Mothers dream; they imagine girls in pink, nail polish dates and barbie dolls. Other mothers dream about little girls dressed up in career outfits, outlawing barbie dolls for what they could represent in poor body image and gender limitations.
My three year old daughter has declared to me outright and with vim and vigor, that she would like to be a boy. She also told me Barbie is to be called, Mr. Barbie. This was where I drew the line.
Now, I already have two girly girls – I am very fulfilled in the pink department. My barbie bins overflow. I have a boyish boy too – so I don’t want for any male wanderer grunting in my home. I am very content to let my youngest grow into whomever she would like. But, I don’t see how she can possibly become a boy, or why she’d want to! I examine further. “Why do you want to be a boy?” I ask.
“Mommy, I want to be a boy because they have black tie shoes.”
“I have to be a boy if I want to be a cowboy.”
“I am a boy, because I am working with my tools.”
“I want to be a boy because boys can yell and scream. No one tells a boy to be quiet.”
“I want to be a boy because Kings are the best. Queens are yukky. If I have to, I’ll be a prince.”
How does one break these stereotypes down so that my daughter feels that she can be anyone she wants and still remain proud to be a female?
I searched my parenting books, my friends for advice and even the Internet. I have come up with tons of advice for boys who want to be girls (and the no-no apparently that could be for parents) but, really don’t come up with anything more than my daughter who is into sports, tools and wrestling is labeled a Tomboy.
Tomboy. Even the term is sexist. Why can’t a girl just like power tools and football? Why must we steer our daughters away from the Lego and race cars, directly pushing them towards the baby doll section at the toy store? Why does my 3 year old pickup on these stereotypes so incredibly early – especially being surrounded by girls and boys?
Who decided girl’s have to like pink?
In the early 1800’s, it was actually customary for men to wear dresses up until they were around age seven. For many, this was also the time of the boy’s first haircut. There are even photographs of President Roosevelt wearing a dress, complete with long curls and patent leather shoes. The color gender specifics weren’t even established until around the late 1920s, when Time Magazine published pink and blue outfits on their cover. Fashion picked up on this and went on through the years establishing a definite color coding for boys and girls. I even have a picture of my father in the late 1940’s wearing an awfully feminine outfit!
This is from Smithsonian.com :
As we all know, the 1950s style was all about gender role. Little girls stayed home with their frilly dresses and bows, playing with “girly toys” and boys were able to be rough and tough outside the home with their GI Joe and sports toys. Not so coincidentally, this was the birth of Ms. Barbie – a feminine style icon.
Women got angry at the pigeon-holing and much like my daughter, fought the gender roles. Women started wearing ties, pants and even male looking suits in the 70s and 80s as the liberation movement and career roles started growing. But, still the Barbies hung on…only now Barbie was not just a homemaker, she now came complete with a stewardess uniform or secretarial outfit. Still stereotypes but, it was progress.
For the past thirty years or so gender pinks and blues still maintain even as we try to become a more politically correct nation. We have changed over to flight attendants, letter carriers and fire fighters to allow room for men and women to become whatever they would like. However, my 3 year old has still picked up on home repairs being completed by men and black sneaker being attribute to male basketball players.
So, now it’s time to look at where she’s been getting her information. I guess I am guilty of only hiring male home repairers however, I have yet to see a woman take on this role! We are surely guilty of exposing our daughter to male sports and not any Women’s Basketball and that can certainly be changed. However, there is also the aspect of acceptance, trial and error.
Psychologists claim children to not know that their gender is permanent until the age of 7 or so. Perhaps, once my daughter realized that she is permanently a girl, she will be able to accept that she is not ever going to be a King but, most definitely a Queen is equally as powerful and wonderful!
I pray that in my daughter’s future, she never needs to hire a male contractor to repair things around the house, but instead may become handy herself! I know that in her future she can most definitely play sports, love black sneakers and wear blue. I also hope that the term ‘Tomboy’ becomes obsolete. I also wish for Barbie to take a dive off a pier and come out a normal-hipped, small chested, size 14 body, short, brown, average hair, black sneakers and a tool belt! A girl can dream…