The Princess and The Gender Role

131 Comments

This past Christmas, we were in line to see Santa when it happened again.

A mom close by asked my children — ages six and eight– what they were going to ask Santa for. My six year old rattled off the list he had been sharing with anyone who asked, “the American Girl Doll of the Year Saige, the ponytail you can get to make her hair longer and black high heel boots size 10 and a half.”

The mom shifted her eyes to me and I got the smile and blank look. I know that look by now. It’s the “I don’t know what to say, I wasn’t expecting that answer” look.

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My six-year-old is a boy. He is a boy who loves his pink backpack and pink lunch box. He is a boy who loves musicals and princesses. He is a boy who loves dress up and make believe. He is a boy who loves life. We realize this may not be the “norm” for most six-year-old boys, but you would really be surprised how many people tell you their stories when they hear his.

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Bren went to his school Halloween party this past year as Merida from Brave — wig, dress, heels and all. It is his first year in a big public school and he is a first grader. He walked with confidence into the gym and had a blast dancing with his friends. It was almost as if he was unaware that it would be odd for a boy to show up in a princess dress. Afterward, a teacher told me how proud he was of Bren, the school community for their acceptance, and our family for letting him choose what he wanted and supporting him.

We have heard that before, people “impressed” with our parenting and letting Bren be Bren.

My husband and I talk about parenting often and we come to the same conclusion in every conversation. How can you not let your child be who they are?  It may be the Montessori education we got while the boys attended preschool to “follow the child,” but really we cannot imagine saying ‘no’ to this enthusiastic free spirit who may be the bravest person we have ever known. There is nothing impressive about letting your child be who they are, it is just love. In the same way we encourage our older son Aidan to explore his interests for science and math, we let Bren explore his interests, which have lead us to theater.

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Bren had the opportunity last Summer to perform with older children in a play. In his role, he was needed for two weeks of rehearsals and six performances. He was at practice for 10 hours a day including travel time.  More important than the play and experience on stage, Bren met older boys, 12 and 13 years old. They thought his pink lunch box was cool. They sang songs from Legally Blonde the Musical with him. They gave him tips backstage and invited him to sit with them at lunch. The girls certainly did the same, but Bren is used to relating to girls. I truly believe these boys gave him his confidence. It let him see there are others like him.

By the way, Santa did bring Bren the American Girl doll, ponytail and high heel boots.

He was on the nice list, so how could Santa not?

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Related post: Blurred (Gender) Lines

Comments

The Scary Mommy Community is built on support. If your comment doesn't add to the conversation in a positive or constructive way, please rethink submitting it. Basically? Don't be a dick, please.

    • 3

      says

      Sadly, being a “girlish” boy is looked upon as a bad thing by many parents, whereas we are fine with “tomboy” girls. Heaven forbid if a boy wants to experiment with nail polish, not get a buzz cut, or play football — the world will come to a crashing halt!

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    • 4

      says

      When tomboy girls were first released in the world I am sure there were awkward looks, whispers and everything else. With time the world learns to accept (some types of people 300 years after everyone else) what was once frowned upon and accept it as the normal. The people who are most unsure are the people have the most to hide about what is going on in their life. It takes a few people to break the mold and others follow. I really loved this story

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      • 5

        Lynn says

        Joan of arc was accused of terrible things part of which was because she dared to wear pants and armor. They were viewed as only something men could wear. She was burned at the stake for those “crimes” among others. Thank goodness we have evolved and have become so much more accepting. I never understand why people have such a problem with something out of the norm.

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  1. 7

    says

    LOL! I worked in day care and there was a boy who loved dressing up as a princess. Unfortunately one of my rude co-workers thought he was gay. Which isn’t a bad thing. But why label a child because he’s wearing a dress at 4? She still works there and is still rude about the kids. *eye roll*

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    • 8

      says

      Seriously!! Why is the assumption always “oh, he’ll grow up to be gay…” (Aside from, what the heck’s wrong with that?), that’s just stupid. At 4, 5, 6, their sexuality is still developing. For godsakes, why do we have to start labeling them so young? Just let a child grow and learn and discover. I have plenty of guy, and girl, friends who are into theater- my daughter is one of them- and no one asks about her sexuality!

      My son played with dresses, dolls, and makeup at this age too. He’s 14 now, and firmly hetero. And you know what? I wouldn’t care if he weren’t, but he got plenty of those blank looks back then. Yet, it was perfectly normal, developmentally appropriate, and fine for my daughter to play with her brother’s matchbox cars and action figures!

      What gives? :-p

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      • 9

        Jo says

        Exactly Mary! My 6 year old son has loved dressing up in pink things and princess clothes since he was almost 2 years old. My 8 year old daughter loves wearing “surfer” board shorts and riding her rip-stick. They are great, happy, eloquent, respectful, polite, well adjusted kids who are free to develop themselves into the people they want to be.

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  2. 10

    Tina says

    Good for you!! It is hard. My daughter is a total tomboy…Everything she picked for school this year, was Teenage Mutant Ninga Turtles and a lot of other parents will say good for you for letting her do it…really if she wanted Frozen, no one would of thought anything. If we don’t love our children as they as….how do we expect them to love and accept themselves.

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  3. 12

    says

    Our second son is gender nonconforming. His entire new school wardrobe was purchased from the “girls side” of the store. He’s so excited to show off his new duds! He has had a My Little Pony party, and this year had a Little Mermaid party. We are lucky to live in such an accepting community. He leads, we follow. That’s our motto. :)

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  4. 13

    Bettie says

    This makes me happy. And a little jealous. I can’t imagine my husband being ok with me letting/encouraging our son to wear “girlie” items. You should hear what he has to say about our friends who let their sons wear nail polish… :(

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  5. 15

    says

    Im going to respectfully disagree with this. A parent can love their child enough to say no to protect them too. Youre very lucky to live in such an accepting community. Not everyone does. I dont know how school will be for my son when he gets into kindergarten but until i do, im going to veto the pink pencil case.

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    • 16

      JHana says

      How about instead of forcing our kids to be someone they’re not to protect them from jerks, we teach kids not to be jerks? For what it’s worth, Bren is well aware that there are people in the world who might find his choices distasteful. HIs parents don’t “protect” him from that reality. He doesn’t give a shit.

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    • 17

      says

      I can understand your concern there Amber Oneill. I appreciate you responding back to me. Thank you for that. I appreciate the fact that you are opinion minded about the issue & would consider erasing some of the gender norm lines there if your kid wanted you too so long as the environment was a safe enough one for him to do so & so long as he could understand the consequences that come along with those actions. I can respect that.

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    • 18

      says

      I agree with you Amber. I’m not just a mom but an elementary school teacher and kids can be MEAN. this doesn’t mean I would keep my son from exploring his interests, but I would not let him wear a princess costume to school. I’ve seen how kids treat other kids and I would not feel okay to let that happen to my son if it was possible to stop.

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    • 19

      says

      Why does every jump to that being their true personality. They are testing the waters and you push them in and tell them to swim to the other side. Why can’t you just guide them to be a boy? Is that sooo freakin terrible? Is this the she-woman man haters club?

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      • 20

        Heather says

        He is a boy. He doesn’t need guiding to “be” a boy. He is, biologically, male. Full stop. Just the same as he is wearing boy clothes. He’s a boy and he’s wearing clothes, ergo… boy clothes. At 6 (and based on what’s presented in this article) this is not so much an expression of gender identity but rather an expression of personal preference for entertainment. I don’t like reality TV despite it’s popularity. I suppose I’m non-conforming in that way. And yet, no one is making me change or telling me that I’m “doing it wrong”. Curious.

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    • 21

      says

      The thing here is no one is trying to force boys to bend gender norms. No one here is trying to make little boys dress like & act like little girls. However parents here do believe that if their little boys really really want to wear a disney princess dress & that’s obviously a part of their personalities than they wont try to hinder their free spirit either or try to make them be something other than who they are just to fit societal norms. I am glad to hear though that even with your more admittedly old fashioned thinking you still inspire your sons to be compassionate & kind & still inspire your daughters to be educated & independent as all mothers should. That’s a lot more open minded then some. I can appreciate that.

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