3.4. Deprogramming The Gender Identity

Boys like blue. Girls like pink. Boys are physical players. Girls are dainty and meek. Boys are loud. Girls are quiet. Boys get dirty, girls want to stay clean. Girls like Barbie dolls and Boys want to be G.I.Joe.

But not really.

I’m no stranger to having my (almost) four year old son wear my shoes, put on my makeup and tell me he’s a princess. He’s with me about 90% of the year so he is definitely influenced by what I say and do. But today was really a test on how accepting I am.

Keeping a promise, I took him to JCPenney and told him to pick out one toy. He perused the sections and finally decided on a Doc McStuffins play set. “The series is about a six-year-old girl who can “fix” toys, with a little help from her stuffed animal friends.”

Secondly, he wanted a play set from Sofia The First. I paused. Was it okay for me to buy him “girly” toys? Shamefully, I actually tried talking him out of it. “You want the Monsters, Inc toys, don’t you?” But he wasn’t having any of that. He knew what he wanted despite my attempted persuasion.

And I’m proud of him. Hypocritically, I let him watch both television shows but didn’t feel right buying him what I deemed “girly” toys. He’s going to be playing with princesses and a little girl and her pink lamb, I thought.

Well, what the hell is wrong with that? Doc is a little girl who takes after her mother and plays doctor to all of her stuffed animals. The show prides itself in having an all African American family and having the mother, instead of the father, play the role of doctor. This is empowering. Sofia, unlike most princesses, cares about all people no matter their social status and shows that there are no limits to what girls can do…another empowering thought.

Why should my son not love two entities that show girls and women in general in a powerful, helpful, awesome light? Don’t I want my son to view me in the very same way? A woman who works hard, who breaks gender stereotypes, and who can do and succeed just like anyone else?

My son is who he is. Playing with dolls isn’t going to change that. I am humbled in knowing that my son is far more open-minded than I ever assumed I was. I am proud that he does not see anything “wrong” with being excited about playing with a female doctor or a pretty princess. I am proud that he stood up to me and didn’t allow me to shove him into the confines of a blue, boys only do this, box.

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2 comments on “3.4. Deprogramming The Gender Identity

  1. So heart-warming the way you accept your son’s choices! Personally, I think that our children will grow up who they are no matter how we try to lead them in another direction. If your child is gay or trans, straight or cis, they’re gonna turn out that way no matter what you do. The only influence you’ll have is how f**ked up they are and how much self-loathing they hold towards themselves. Acceptance is so, so important from an early age. Besides which, tell me where in evolution human males evolved with a natural preference for blue and human females evolved with a natural preference for pink? As you note, it’s all a social construct anyway, and nothing to agonise over. Well done for being an awesome mom!

    • He really taught me a lot in that one incident about the programming we are subjected to from a very early age. It’s really about making that choice to say we have the freedom to be who we want to be despite what labels are thrust at us.

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