At a recent library event, two sisters and their mother were doing crafts next to my five-year-old daughter. All three were decked out in skirts, lots of jewelry, and even those trendy, bird-killing feather hair accessories that are so popular right now.
The girls, who were around my daughter’s age, even wore a bit of makeup—something I wouldn’t allow because A. I value my daughter’s self-concept and B. I don’t believe in slathering on more chemicals than we already ingest in our bodies by simply existing. Both had long, flowing hair, while my daughter’s is close-cropped for the summer, as she chose it to be.
Anyway, one of the girls kept asking my daughter—who was wearing shorts with flowers on them and Cars sandals—if she was a girl or a boy. My kiddo didn’t seem to mind at first, though I was getting a little annoyed—not at the kid, really, but at the mom, who was frowning at my daughter like she was some sort of smelly bug. How dare she confuse her daughter, amirite?
Her daughter’s curiosity was innocent enough, and my daughter chose to ignore her question and instead ask, “Which craft are you going to do?” and so forth. It was clear that she didn’t like being questioned about her gender, and she was using a tactic many adults do—misdirection. Clever kid.
But the little girl wouldn’t let up, asking several more times, so finally mine said, “I’m a girl, of course!” The other girl said, “Then why are you wearing boys’ shoes?”
Eye roll. The girl didn’t learn that on her own. I’m betting her mother is just like the mother we overheard at Target one day, telling her daughter that she could only pick out a girly toy—and that the train that she wanted was “a boy toy.”
It boggles my mind that such mothers exist—not only that they would compartmentalize toys and clothing like this, but that they don’t accept their kids they way they are. Rather than love their children the way they are born, they seek to change them, modifying both their interests and personalities to suit themselves. It’s really sad.
But there are communities of mothers out there who love their children just as they are, and fiercely fight to support them as well as their birthright to childhood. Pigtail Pals is one of my favorites of such sites, and they are currently featuring a special blog for girls who can’t read yet but want to know they are not alone.
In order to provide these girls with support, they are calling for submissions of pictures representing your daughters doing things or wearing items that are traditionally “for boys only.” My daughter’s Cars sandals (as well as many other clothing choices she makes!) would definitely qualify. According to my mother—who gave up trying to dress me up by the time I was seven, as I always threw a fit or came home with torn tights from climbing fences—I used to dress myself “like a lumberjack,” so I’m sure I’d fit, too.
If you have a picture of your child or yourself defying these so-called gender norms, be sure to send it in to encourage other girls who are made to feel different. You can send your photos and stories to email@example.com.