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Tiny Tyger, Baby Bear and Me: Yes, I Bought my Son a Dress

Saturday 28 February 2015

Yes, I Bought my Son a Dress

Tyger loves Frozen.  I already mentioned his love of the film - and the infuriating gender stereotypes this threw up for me - in my first blog post here.  Tyger especially loves Elsa.  In fact, one of the nicest compliments you can receive from Tyger is 'You're Elsa' because, by that, he means you look pretAty and he likes what you're wearing.  He really likes Elsa's dress...as do thousands of other little kids (and probably lots of adults) and - just like thousands of other kids - he has a little dress-up version of his own.

Yes, I bought my son a dress.

Most of my friends and family are of the more liberal and/or educated persuasion so I don't have to put up with many comments from people I know but I go on forums, I read the news and I know pretty much every workman/engineer/delivery man/random person in a cafe who has spoken to Tyger has assumed he's a girl simply because he has long hair.

Oh yeah, my son has long hair as well.  And, in an age when it's generally pretty socially acceptable for teenage boys and grown men to have long hair, I really wasn't prepared for just how baffled people would be by it!

There have been a few 'he needs a hair cut' comments (ha! - I'd like to see you try.  When I trim his fringe I strap him into his dining chair booster seat, give him a biscuit and then hack away as much as I can before he finishes the biscuit and starts thrashing his head from side to side so I don't know how anyone would manage to cut more off) but for the most part people simply don't consider the possibility he could be a boy.  They see his hair and assume he's a girl.  And, no, none of these times were when he was wearing his dress.  When he's dressed in typically 'boy' clothes (jeans, a t-shirt with cars on, navy and green dinosaur trainers) all anyone seems to look at is his hair.  I mean, both the clothes and hair are based on silly stereotypes, obviously, but apparently one massively outranks the other.

'She's lovely.'

'Ha!  She's chatty, isn't she?'

'You're a very confident little girl!'

These are pretty typical.  And what - ypu might wonder - do I say in response?  Nothing.  Because there's nothing wrong with being a girl so I don't see it as an insult and because Tyger doesn't care.  He's only just started to be aware of gender/sex.  In fact, yesterday morning's conversation was as follows:

Tyger: Daddy's a man.
Me: Yes, Daddy is a man.
Tyger: You're a girl.
Me: Hmm...a girl or maybe a woman?
Tyger: No, you're a girl.
Me: Oh, okay.
Tyger: I'm a boy.
Me: And what's Baby Bear?
Tyger: A monkey!

Plus - and let's be honest here - all babies and a lot of toddlers look pretty androgynous.  Babies look like wrinkly, purply bald men whether they're male or female and toddlers often look pretty indistinguishable in terms of gender (if you remove all the markers like hair clips and gender specific toys and clothes...and hair styles!).  So, I don't get angry about Tyger being called a girl, I don't make a fuss, I don't say anything at all.  But it does perplex me.  I currently have short hair (well, right now, I actually have a mess of hair that was short and has now partly grown out into a bit of a bird's nest) but I have never had someone mistake me for a man.  People accept adult men can have long hair and adult women may have short hair but small children must always fit into to comfy gender roles society has laid out for them.

This is the same reason some people would object to the fact Tyger has - amongst his train set and cars and dinosaurs and rocket and cuddly tiger - a toy kitchen, a doll and buggy, a doll house, a cuddly unicorn and pink slippers.  You know one of the worst arguments I've read on a forum?  Having dolls might turn a little boy gay.  (Yeah, seriously.)  Now, let's think about this for a minute.  I'm going to go ahead and assume the sort of person who thinks a plastic toy can change a person's sexual orientation is probably the same sort of person who objects to gay marriage and LGBT people having/adopting kids.  Given this, they probably associate parenthood with heterosexuality  Sooo...they are saying a boy pretending to be a parent - generally achieved through having sex with a member of the opposite sex - will somehow make them want to have sex with members of their own sex.  That's on a par with boys calling each other gay because they show an interest in girls.  It makes no logical sense whatsoever.

Now, I feel I should point out that whilst I in no way think Tyger playing with these toys or wearing pink or dresses or a Goram bin bag or anything else will turn him gay/bi/transgender, the Wolf and I would not be in any way upset or disappointed if it turns out he is.  Because a) we're his parents and we love him no matter what and b) who cares??  What harm does it do anyone?  Why is this even an issue in 2015?

So, I'll carry on buying Tyger (and Baby Bear as he gets older and has his own preferences) whatever toys he shows an interest in because there are no 'boys' toys' and 'girls' toys', there are just toys.  And, I'll keep his hair long until he is of an age when he can decide for himself what length he wants it.  And, I'll carry on letting him wear a fracking dress if he wants.

The dress is actually sat on a shelf right now because Tyger managed to rip it and I'm patching it up.  My sewing is functional, if not necessarily as aesthetically pleasing as it could be, but luckily Tyger won't care if the stitching is visible because he'll feel special when he wears it.  He'll feel like a princess, which I can only see as a good thing.

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At 5 November 2015 at 03:29 , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I absolutely love this post and I think more people need to read it. When a little girl dons a football jersey and goes to football class at age 3, it's cute. But when a little 3 yr old boy puts on an Elsa dress, people have something to say about it. I just don't get it. Especially the whole "He'll turn out gay if he plays with dolls." Grr...how about "Look how nurturing he is, one day he'll make a great dad." Things are def. changing and many parents are starting to break out of the stereotype mold but I think we still have a long way to go sadly.

At 11 November 2015 at 06:53 , Blogger Lady Nym said...

Thank you. Absolutely - nobody cares when a girl decides to dress in a stereotypically masculine way but everyone seems shocked when it's the other way round.


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