Gender (In)Equality: What About The Boys?

by Tiffany Skrezyna
Originally Published: 

I recently read an article about two moms who, frustrated with the lack of variety in girls’ clothing, created a clothing line featuring rocket ships, trains and dinosaurs, among other prints — all designs that can typically only be found in the boys’ section of a clothing store.

This got me thinking.

Related: Why Gender Neutral Clothing Can Be Problematic

I love the idea of girls’ clothing with “boy” designs. Love it.

However … what about the flip side of this issue? What about the boys who want typical “girl designs” on their clothes? What about the boys who want to be Elsa for Halloween instead of Olaf?

What about the boys?

I know that, as a woman, I’m supposed to be supportive of women’s rights and gender equality — and I am. I want to be able to achieve anything a man can achieve, and I want to be judged solely on my intelligence and positive qualities, not on my gender. I want that for my three girls as well.

So no, I’m not taking issue with the fact that finally, the desire of girls to be superheroes and astronauts and scientists is being addressed. I’m not taking issue with the fact that people are starting to speak up and do something about it, nor that it seems that just about everybody is able to support this type of gender equality.

Women can do anything men can do.

Girls can like anything boys can like.

Boys, on the other hand …

I look at it this way.

If one of my girls ends up preferring pants to dresses, sports to dance, or any number of activities that make her less “girly,” no one will think twice. If she is athletic, her athletic ability will be applauded. If she is smart, her intelligence will take her far in life. If she is simply a girl who likes to play outside and get dirty, I can tell you right now that everyone I know will encourage that. I’ll post pictures of her on Facebook with her hands in the mud and get hundreds of likes and comments. Guess what none of those comments will say?

“Hey, don’t you think you should encourage her to pursue more girly interests?”

“Pretty sure if you let her play sports she will become a lesbian.”

And here’s where I get upset. Here’s where the mama bear in me comes out. My perfect, adorable 5-year-old is that boy who wanted to be Elsa for Halloween. He ended up loving his costume, but we had to piece it together because no store sells a “Boy Elsa” costume, and even in preschool, I did not even want to think of what the other kids would say to my guy if I let him wear a dress to school.

My 5-year-old loves My Little Pony also — and have I ever been able to find a My Little Pony t-shirt for him? No. I can buy my daughters any number of superhero t-shirts; even if I end up buying from the boys’ department, the shirts are gender-neutral enough that I don’t have to worry about other kids being cruel. All the shirts in the girls’ department, though, have ruffles on the sleeves, are various shades of pink, white and purple, or have ribbons and bows on them.

As a mom, this becomes my constant dilemma. Yes, buying my son a girl’s shirt now would make him happy. What happens, though, when I let him wear that shirt to school and a couple of mean kids make comments about his shirt? He’s sensitive enough as it is. I feel as though my husband and I are constantly walking that fine line between encouraging him to be who he is and making sure that we aren’t sending him into the line of fire, so to speak. I know firsthand how much a few cruel comments from peers can hurt and begin to stomp out that special something that makes you “you,” and I want to protect my son from that, and so yes, that means being careful of what I let him wear to school.

So … why aren’t we talking about this side of gender inequality?

Why are we focusing on encouraging our girls to be whoever they are and do whatever they want while ignoring our boys?

And why, why, why does society as a whole, and well-meaning family members and friends on a smaller scale, feel the need to say things like this to me and my husband:

“Don’t you think you should encourage other interests? Perhaps steer him in another direction?”

– Oh, you mean, don’t I think I should tell my son to stop liking what he likes and like cars or trucks or something boyish? Nope.

“Your son is totally going to be gay. He totally is.”

– Really? You know that for a fact? Oh … wait, am I supposed to care if my son is gay? I care if my son is happy.

“You’re going to teach him to be gay.”

– That’s. Not. Even. A. Thing.

So please, let’s talk about this. Let’s break the negative stereotype that says that boys can only like certain things while girls can do anything. Let’s push for acceptance across the board, not just for one gender. Please. This mama is fed up.

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