Family / Kids / Parenting

Combatting gender stereotypes

Dharmavaram I’ve written a bit about my desire to temper some of the stronger (more ridiculous) messages about gender to allow my son to understand how he relates to gender on his own. My main goal is to encourage him to be exactly who he is. The truth is I don’t suspect his gender identity will fall under the trans* umbrella, rather that he has every child’s natural inclination to explore and revel in the world around them. Of course if he does identify as gender queer we are on board with that. I don’t want to limit that innate love of color or sparkles that I’ve seen discouraged in young boys – just as I don’t want to discourage my daughter’s love of trucks. The trick is, that encouraging kids to be exactly who they are comes with the flip side of preparing them for a world that is set up to discourage gender non-conforming behavior.

We were faced with this for the first time recently because Leo is pleased as punch with the pink shoes we bought to complete his Doc McStuffins Halloween costume. In fact, he’s worn them just about every day since. One day, he was running around the playground and I overheard another kid ask his parent, “Is that a girl? I think that’s a boy. Why is he wearing pink shoes?” The parent was flustered and answered with a curt, “I don’t know,” as they shuffled their child out of the area. Leo didn’t catch the exchange, but it reminded me that I should arm him with some answers to questions like this. This boy wasn’t being aggressive or antagonistic – he really was just curious because a boy wearing pink shoes isn’t the norm in our world. So later that day, I broached the subject with Leo.

“Do you want to hear something silly?”


“There are people who think that only girls like pink and that only boys like dinosaurs.”

*genuine giggle*

“I’m serious. It’s a little strange, but some people have really silly ideas about what some people should and shouldn’t like or do.  Like for a while, lots of people thought girls shouldn’t be allowed to vote.”

*hysterical laughter*  I have to assure him several times that I’m not making this factoid up.

“What would you say if someone told you that you couldn’t like the color pink?”

“I don’t know. I’d say colors are for everyone?”

“That’s a great answer. You are right. You can like anything you want to like.  There aren’t any rules about boys liking one thing and girls liking something else.”

“Ok. Did you know that Pteranadons aren’t dinosaurs?”

I should have known better than to mention dinosaurs if I wanted to make a point that was not dinosaur related. Anyway, I think the conversation went okay. I guess we won’t know until the situation arises, but I do hope that if someone suggests that he shouldn’t be rocking his awesome pink shoes his reaction will be less, “Oh crap, why didn’t anyone tell me pink was a girl color?” and more “That is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. Next you’ll try to tell me that my parents aren’t allowed to be legally married.”


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One Comment

  1. I had to search for Pteranodons to find out that a flying reptile is not a dinosaur. I learn so much here. Also, keep up the great work!

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