My son was three when I bought him his first dress.
I used to travel a lot and I’d tell him about the countries I was about to visit and then he’d suggest things to bring back for him. He requested a snow globe from Croatia, a robot from Japan and when I told him about Las Vegas, he asked me to bring him a dress that went up when you spun around in it. So I did.
To his three-year-old mind the dress was just a novelty. Something he’d seen other kids wearing and wanted to discover for himself. Any feelings I had about boys wearing dresses belonged to me, not him. And I had none.
Later he asked for a pram for his teddybear and then dolls to replace it with. He’d push them around the garden, pretend to feed them and change their nappies.
When I asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up he said, “A Dad.”
He’s nine now and he hasn’t asked for any more dresses. The dolls and prams have been replaced by Minecraft and Lego for the most part. When I ask him what he wants to be one day, the answer has become, “I dunno… can you make money inventing things? Oh, and I want to be a Dad.”
He also has his first girlfriend who likes Minecraft and Lego as much as he does.
The older my sons get, the harder I find it to combat the dodgy gender stereotyping manifest in the world around them. Lego is separated into pink and blue boxes and dolls aren’t packaged for boys. Why is that? Are we afraid that boys grow up to be really good at taking care of kids? Why would girls be less interested in Lego superheroes and ninjas?
The world, by all appearances, has been assembled by a generation of men raised by women and desperately seeking a replacement for a mythical matriarch that achieved perfection only in their pre-pubescent minds.
No women comes close to the queen of their childhood universe, which they’ve enshrined in the aisles of toy stores and on the covers of magazines. In this realm men are absent and distracted. When they are around, they’re drinking beer and fixing things, in-between fights.
Ladies are “different”.
When you challenge them to point out the differences beyond the obvious physical hollows and protrusions, however, they’re stumped.
The most cogent argument I’ve heard amounted to, “They’re just different, OK?”
But they aren’t.
Girls like guns and trucks and spaceships just as much as boys like dolls and ponies and dresses that swoosh up when you dance in them. Except when they don’t.
The point is that boys and girls don’t look at things as being made for one gender or the other. They get that shit from adults. And adults get that shit from one of the most tragic demographics of modern history.
That being the same guy who’s asking when it’ll be International Men’s Day or lamenting the fact that Black History gets an entire month.
Yeah, girls aren’t like boys — because they’ve been disadvantaged in a way no man can understand. The fallout of that legacy is a world that makes it difficult for both girls and boys to be whoever they want.
Also posted on Medium