The other day I had a conversation with someone about how I didn’t want to give my children guns as toys.
“I absolutely hate violence and by giving my son a gun how could it be seen as anything but encouraging him to shoot things? I hardly think he is going to sit there and study the science of how it works but rather run around my backyard like a hooligan saying “bang, bang” at everyone. I don’t care what he plays with as long as it isn’t violent. Heck, before I came out today I had him sat up on my bench and he was putting lipstick on,” I chuckled.
The reaction was not what I was expecting.
“Seriously? You let him put on lipstick? Letting your son put on lipstick is more detrimental than letting him play with a gun.”
I actually took this as a bit of a shot to the stomach. I may have been overreacting but I totally disagreed and I suppose not many parents like it when someone criticises their parenting. I started to explain my opinion to him but I knew it was going no where so I stored the fury up in my belly, went home and sat down at my computer to write.
A 2 year old boy playing around with a bit of lippy is detrimental? I can only take that 2 ways.
Firstly, are you implying that I am going to make him homosexual? Because please don’t get me started having to explain that it is not a choice or the lipstick at the age of 2 has anything to do with “making” someone gay. If you haven’t already heard, they are born that way der brain (and even if he did turn out to be gay, I am fine with that.)
I know it is unlikely that my son will turn out to be a murderer if I give him a gun. But I don’t condone violence so I don’t want him to have one. Just like you should understand that giving a boy lipstick is very unlikely that he will be a lipstick wearing man. However, I couldn’t care if he was one!
Secondly, (and more what I think he was getting at) was that I was “confusing him.” Confusing him how? I know what he meant. Confusing him about the stereotypical gender roles and expectations about how you, as a boy, are meant to act. And this pisses me off to be frank.
I have seen just as many men dressed as women and wearing lipstick at the AFL Footy Show’s Player Review at the end of each year than I have at the Mardi Gras. But apparently that is “different” because the fact they are running around being macho every other day of the year proves that they have got the gender role down pat, yeah? Hypocritical.
Lets face it. There is a pink section and a blue section at the toy shop and in many ways I believe that is to be expected. Studies show that biologically boys gravitate towards the cars, trains, balls and blue whilst the girls towards the dolls, puppies, dress ups, lipstick and pink. But I don’t believe any kid belongs in only the one section.
Malachy, before he could crawl or roll, went back and forth with a toy car saying “vroom.” I kid you not. And he is utterly obsessed with building train tracks and loves sport the main including cricket, footy, baseball and soccer (does that mean I’m a soccer mum.? Eeek)
Nevertheless, he also has a doll and a cooking set (only found in the pink section.) Because, heaven forbid he turns out to be a father or a chef!
And at this stage my girls’ room looks like a unicorn has vomited all over it. It is bright and mostly pink and cheerful. Which is great. I have absolutely nothing wrong with it. But if my daughters were to show any interest in cricket or trains like their brother, I would encourage them also. If they wanted the yuckiest, scariest dinosaur I wouldn’t think twice either. Because again, heaven forbid she turns out to be a palaeontologist!
My main aim in life is to raise healthy, happy and kind children. None of these toys or activities are detrimental to health (unless of course an arm is broken playing sport…hmm.) Each of these activities make my son happy. And none of these activities negatively affects any other person.
Yet, I do see telling your child what they “should be” according to the stereotype of their gender negatively impacting on not only them but also others. The world is made up of many different looks, ideas and orientations and by telling your child “this way is the only way” is not giving your child a fair view of the world but also enabling them to be judgemental and possibly hurtful towards others.
I don’t want to sound like Obe Wan Kanobi and that I haven’t been influenced by what is the social norm. Recently, Malachy who had long hair and had never had it cut, went to the hairdressers for the first time. It was starting to get hard to maintain being so long and I was sick of conditioning it. Or at least that is what I told everyone. He was being called a girl in the playground even though he wore buckets of blue and could hit the baseball on the full better than most kids older than him! It had to go. He cried so hard and refused to ride his bike on the way to the hairdresser. He pleaded that he liked his hair the way it was and didn’t want it cut. He broke my heart but I persisted anyway. He ended up looking fantastic with his hair cut and like a little spunk. I was happy we got it cut until the next day we woke up and Malachy said “can we go to the shop to buy my hair back.” I became so angry at myself. Why hadn’t I let him keep his hair if he was happy? Clearly he had never even noticed that other people sometimes mistook him for a girl and he was confident in who he was. I should’ve waited until he wanted to cut it. I did it for me and not for him and I regret it.
I personally think that whether it be girlie toys, boyish toys, unisex toys, male dominated sport, female dominated sport, long hair, short hair or even lipstick, your child should be encouraged in whatever they are interested in despite their gender. I believe that telling your child that they “can’t play with something” or “do something” because it “isn’t what boys/girls do” is not only stunting them to explore, grow and be happy but is also potentially setting them up to judge other people unfairly that are not like them or do things that aren’t conventional. Surely at the end of the day we want our kids to be happy, kind and accepting of difference. Don’t we?
And a real man to me is someone who despite what others may say, is open minded, accepting, kind and loving… it has nothing to do with if he likes lipstick.
Malachy’s hair transformation
Angelina Jolie’s Daughter, formerly Shiloh, now John
Gwen Stefani’s Son, Kingston