I think of people as occupying a range on a spectrum of gender from extreme masculinity to extreme femininity. I am somewhere in the middle and tend toward one side in some ways and the other in other ways. BUT, I am faaaaaaar more interested in just being
than in defining what way I'll be.
Our ds2 was the only one of our boys to have brought up gender issues ever; he noticed that in the stores, the 'girl stuff' was pink and sparkly and the 'boy stuff' was not. This came up when we went to choose a hat for his 5th birthday celebration. He picked up the pink sparkly one and then set it down and said, "But I can't wear this one." I asked him why not and he told me that 'pink is for girls'.
I was a bit shocked but treated it nonchalantly, and told him that colours and shine are not related to boys or girls. They are qualities of appearance, and that he can wear whatever he pleases. He ended up choosing a non-sparkly hat and I felt a bit sad only because he was obviously choosing based on what he thought he learned from elsewhere and not what he truly wanted (I supported his choice though, of course). I asked why he thought that, and he referred to how things are separated in stores. He also wanted to know more about why "girls have to wear pink."
After that we discussed these things because having not addressed it previously led to my son being convinced by marketing in stores!!!
We don't watch tv and avoid gender stereotyping in books and toys and other things, so they see this glaring separation when we are out, not when we are at home. We hadn't at all deliberately avoided the issue; it just hadn't come up and dp and I didn't think about it either, until then.
I would love to walk into a children's clothing store that had no girl side and no boy side, but just clothing. I don't have any issue with people- no matter their gender- choosing frills or sparkles or shirts with trucks or insects on them; I just don't see why they need be separated into 'gender-appropraite' sections. This is obviously cultural since pink is not considered feminine everywhere and frills and sparkles have many times throughout even western history been worn by both men and women. And I would love to wear shirts with insects and well-illustrated trucks on them! I was trained in technical and scientific illustration- those drawings appeal very much to me!
I do find a lot more non-gender-specific clothing in the boys sections though: stripes, checks, patterns and solid coloured clothing that isn't covered in pink. I don't care if my boys want to wear pink- that's fine with me. I just don't want them thinking that they are not allowed
to wear it or that they have to
wear it according to others
. I also don't appreciate the idea in girls clothing that shirts and pants should be tight and short and body-revealing rather than loose and comfortable which is seen as for boys, at least from what I see in the clothing sections. And again, it is not upsetting to me if someone enjoys wearing tight, short, body-revealing clothing- regardless of gender.
For me, it's about freedom, and a major part of dealing with this cultural oppression of choice and freedom is to discuss what's going on and empower our children to make their choices in freedom through informing and equipping them with knowledge, understanding, and our support.
These pressures infect every area of human life through culture, so the best I can do is to deliberately provide the greatest opportunities for freedom for my dc so that they can live and just be
. Just being seems to resolve a lot of these issues because what is essential remains while what is not tends to dissipate. At least that's our experience.
Since my ds2's fifth birthday (last August) and the conversations we had then about clothing and toys and stores and culture, his concern about what is 'gender appropriate' has dissipated with our continuing to offer a range of options to him and supporting him in his choices. Since then, he (and as always, the others) have enjoyed wearing sparkly things at times and then chosen other things at other times without pressure or concern.
As an issue, for now, it seems to be resolved. I'm sure it will come up again as they grow and we'll just keep dealing with it in all the ways it shows up. What else can we do? Helping them to navigate this sort of stuff (culture, life, expectations, etc...) is precisely what we have to offer our dc as parents, I think, so it's not all that strange and certainly not burdensome as a matter of relating, to be dealing with it together.
Though I am frequently irked by what I see being thrust on us by ads and marketing. I do find that tiresome and burdensome because it's a make-work project for me to add something once again non-essential to the guiding of my children. I don't enjoy feeling a bit like a forcefield or a shield against this stuff, which is why we minimise our family's exposure to it overall.
That said, we live in the wilderness on a farm, so we really do not deal with anywhere near the amount of marketing issues that most families do. Dp works with youth in group homes and it's amazing how much junk he has to sift through in order to reach them; these children are guided by marketing rather than parents, and the results are frightening- to us anyway.