The Boy In Pink

I enjoy calling myself a feminist. I’m an easy believer in my daughter getting to do anything from dance to basketball.

(Although I do catch myself thinking: What’s the point of sports? Women’s porfessional leagues suck. And then I realize that I’m assuming that my children will be the VERY BEST. Why can’t she just play on the local team? Because I’m INSANE and want season passes to New York Giants’ games. First female football player!)

But I find this position more difficult with my son. I’ve certainly let E be who he is, but as he gets older, I worry about others (classmates, family, friends) making fun of him.

At camp last week, he showed up with a giant pink bow in his hair. The parents and teachers were kind and slightly giggl-y, which was okay. But when I picked him up, he didn’t have the bow in his hair. I asked after it and braced for the worst. He responded: It’s in my pocket so I don’t lose it.

And I believed him.

But I know that the day will come when the pink bow is in his pocket and he’ll tell me why and I’ll have to hate one of his classmates for the rest of the school year. And I DREAD that day. Not just because he will learn about the lines between boys and girls, but because he will be hurt. Hurt, in part, because I’m not teaching him accepted cultural ideals.

So now, here we are at Target. And I ask E: What rain boots do you want?

Guess which one E chose?

Me: Not the fireman boots, huh?

(my inner feminist just slapped me)

So I look to Scott, who isn’t moved by these feminist fears of mine, and he says: Who cares?

When I coming-to after the perfect-football-spiral-hairy-womyn finished kicking my butt, I respond: HECK YEAH WHO CARES!

Because who knows?

Maybe a classmate will say: Those pink kitty boots are for girls!

And E will say: Who cares?

And that child will think for a moment and respond: HECK YEAH WHO CARES!

Alex Iwashyna

Alex Iwashyna went from a B.A. in philosophy to an M.D. to a SAHM, poet and writer by 30. She spends most of her writing time on LateEnough.com, a humor blog (except when it's serious) about her husband fighting zombies, awkward attempts at friendship, and dancing like everyone is watching. She also has a soft spot for culture, politics, and rude Southern people who offend her Yankee sensibilities. She parents 2 elementary-aged children, 1 foster baby, 3 cats, and 1 puppy, who are all Southern but not rude. Yet.

42 thoughts on “The Boy In Pink

    1. Thanks!

      A few days later he was eyeing pink sparkly converse but we went with the recommendation from bloggy readers about the geox reducing feet stink. Those do NOT come in sparkly pink.

  1. (as I think you know) I have the same issues. but I reckon that at a certain age you just need to make him understand and expect that some people might feel that way, and just prepare him for it (in my case he is getting practice runs with his dad and sis who keep telling him “that is for girls”), and when it starts happening, if they are still dressing in pink, they might decide to stop…. or not.

  2. Go Scott! Why not, indeed! I have a really hard time with my daughter’s love affair with pink, but since she won’t wear most other colors, I have to get over it. My sister and I called pink the color of oppression. Seriously.
    And by the way, four was when we had the conversation about ‘boy colors’ and ‘girl colors.’ I am still trying to convince her that there are no gender colors, just our own favorites.

    1. that’s so interesting! i used to hate pink but it’s grown on me over the last ten years. altho i wish girls had a little more diversity in their wardrobe choices.

      it’s funny that even when we model a behavior (like only favorite colors) our kids can latch on to the opposite (gender colors). Isn’t that weird?

  3. We are going through similar gender dilemmas for girls. I think it has to be so much harder with boys, for the reasons you mention. Beyond a social age, I don’t think it’s socially acceptable among your peers to be very different as a boy or girl, but I think adults are more accepting/amused by girls trying out traditionally boy stuff than the other way around.

    Incidentally, we passed the same display at Target earlier and my 3.5 year old really wanted those firefighter boots! Hello Kitty was a close second. We left with no impulse purchases, not yet anyway.

    1. I think that it is difficult for both genders and the pressure for boys to “be boys” comes so much quicker than I see it coming for my daughter. BUT I believe that for girls the pressure to be a certain way is more oppressive in the long run. {sigh}

    1. thanks. it’s weird because when we found out we were having a boy, I didn’t even think this would be a problem for me. Of course, I didn’t think he’d still be waking up in the middle of the night every night for the first two years so what did I know?

  4. WHO. CARES. That’s right!

    My daughter’s t-shirts are mostly from the boys’ section (because they almost never have cool ones in her section) and I think to myself, if it’s ok for her to shop at a HIS section, it should work the other way around too.

  5. If they aren’t picking on a kid because he/she doesn’t play normal gender games, they’ll pick on him because his shirt comes from the wrong store, or because he’s smart and good with computers, or because he said something once, six years ago.

    In other words: kids are cruel. We’d love to shield our kids from it all, but we can’t stand beside them with a stick all day. They take their lumps, and learn from the experience.

    And they have a mom to come home to who will tell them “who cares?”

    Perfect.

    1. I am putting my stick away.

      And thank you for the uplifting comment.

      I sometimes forget that my role is not to shield them from life but help them to negotiate it. (until they’re 18 and I kick them out and enjoy sitting around doing nothing, right?)

  6. Hmmm. I have so many thoughts swirling around my head right now. I have a 4 yr old boy and a 5 yr old stepdaughter (who we have custody of at the moment). She yells at him that things are hers if they are pink or purple because those are girl colors. I constantly remind her that they are both free to like anything they want & any color they want. (might I also say that I loathe how much pink crap she has…can we at least throw in some purple or something to break up the sea of pink….)

    That being said, I worry about my son being made fun of if he were to want or wear something pink. I don’t care what he likes, honestly. I will love him and be happy with him if he wants to wear all pink all the time. Honestly, tho, I just worry that what he likes might make his life more challenging. In our culture, boys aren’t looked at the same way if they are into pink or other “girly” things. They get more flack than girls into “boy” stuff. I worry about the hurt he could suffer from others who don’t realize that it really doesn’t matter.

    1. it is really complex. i just had no idea the flack i’d get for letting my son be himself. and although i think girls have a harder time once they are older, i was amazed at how quicker boys are gender-ized (i made that word up i think)
      but another reader made the point that if we just help them negotiate the other kids, we will be helping them so much more than if we try to shield them (since we all get made fun of at SOME POINT in our childhood)

  7. Oh, it is so much harder with boys because there’s no “movement” to get behind. Let’s start one. It can be the “Who Cares?” movement.

    1. im really excited for the #whocares movement.

      maybe after blogher we can brainstorm. (or you were just saying it off-handedly and now i’ve roped you in with TWO tweets about it?)

  8. Alex, thanks for sharing this. My almost 3 year old little guy’s toe nail polish was removed this week by someone who told him it was “only for girls” – which I obviously fundamentally disagree with, but did offer an opportunity to talk to my son about these concepts and other people’s views….

    1. wow! i bet you were fuming at first! but i think that the conversations are so much more important than never exposing our children to other views. (or at least I remembered that after your and other readers’ awesome comments)

  9. Yes! My girls had a truck in their hand just as often as a barbie. My oldest had a best friend growing up who preferred playing with her to other boys. He truly enjoyed playing Barbie’s and house when they were little and it never stopped him from also being a Ninja. When the other boys harrassed him my daughter gave them a piece of her mind that backed them down the street, never to return.
    He got married last month and his new wife is a very lucky woman. He has great understanding and respect for woman and can expertly help her put together an ensemble.

  10. Wow, you guys are awesome! And you’re right – Who the heck cares?!

    Luckily my son (who is 12 now) never preferred pink. I don’t think my husband would have went for it. But I say Why the heck not!? 🙂

  11. Sometimes I secretly wish my little guy would ask to have his toenails painted. I have no daughter to do those girly things with. I won’t bring it up, but if he ever asks, I’d love it! =)

    P.S. Dylan chose the Lightening McQueen rainboots during his “My favorite color is pink” stage. Now his favorite color changes daily.

  12. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the “Who cares?” crowd gets bigger. Though I may be delusional since I’m living in a part of California with monster trucks, cowboy boots and huntin’ guns. That’s why I want our kids to go to school in the town thirty miles away where little boys are in yoga and little girls win science fair ribbons. *sigh*

  13. I have two little girls but I’ve tried very hard to be gender neutral for them, and when I (hopefully! someday!) have a little boy, same goes for him.

    As an aside, I read somewhere that up until the mid 50’s, pink was a boy color (because it was violent, like red) and baby blue was a girl color (because it was calming)! Interesting how that flipped.

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