Hello Kitty Rain Boots

Boys Are Not Allowed To Watch Hello Kitty

As I pack up my son for his first day of school, I’m informed that he doesn’t want to wear his rain boots.

Me: Why don’t you want to wear them?

E: They’re for girls.

He chose these among all the other boots even when I hesitated at the time and suggested other styles. He wore them all last year but clearly at a cost. Because at some point and, perhaps, at many points, kids teased him. Or merely informed him of the GREAT TRUTH in their own homes: Hello Kitty pink boots are for girls.

This year I can only respond with the thought: Buy him “boy boots,” because I want my son to feel comfortable on his first day of school.  I glance at the clock. I have exactly 7 minutes before we need to leave for school, and I decide that I can get to Target and back because I’m also a superhero.

As I’m driving away from my husband and children on this maniac errand, I think: I didn’t even discuss why I disagree with this idea of girl and boy things. I just ran off to protect him. But am I protecting him? What is worse? Being different? Or forcing yourself to fit in? And is this his decision or ours?

My phone rings interrupting my thoughts. I hear screaming and crying and, finally, I make out my husband’s voice: Please come home.

Me: Wait, why? {because the screaming isn’t enough of a clue for me}

Scott: Please.

I’m turning around thinking that perhaps this is the answer to my questions.

I walk up to the house as my children wipe away their tears.

My children exclaim: We didn’t get to say goodbye.

Me: I was coming right back.

And I hug them knowing that “coming right back” isn’t what mattered.

I kneel in front of my son: E, why don’t you want to wear your Hello Kitty boots anymore?


My heart drops to my stomach.

Me: Oh sweetie, that’s not true.  If you want to watch Hello Kitty, we watch Hello Kitty. If you want to watch superheros, we watch superheros. In this house, we watch what we like to watch. People get confused, baby. They think that things are only for girls or boys, but they are wrong. They are so wrong.

E: Okay {wiping away tears} but I still don’t want to bring my boots.

Me: Okay.

We entered his school without the Hello Kitty boots that still fit him.  I can’t make him a martyr for THE CAUSE; no matter how important and heartbreaking it is that other families cannot let people be people first and gender second.  All I have is my ability to create a space in our home for us to watch Spider Man and read Cinderella, to be princesses and knights, to be good guys and bad girls, without judgment or assumption.

My children have nowhere else that is safe.

After dropping off the kids at school, my husband buys my son boring black boots.

Scott: If I bought the superhero boots, E could just tell another kid that his boots are the best or boy boots or whatever story he has been told by his friends.  If he has boring black boots, maybe he’ll spend his time jumping in puddles instead.

I hope so. Because letting my son chose what he likes is no longer an option in this great and difficult world.

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.

37 thoughts to “Boys Are Not Allowed To Watch Hello Kitty”

  1. My heart is broken for you. Not only because of the change in boot preference due to peer pressure, but because you don’t really know WHY. I mean yes, you know why, but E couldn’t/wouldn’t tell you exactly what was said to him. I know, the specifics may be irrelevant, but I have seen these sort of changes, influences on Kid, and I know they came from somewhere, but I don’t know exactly where. What would I do with the specific information? Would I march to school and throw down with someone else’s mom? I’m not sure. Anyhow, I think what I’m trying to work out here is: It’s hard to release them into the world every day. Are we SURE that fitting them with minicams are out of the question?

    1. The minicam made me laugh. It’s hard because I’m sure it’s just what these kids were taught or saw. And it’s so pervasive in our culture that their parents may not even be aware of what they are implying with purchases and jokes. On the flip side, there are definitely kids who aren’t nice and whose parents aren’t helping the situation at all.

  2. *crying real life tears over here*

    I love this post, Alex. I love Scott for his words of wisdom and the way he handled the situation. I love E just because he wanted the Hello Kitty boots to begin with. And I love you for trying to hard to keep your child from being affected by bullies.

    We can only do the best that we can, and I know you’re doing that times infinity.


  3. I love what you try to do for your kids — letting them be who they are and like what they like. I bought my son a purple superhero cape because purple is his favorite color. And he wore it to daycare. Luckily I have a daycare with an owner that is supportive and lets kids be kids.

    1. That’s awesome!

      E’s school is SUPER supportive of him and his boots and letting kids be kids. But a teacher can’t hear everything one kid says to another, and E didn’t tell anyone when it happened. He just believed it to be true. And that sucks.

  4. Reminds me of last Thanksgiving when our boys’ older cousins were telling them that the shows they were watching (Thomas, Dinosaur Train, etc.) were for babies. Our oldest kind of got his back up about it but I just matter-of-factly said “Well, they’re wrong and they’re not very nice about it,” which seemed to be enough to cover the question. I’m becoming more covertly protective about which older kids in the neighborhood mine are interacting with, though…there are some bad examples to be found.

  5. I applaud your effort in this battle. But you are right, the what’s for a boy vs. girl mentality is VERY strong. And even comes out in people that try not to live that way. You are a tiny little soldier against a vast army. Keep swinging your sword.

  6. Thank you for this post! As a mother of 3 little boys and a husband in the military I battle thiss issue a lot! My oldest broke his arm a couple of months back and when they went up put a cast on him they asked him what color he wanted and without hesitation he asked for pink. The tech looked at me for a response and I looked back and said pink is an awesome color honey to which my son replied it’s my favorit color mommy. ( he is 4) now over the next few weeks he had a slew of people ask him why a little boy had a pink cast and every time he told them it is his favorit color. I wondered a few times why this was such a big deal? Just walked right on past the bad mommy looks from ignorant well meaning people and hugged my smart, sweet little boy and prayed that the worl would hold off just a little bit longer!

  7. We talk a lot about how no color is assigned to a gender. It’s okay to like pink and black and brown and blue and purple. But, mommy, brown is a boy color. No.
    This from the same girl who chose to be a knight for Halloween last year. (The looks I got were painful, but she was happy and the other kids liked it.)
    This summer, we had an odd experience, my girl was wearing all blue at a new playground. She found two nice boys to play with. She is daring and brave and the boys were confused. I overheard as one asked the other to ask my girl if she was a boy. He said no, that’s rude, and they still played, but gender is part of how we operate in the world. For better or worse, it is.
    I think the best we can do is give our children a safe place to be themselves and wonderful models and stories of boys and girls who fearlessly pursue being themselves. No matter what they wear.

  8. I heart your husband. And we have the same gender-neutral battle on our house. Fight the good fight, and you’re right not to make him a martyr for the cause. it’s hard to do, but I have to do it too. Sucks. Hugs.

  9. now that I know our baby is a boy, these are seriously the little things that plague my mind. It drives me crazy that everyone thinks that now we know it’s a boy, we can finally start thinking about colors for the nursery, etc. Why do colors have to be linked to a gender? And why does Hello Kitty?? This situation would definitely make me cry! I love the way your husband resolved it.

  10. I struggle with the EXACT same thing. I even argued about it the other night with my husband when we discussed choosing schools. He shouldn’t be a martyr for The Cause, but am I hurting him by not telling him there is one? Not even boots are innocent…but children should be. Or should they? Great post.

  11. Colors are for everyone! FREE THE COLORS! Wondering when “Boys do that…” and “Girls don’t…” will arise in the Robinson house. I was a MAJOR tomboy when I was little and still like a lot of “boy” things so I’m hoping I can fight it off. I do think it’s a lot harder for society to let boys like “girl” things than for girls to like “boy” things. Our little dudes interests get so narrowed as they age. Which is fine if THEY are the ones that narrow it and not what’s popular.

  12. “My children have nowhere else that is safe” Not true! You guys can come on over to my house, where even the ken dolls wear dresses! (Do you have ANY idea how much fine motor strength it takes to cram a Ken doll into Barbie’s slutty little summer frock?)

  13. There really are no words to express how outrageous it is that children can’t express who they are and what they like without being judged. At such a formative and impressionable age, they are naturally more emotionally tuned in, more so than we are, to what is said and unsaid, and it can make a big impact. I think you are doing an awesome job! And I can relate, least a little. My daughter is scared of the Care Bears but thinks Spider-Man and the Goblin are super!

  14. and because of my emotional state I am now bawling. I love your family because it is how I feel too. Our house is safe. you can like what you want to like. Eddie wears princess shoes and puts trucks in his purse. Because who cares? He sleeps with a baby doll and makes rawring sounds with his dinosaurs.

    but i worry that this will happen to him. That some kid who is only repeating what they are told by their parents will INFORM him he is WRONG.

    How is what you like WRONG? It’s opinion. It’s preference.

    I love what your husband did. And I hope E splashes the heck out of those puddles.

  15. I am SOOO there with you! I have 3 boys (7,4,2) and the 4 and 2 year old LOVE Dora. Everything Dora is sold in pink or purple so we have had some issues with other people saying things…and these are adults! My husband is so cool he let’s me buy what I want for them, including a baby doll for the 2 year old, but believe me we have “heard” it from many people about these things being “girl” things. WHY? Why is Dora a girl thing? Why is pink and purple a girl thing for that matter? I mean they are nice colors…why shouldn’t a many males in this world like this color…even over blue or red?!?! It kills me and saddens me and much like you I have had to sort of keep certain things at home to sheild my boys from ridicule. BUT here in our house…we too have room for spidermen AND Doras!!!! We buy blue AND pink cups…..

  16. I tell you what… E and my son need to get together. My son is pretty strong willed and he has been noted to telling the boys that he likes squinkies and Littlest Pet Shop. I worry about the teasing they he will get, but so far he has not come home with stories and the boys who come over play along side him and his sister. I worry that in Kindergarten… things will change, but so far he seems comfortable in his skin. Now if I could only get him to not let his sister get under his skin when she tells him things that he likes are for babies. Ugh.

  17. I have just recently started reading your blog. I found it randomly and fell in love with it.
    I feel for you with this post. I have a five year old girl and I have always tried to fight the stereotypes. I gave her bulldozers and monster trucks for christmas along with her art supplies and Barbies. It broke my heart the day I saw a Thomas the Train shirt (who she LOVED at age 3) and asked her if she would like me to get it for her. She responded with “no. that shirt is for boys.”
    I still try to blur the bounderies for her. I tell her that she can like whatever she likes. Enjoy it for what it is not for who else likes it. It gets harder and harder the more she is influenced by other children.

  18. Oh wow…I hate, hate this stuff.

    Seriously, why does it matter that Hello Kitty tends to be a “girl” thing and pink is “usually” for girls?? I work at an elementary school and I know how it is on the playground. Being unique is not encouraged in our society as much as it should be.

    I love the boots, by the way…

  19. My son is now 11-he used to dress himself, and after arguing too many mornings with my older son, I decided I would allow him to. He always manages to pick mismatched socks and the most colorful things in his closet. I would catch myself explaining his wardrobe selection when I would take him places because I was embarrassed by people staring at him. I learned real quick to get over it-he was and still is hi own unique little person. He has a favorite Hawaiian shirt that he wears with purple short, a winter hat, & stripes red socks! He dresses proudly in pink and often times prefers to wear cornea that may not be ‘boy specific.’ I let him be. Because his confidence is much stronger than mine and his fashion sense may just prove to be on a runway someday! I know the world is cruel and our instincts are to protect our children first and foremost!
    Tell your little guy REAL MEN wear pink! And girls can where blue I they choose!
    Love this post! Thanks for sharing your story!!

  20. It’s unfortunate that society dictates such things. Of course you can’t make him suffer for the cause. School is hard & fitting in is just one of the lessons learned. The important thing is that he can still wear them at home & be accepted there. Someday, because of that acceptance, he will have the confidence to be whoever he wants to be, wherever he is.

  21. Maddening. I am totally against the “blue for boy, pink for girl” mentality so many in our society have. When I was pregnant, we knew we were having a girl. And despite my making it clear to all my friends I did NOT want to be inundated with pink s–t, I was.

    My daughter’s nursery was done in neutral colors, and when we transitioned to a big girl room, we went with a jungle theme clearly labeled as being for a “boy” in the catalog. She loves it.

    She has equal interest in traditional girl things and traditional boy things. She loves princesses and trains. Dinosaurs and fairies. And we encourage it. She can be interested in whatever she wants.

  22. I opened this last night to reply because my 4yo son spent the afternoon wrapped up in a piece of shiny pink cloth from the dress up bin so he could be on the Princess team with one sister opposite the other sister who was looking for ragged clothing so she could be on the Street Rat team. (this comes via cousins and Aladdin) This morning when questioned, he happily declared that his favorite color is pink. We watch my little pony, hello kitty, & princesses and batman, spiderman, & transformers. You can let your little guy know he is not alone.
    But I have friends who are on the other side. Well, I have a friend whose husband is on the other side and she rarely pushes back at him. She let him decide their son can’t join my son and the son of her best friend in a Tumbling Tots class at the gymnastics place. At least she put her foot down by refusing to hire a baby sitter when she took her niece to cheer leading this summer when her husband didn’t want his boys “exposed” to it. You know, during drop off and pick up. And as far as I can tell he’s not even homophobic in general but seems to be afraid of influencing preschoolers into being gay? I really just don’t get it!

  23. I’m a 40 year old married tough guy, and I love Hello Kitty. One of my favorite guitars I own is a bubblegum pink Hello Kitty Stratocaster. I’m a collector of high end guitars, but my cheap Hello Kitty Strat is the best!

    I don’t care what people think!

    1. “I applaud your effort in this battle. But you are right, the what’s for a boy vs. girl mentality is VERY strong. ”

      Agreed here and with a number of posts following that. I (34y/o male), catch a boatload of crap from people because of liking pink and not hiding the fact. Even one of my closest friends is real bad about it. In some cases, he won’t even be seen with me in public if I’m sporting certain things.

      I tend to collect backpacks first on the list… not entirely sure how that started, but it did, and I have more of them than most shoe-collecting females I know have shoes. I have 9 different pink Lion King backpacks, as that is one of my favorite movies, and most of the ones with Nala-my favorite character-are pink. That aside it’s my favorite color anyway so it doesn’t bother me. It does however seem to erk quite a few people…and yes, I’m straight if that question crossed anyone’s mind.

      I took one of those backpacks to my technical college for a semester back in 2006. One of the women there approached me one day and immediately assumed that I “liked simba” and not in a fan way, which was a little insulting, but I corrected them. She came back with, “well you know what people will think right?” twice during the conversation…and ended up walking away chuckling to herself. It’s an event I never forgot. The website I entered into the website section of this leads to most of the ones I have, including that one.

      While I was in Texas for a few years back ~ 2000, I had been using my pink LK backpacks to take the few things I needed for work with me, as I road a bike there. It wasn’t long after I started that i began getting crap from coworkers and I believe, eventually, that their ‘discomfort’ was the real cause behind being let go when I was. On another occasion there, I was coming back from Walmart with a gallon of milk in the same bag, and one of the people in the neighborhood set his violent dog loose after me, which ended up sending me over the handlebars to the pavement. His justification when I got in his face later that day was blatant that it was done because of the backpack. But I digress….

      Aside from those, I have probably a dozen various “normal” pink backpacks, ranging from jansport to puma, to adidas…bought solely on appearance. I also have a very rare and extremely pink Sailor Moon one that came out in Italy when news of the come-back surfaced.

      Flash forward to the past few months, and while I had been extremely resistant to it up till now, I decided to join the Hello Kitty bandwagon, although on a mild basis. I have two backpacks from it with a Kuromi one on the way. I was ‘very’ selective on my choices here, as I don’t care for the floral and care-bearish looking ones much. But I ended up choosing this one for the main one: http://www.ebay.com/itm/330772881154?ssPageName=STRK:MEWNX:IT&_trksid=p3984.m1439.l2649

      On top of that, I ordered custom shoes for myself in pink. I have 2 retired pairs and one active pair, and will soon need to replace those with another set. These were another thing I caught hell for. One friend said, “A man’s shoes are supposed to match his belt” … yes well, as much as I like pink, I’m not getting a pink belt..so deal with it. The current shoes are: http://www.schofieldandwhite.com/temp/images/PinkShoe1.JPG

      There are obviously certain things pink that just aren’t going to happen for one reason or another. Socks are one such item, pants as well, and frankly jackets (winter and otherwise) as I have yet to find one that isn’t meant for a woman, or that looks decent on a guy. I tried a few and got a whole lot more crap for the jacket than I did for the other stuff combined (so far and excluding HK).

      In closing, I fully support any male that has the guts to sport pink stuff, but it’s an uphill battle in this society it would seem. Regardless, nobody is ever going to back me into a corner and stop me from employing my freedom of expression. I like pink, and they don’t have to like it, it won’t change anything.

  24. So I see that this post is years old but I feel compelled to reply. As a boy who loves Hello Kitty I’d like you to know that I think you are awesome. Cultural conditioning sucks. But when I was young my mother would never have let me out of the house wearing hello kitty boots and I never had the courage to do so at that age. Now that I’m older I’ve learned that I don’t much care what other people think and I rock Hello Kitty on the daily. It’s comforting to know that you’re bothered by your son’s experience and do what you can to mitigate it! And maybe one day E can rock Hello Kitty with pride, whether people like it or not.

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