The Pink and Blue Guise of Gender Roles

By Meghan Schuster of SheHeroes

An article in the New York Times has been making the rounds the past month on Facebook, Twitter and various online networks. If you haven’t read “New Challenge For Parents: Children’s Gender Roles” go ahead and take a moment to read it now. It’s a realistic take on the new understanding of child gender roles and how parents are trying to maneuver their way through acceptance and understanding in a society that still has a hard time minding their own business. It’s certainly not the first time in recent months that the topic has become a hotbed of conversation and controversy. Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt’s daughter, Shiloh continues to prefer dressing like a ‘boy’, while a family in Canada generated buzz after deciding to raise their baby Storm, without divulging his or her gender outside the immediate family. J Crew came under fire by critics and was applauded by supporters when they published an ad where a mother was painting her son’s toenails pink.

Personally I find it odd that so many people still find the idea of a little boy in a dress so upsetting.  As a former family daycare provider and student of early childhood education, I learned the importance of allowing children to explore toys for genders without holding them back.

In fact when the state came into inspect my home so that I could receive my daycare license, they checked to make sure that I had toys for both genders as well as a large amount of gender-neutral toys. In fact most early childhood educators learn in school that for most young children, exploring gender roles is one hundred percent natural and something to be encouraged. In fact, I believe that some daycares could even come under fire for discouraging boys from playing with dolls and girls from playing with trucks, because it is considered harmful to the child to make those discouragements.

Letting children play and explore the world is the most important job we have as parents, teachers, caregivers, aunts and uncles. If my son asks for pink nail polish, I don’t worry about him becoming gay anymore than I worry about him becoming Darth Vader when he swings around a light saber. He’s a kid and he plays, explores and likes what he likes. I feel the same about my daughter. And if either of them is gay, it won’t because I let them explore toys and dress up in clothes sold to the opposite gender, it will be because they are simply who they are. And as they grow into adults, I will only love them more.

Over the weekend I took my kids to the local Rodeo. The theme of the day was “Tough Enough to Wear Pink.” Granted it was about breast cancer awareness, but the truth is that the breast cancer message was lost on my kids. All they saw were a bunch of rough and tumble cowboys wearing pink and riding bulls and broncos. And guess what? Wearing pink didn’t make those cowboys any less tough or manly. And it certainly didn’t make them look any less cool.

So whether my son becomes a rough and tough cowboy wearing pink or just a man who wears pink nail polish, I will love him. Not despite who he is, but BECAUSE of who he is. And the same is said for my daughter.

Of course if either of them do actually grow up to be Darth Vader, I may feel differently. But that’s another issue entirely…

Related Content:

PinkStinks: Challenging Girly Stereotypes

What Do You Get When a Boy Dresses Like a Girl? Acceptance!

5 thoughts on “The Pink and Blue Guise of Gender Roles

  1. I get and understand what the article is saying, and what’s it’s about, but I dont full agree with it. At the end of it all though, do what makes you happy, play with dolls, action figues, cars, easy bake ovens, where whatever makes you comfortable, but yeaaa, boys and dresses, haha, nah, that’s crossing the line, but like I said, if it makes one happy, by all means, do.

  2. I love this article! My 3 year old son is running around with purple sparkly toenails firing a toy gun and shouting “die, die, die!” If playing is any indication of his future role he’s going to be one heck of a camp serial killer!

  3. Kids don’t actually care what blue or pink represents. They care what “We” think. Adults, our culture, the media are the ones with the problem and it is so pervasive it often scares me.

  4. The problem with a lot of people is that they’re terrified that their child will be branded “abnormal” – and by abnormal, I mean gay or transgender. I have a very good friend who is male to female transgender who was actually beaten by her father when she was a child for playing with “girl toys” and who was told, “I didn’t raise a sissy in a dress” when she finally did come out to her family about being trans – shortly before she was disowned by her father and told never to return home. My own partner, who is also male to female transgender, faced a similar situation when she told her own family.

    We are living in strange and exciting times as far as gender identity. On the one hand we have legal gay marriage in some states, we have positively portrayed gay and trans characters finally making an appearance on mainstream television, and we are starting to recognize these conditions for what they are – matters of birth and genetics, not “lifestyle choices” or mental illness. But, on the other hand, we still live in a society where many, many people still believe that being gay or trans is a “sin” or that these people are sick. And it is this fear that drives people to force their children into steriotypical gender roles. It’s what caused the massive overreaction to a picture of a mom enjoying play time with her pink-toenailed son and what drives people to give sidelong, disaproving glances at a celebrity child that doesn’t seem to fit gender norms.

    My favorite quote on gender exploration was by the father of the “little princess boy” (I’m sorry, I can’t remember the name of the woman who wrote that book off the top of my head!) when interviewed on the morning news (I think it was the Today show, but I could be wrong) when asked what he thought of his sone dressing in pink dresses and princess tiaras: “It’s not contageous.”

    As a society, it really is time for us to grow up and realize that we are all different. Gay, straight, trans, bisexual. It doesn’t matter. Just love your children for who they are.

  5. I think it was a really good idea that you took your kids to the local rodeo during the breast cancer awareness event. It helped your kids realize at a young age that wearing pink really doesn’t make a person any less cool or scary. It was a good demonstration of gender-neutrality.

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