Letting Life Lead
I grew up in the 70s and 80s and I am well aware that there were plenty of gender biased issues in those days. Yet, at the same time there didn’t seem to be the strong color, clothing, and toy segregation that there is now in my recollection. Not that there weren’t any — Rock ’em Sock ’em Robot commercials only ever featured boys for example (much to my irritation even as a little girl, I hated commercials that featured only boys playing with certain toys). Yet, that was the past and it seems as if we are still sliding backwards instead of stepping forward into the 21st century.
Sometimes I like to step back into the Wayback Machine and go diving through Youtube. Today, I was thinking about when I was about four or five and I wanted Underoos for Christmas. I didn’t want Princess Leia, I wanted C3P0 and R2D2. Now, it is true that then a girl could wear “boy” orientated items, but a boy was strongly discouraged from “girl” orientated items. So the 70s were no more the Golden Age than the 50s! That said, it wasn’t as segregated by color as it is these days. Here is a very typically cheesy 70s commercial. They are all equally singing a silly jingle, performing horrible choreography, and not a Princess in sight (no offense to princesses, I like princesses. Especially armed princesses. I also have a soft spot for Snow White. She is who she is…a princess from 1937 who had a super power that allowed her to talk to animals and make them do her bidding. She also had a cool cape.)
It is okay to laugh and groan and watch it more than once. I won’t judge, as long as you don’t judge me for actually getting sidetracked and looking up to see if they still sold these things. Hold the phone, it seems that they do (I’m serious). If I can find R2D2 I am buying pair.
When I had my daughter, I knew that I was going to have a challenge on my hands, but I didn’t realize just how hard it was going to be to teach her that “toys are for everyone”, “colors are for everyone,” and the all important “your gender does not limit your interests or ambition.” There was nary an article of clothing on display in stores without pink on it. A next door neighbor boy, I overheard tell her when she was three that he was a boy so he needed to have the blue net, and she could play with the other one (both of which were hers.) I was happy to notice that she refused to trade. On another occasion, she was wearing a gray t-shirt with a train on it and a little girl on the playground asked her why she was wearing a boy’s shirt. I was quite relieved at the time that she said, “I like trains.” Now that she’s five, a time or two I’ve heard her say, “That’s for boys because it has a boy on the box.” I was crushed a little inside. More and more I hear small things like that from her, and it angers me that I have to assure her that she can play with whatever toy she wants, and like whatever she wants. Just yesterday, I was reading a post by a friend on Facebook whose relative was insistent that her two year old daughter not wear Thomas the Train Underwear because, “she’s a girl.”
I didn’t know trains had penises!
And then my son came along and I am dreading how hard it is going to be for him for simply choosing to wear a pink shirt, or to wear Tinkerbell roller skates. We already get surprised looks sometimes when we are out and he’s wearing a lavender and purple coat. It is his sister’s hand me down and I see no reason to buy him a drab gray and olive-green coat just because he has a penis. Sometimes he ends up in pink pants because that’s what was grabbed. What sense does it make to get rid of good shoes, winter gear, and clothing simply because my children are opposite genders? If my daughter wants Lighting McQueen rain boots and my son is happy wearing the pink and green circle boots — what’s the issue? And it doesn’t matter if I had my daughter in pink — she was often mistaken a boy. There are days when my son is in head to toe gray and blue and still gets called she. There will be a lot of pressure on him to conform, and it breaks my heart to think of any part of his natural personality being suppressed.
These incidences of gender error do not bother me (not a big deal), what bothers me is that the “clothing and toy rules” mean nothing, yet is held to be everything. My children both like cars, trains, Play Doh, Lego, dolls and My Little Pony. They’ll equally use the pink blanket to make a tent as the brown one. Both of them are athletic though my daughter is stronger and more physical and reckless, while my son is much more agile and calculating and precise. What they wear, how they wear their hair, or what colors they play with are irrelevant to these skills.
It bugs me when people say, “He’s all boy.” or “She’s all girl.” That means what? That he’s athletic, so that means a boy is not all boy because he’s not physical? Or a girl is not really all girl if she’s a thrill seeker? Being into clothing doesn’t make you “all girl”, it makes you interested in fashion and likely interested in artistic expression. Being high energy doesn’t make you all boy, it makes you energetic and maybe skilled at athletics. There is a real problem with the language we use to describe children. They notice!
Not that long ago pink was considered a masculine color. FDR wore a dress with lace, donned a frilly hat, and buckle shoes. A boy getting his first pair of trousers was a rite of passage. Boys in the 70s had long hair, but these days if you have a son with luscious locks people accuse you of turning him into a girl (sorry, Fabio). Even in the 80s of questionable fashion, there wasn’t this much fuss over colors–neon blinds everyone equally. Why is it that if a boy wants to play dress up or just wear a skirt, suddenly the fabric comes with a vagina? Do kilts come with equipment I don’t know about that makes them different? There is a market for Utility Kilts out there, and it is a shame that to see one is rare.
Why haven’t we moved past these useless rules yet?
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Author of suspense novels Search For Maylee, Aggravated Momentum, The Stix, and New Age Lamians. As well as the short story collection Time Wasters and (co-author of) The Suspenseful Collection. Columnist for The Conscious Talk Magazine.
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