Visit Oh! BabyOpinionated Parenting

Friday, March 03, 2006

I suppose it's sad, but true. All this gender stuff really comes down to, well, worrying that our boys might be gay. Or different. Aren't there more important things to worry about? How our kids will do in school? Will they get in trouble? Will they get mixed up with drugs? Will they get hit by a car?

Mostly, as I write about gender stereotypes, I'm reminded of a fabulous essay from It's a Boy: Women Writers on Raising Sons. Catherine Newman's essay, called Pretty Baby, is about her five-year-old son whose favorite color is pink. She writes: "While evidently for budding young manhood--the preschool type--pink must be shunned like gender-bending kryptonite. Like it's some queer wolf in powdery-pale clothing. Pink might seem to be a swishy little color--but it’s got the strength of entire armies. Why, merely gazing too long at a carnation could prevent your son’s very testicles from descending!" And later, "Wouldn't you much rather, for instance, that your son be shacked up with the Queer Eye Fab Five than waiting shlubbily for them to come and fix him?"

I vote for a healthy, happy child. All that gender stuff--it's really insignificant.

Permalink | Gender Stereotypes | Comments (2)

Since it's Friday, and people are hopefully focusing on meaningful things, such as where and beside whom they will be tonight, I'm going to use this forum to confess a few things. As you may know, I am not, in the truest sense, a laid-off dad. Because I work. So I am gone most of the day while my wife, who is 1) subversive, 2) ardently feminist, and 3) easily bored, stays home with my sons.

Basically, my wife has done her best to "feminize" my boy. They bake cookies together, they dress up, and every so often she paints his toenails. He proudly says his favorite color is pink.

All of this might alarm me--if I didn't enjoy that sort of stuff myself. See, I am not a "man" in the true demographic sense. I can't stand cigars, and I can barely tolerate those who see them as some sort of Man Symbol. Laddie mags are for slavering idiots. Ditto for big cars (unless you've got a big family) and big boats (unless it's a sailboat) and big consumerism. About the only time you'll see AlphaLOD emerge is when my wife and children are imperiled. Like that time I had OneBert in the stroller and was grazed by bike messenger who ran a red light, and I chased him for a block and a half.

Gender stereotypes are bullsh*t, and people who have any fears about them need to lighten up. The only things I want to engender in my child is character and a strong sense of self. If he has to do that while wearing a dress, if that's who he is, he'll still always be welcome at my table.

Permalink | Gender Stereotypes | Comments (1)

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

It's funny that MIC likes to say that TIC is "in touch with his feminine side," because my usual expression can be characterized as the male equivalent: "He's secure in his masculinity." I don't know why that's so important to me, even as a joke. The culture beats it into us, I guess.

Remember that classic Seinfeld episode when Jerry and George are mistakenly characterized as a gay couple? When Seinfeld's parents get wind of the story, his dad upbraids his mom for "those damn culottes you made him wear when he was five!" It's funny (and a little sad), because there are dads who would react that same way and assume that their boy had gone Brokeback because the boy played with dolls when he was 3. And that's ridiculous. It's even worse for people to assume that having a homosexual son is a bad thing--but that's another rant altogether.

Preschoolers should be allowed to experiment with whatever they want, as long as it's supervised and doesn't involve matches. Why not let them goof around with "masculinity" or "femininity" before socialization forces them to choose?

Permalink | Gender Stereotypes | Comments (0)

As Father in Chief and I were reliving the bicycle incident after my Monday post, he seemed to be less upset about it than I was. Actually, he wasn't bothered by it at all. He's happy that Toddler in Chief didn't end up with the purple bike accessorized with a flower print and silver shimmery streamers off the handlebars. So I think LOD is right that dads are a little more concerned about the proper gender roles than moms. My thoughts are that no purple or pink color scheme or flower-printed pants are going to do any harm to our kid. And those things certainly aren't the gateway actions into homosexuality, like marijuana is said to be a gateway into heavier drugs. If TIC is gay, then it's already out of my hands. And no number of blue tractor-emblazoned shirts or lessons with wrenches and drills is going to make a bit of difference.

Kids are going to be interested in a lots of stuff--whether it's meant to be for girls or boys. They are going to try stuff out to see what fits them and then move on to other things when they decide a color or game isn't for them anymore. And just when we think we've figured them out, they will change again just to keep us on our toes.

Permalink | Gender Stereotypes | Comments (1)

Monday, February 27, 2006

When I was pregnant, we didn't know if Toddler in Chief was a he or a she. Without knowing his gender, we still ended up with a variety of gender-specific outfits. Considering the sheer volume of laundry that babies generate, he wore all of them. When people would say, "Oh, she's so cute," we'd just agree. Even now when he wears something that people consider questionable for his gender, I always say: "TIC is in touch with his feminine side."

TIC is a boy through and through, with his love of cars and trucks and trains and his lack of interest in dolls. However, he likes dress-up, a good tea party, and the pink plate. I don't want him to be told that he can like some things and some colors and shouldn't like other things and other colors because he's a boy. Even with all my open-mindedness, we had an incident before Christmas (which I regret) that involved a red bike and a purple bike. Because I'm determined to not repeat the incident, our house will continue to offer a variety of age-appropriate activities--regardless of what gender they were intended for.

Sadly, elementary school and peer pressure will likely squelch his imagination and interest in dress-up soon enough. In the meantime, he's welcome to strut around in my shoes and clunky necklaces all he likes. And if he picks out some pink pants, that's okay with me too.

Permalink | Gender Stereotypes | Comments (0)

Phobias about gender stereotypes tend to beset dads more than moms, and parents are more worried about boys than girls. Boys are supposed to be strong and rugged, so parents want to make sure they raise their boys able to throw a perfect football spiral while working a bandsaw and smiling rakishly for the cover of Esquire. Dress a boy in pink, or let him play with Barbies? Sacrilege!

I learned a while ago that boys and girls for the most part are genetically predisposed to want what they want, regardless of what they're exposed to. One time, when Robert 16 months old and we were at the playground, a three-year-old boy cruised into the play area in his toy black pick-up. This thing was tricked out with a steering wheel, a driver-side door, and a drop-down tailgate, and all the other kids flocked to it almost immediately. Interestingly, though, the boys began reaching through the windows, trying to wrest control of the steering wheel; the girls, in contrast, started slapfighting over who could ride in the back.

Robert was one of the kids who threw himself through the windshield, and I remember how shocked I was that he would show this kind of tendency so soon. I always figured he's obsess about cars when he was 16, but I thought that meant years, not months.

Permalink | Gender Stereotypes | Comments (2)