toys, including those more traditionally associated with girls.
The prevalence of campaigns like #lettoysbetoys, and the results of the BBC documentary “No More Boys and Girls” proves that we are, as parents, becoming more aware that “traditional” gender ideas could actually be damaging our children’s potential.
I grew up as a bit of a tomboy – I’m still not hugely keen on floaty dresses, or bright pink fluffy things. But that’s not seen as anything bad – whereas if a boy shows more interest in skirts and sparkles they’re brandished as “girly” like it’s something negative.
If we define anything for girls as being “not good enough” for boys, that’s how our children will grow up to see the world – with men the stronger and more capable. And that’s not just a bad thing for girls – boys are growing up expecting to be silent and “man up” when it comes to problems. X came home from nursery saying “big boys don’t cry” and it broke my heart – such messages, and expectations, are the root cause of the high rate of male suicide. This isn’t something that should be ingrained in our children’s moldable minds at such an early age!
What if my son wants Pink Sparkly Shoes?
If a young boy feels happy in a princess dress, we should encourage that freedom of expression, that imagination. Telling them now that he must act and behave in a certain way just because of his genitalia is bonkers. It wasn’t that long ago that pink was considered “too strong” a colour for girls, and blue “too weak” for boys – times change and so should we. I often find myself quoting the legend that is Tim Minchin – “I don’t believe just ‘cos ideas are tenacious it means they’re worthy“. Just because something has been done a certain way for a long while it doesn’t make it RIGHT.
I know Disney have confirmed that it isn’t in their policy to deny boys the same experiences as girls at their parks, and I believe they have since changed some wording on their website after Hayley at Sparkles and Stretchmarks wrote her post – which is great, and I hope her little boy enjoys his Princess day! I remember, many moons ago, going out for a meal with my family, and a clown came round making balloon animals. My brother asked for a sword, and was made one. I asked for one too – so we could play fight, obviously – but the clown refused and gave me a flower. It really upset me, even then, that I wasn’t “allowed” something purely because I was a girl.
Equality is a two way street – and until we’re able to stop treating boys and girls differently in childhood, we’ll never get there.
Oh, and I still used that damn flower as a sword, by the way. 🙂