The gender revolution among children tips in favor of the masculine
The toy industry has experienced far more pressure to expand the definition of girls' toys than boys' toys
For his birthday this year, my 5-year-old son asked for a My Little Pony sweatshirt. He didn’t know that it was categorized as girls’ clothing, only that, like his beloved Rainbow Dash, it was polychromatic, glittery, winged and perfect.
He has spent his early years in Oakland, California, largely surrounded by adults who avoid use of the nouns “boys” and “girls” unless necessary. His world is blissfully, ignorantly gender-neutral.
In the fall, he’ll be heading to elementary school, and I was thinking it might be time to explain to him that as natural as his love for this sweatshirt is, there are a lot of people who find a boy in a girl’s sweatshirt unnatural and won’t hesitate to let him know.
The hardest part of this conversation will be what, inevitably, will follow. He, a scrupulous monitor of fairness in matters large and small, will ask whether there are also things people think girls shouldn’t wear. I, remorsefully, will have to tell him “no.”
Gender progress: a one-way street
Though feminism has made great progress in stripping childhood of gender norms, the efforts have been awfully lopsided.
Today, there’s not a single traditionally masculine thing a girl can do that would raise eyebrows. Join a sports team? Over half of them do it. Play with toy guns? Nerf makes a line just for them. Cut their hair short? Celebrities Katy Perry, Janelle Monae and Scarlett Johansson all have locks that measure under half a foot. Interested in STEM? On trend. Pretend they are superheroes? Last year’s “Wonder Woman” is one of the highest-grossing superhero movies of all time.
Meanwhile, there’s still not a single traditionally feminine thing a boy can do that wouldn’t raise eyebrows. A boy who likes wearing jewelry or makeup, twirling in a tutu or caring for baby dolls is at best the subject of conversations conducted sotto voce. At worst: a bully’s target.