Monday, April 27, 2009

Gender Bender

My four year old son spent some time yesterday in a purple leotard dressed as his alter ego Masheila. She's a teen ager and likes Hannah Montana. I've indoctrinated them well, since this passes for scandalous in our home. Masheila sightings have become increasingly rare and I know one day she'll disappear entirely. And like the last time I breastfed him, I won't know she's gone for good until well after the fact.

Thelonious loves his penis and is quick to tell any female who will listen that she wishes she had one. But he happily assigns various dolls and stuffed animals genders based on a whim. Janet becomes Jackson, Tyler morphs into Thomasina and so on. And I'm made to feel foolish because I can't tell a boy from a girl.

This type of imaginative play, with it's blurred gender lines and relative absence of sexist stereotypes is something that I take for granted. During an outing to Target I realized that not all children are encouraged to look at the world with this fluidity.

Super heroes are much beloved in our household, although most of the movies are off limits at this point. My son was catatonically staring at a Spiderman DVD (so close, yet so far. Poor kiddo!) when a chatty girl about his age declared "I can't watch that!" He turned to her with sympathetic, knowing eyes and said " I know it's only appropriate for big kids". He was confused and I was a little shocked when she replied that "It's only for boys. Like Batman and Superman, girls only watch princess movies! A long time ago I wanted Spiderman pajamas and my mommy said NO!"

It was in this same Target 4 years ago that I bought my then 2 year old daughter a pair of Bob the Builder pajamas. The sweet lady at the register asked if I had a son at home. When told that they were for the smocked dress, helicopter bow wearing toddler in the cart she was taken aback. Given her expression, you would have thought I was purchasing a jock strap for Mirette.

I decided not to push my feminist agenda on an unsupervised preschooler in the movie aisle of a big box store. But I did have a "teachable" moment in the car with the little person whose world view I am responsible for helping to mold. We both decided that much like spanking, deciding what kind of movies you like because you are a boy or a girl is something that other people might do but is not o k in our family.

Laying it on thick and regular is what raising a Lefty in the South is all about.


  1. Good for you for not caving to all this ridiculous pressure to impose arbitrary gender norms on kids before they're old enough to understand what any of it means!!

  2. We do what we can, but it's a pain in the ass navigating what seems like an endless sea of stereotypes...