Barbies Vs Monster Trucks: A Gender-bending Issue

by samantha on June 13, 2011


Anyone read the article in yesterdays NYT’s Style section entitled “Boys Will be Boys? Not in These Families” by Jan Hoffman? If not I suggest giving it a gander, but I’ll get you up to speed. The article was about children and gender “assignment”.  Is that the right word? Or is it gender roles? Gender play? Or gender discovery? The article touched on boys who like to play dress up in, well, dresses and little girls like Shiloh Joli-Pitt who wear ties and fedoras, and the parents that accept, or deny that their child may, or may not, be gay or transgender.

We live in a world that has progressed immensely regarding homosexuality, but as we all know, we still have a million miles to go. I grew up in San Francisco and had parents who were, and are, very liberal. I can still remember being hoisted upon my dad’s shoulders to see floats go by at the gay parade. So when I think about one of my children showing signs of being gay, I believe I would be all accepting and want the same amazing life that I would want for them, gay or otherwise. For me it’s a no brainer: make my child smart, amazing, talented and loving. For my macho BD, I’m not so sure. I cannot speak for him here. But I will say this: he is a loving and extremely smart individual so I’d like to think that he would embrace, love and teach all the same.

So far for our family, and what I am observing regarding our son, is that all signs are pointing to straight, but ya never know. Gender issue are popping up. Things like him saying pink is for girls. Something he absolutely picked up at school, because I am adamant about every color of the rainbow being worshiped, none being for any specific gender. But Fritz loves to play with a vintage dollhouse at his Grandmas house and I would NEVER keep him from doing it because it’s deemed a “girl’s toy”. Do I like to dress Lola in a pink tutu?  Yes. Do I also dress her in a black tee and jeans? Yes. Lola being the second child gets way fewer toys than Fritz has gotten. This often leaves her playing with monster trucks and Hot Wheels. Fine. She also has a few dolls that Fritz tortures regularly. I don’t really care what they play with as long as they stay out of my hair long enough to cook dinner.

Normal is what you make it. I know moms who love to paint their little boys fingers and toe nails. Is it because they’re gay? Probably not. It’s likely because it’s fun and they see their moms doing it. Will it make them gay? I seriously doubt it. Is it for every little boy? I say let them decide. But with the families featured in the NYT article , the gender lines were crossed. Crossed to the point of “Okay, our son or daughter may be gay.”

I know several gay men that from a very, very young age knew that they were different than some of their peers. They may not have known they were gay, but they knew they didn’t want to play race tracks, they wanted to get busy with the Barbie styling head. I’d like to think the readership of this blog is of the open-minded variety, and would have some comments on the subject. I can only imagine how many families become devastated or in denial about gender issues because of their upbringing and their own hang-up’s about gender. I’m curious if any of THM readers have had any similar experiences to those in the NYT article? Do you have an effeminate son or masculine daughter? Maybe you know some one who does? I’d like to hear how life changes or if it even does. Feel free to discuss. If you want to keep stuff private use a different user name, but I think it’s an important subject and I’d really like to hear from you guys on it.

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ana June 14, 2011 at 11:53 am

I just taught a series of lessons on gender norms for my first graders. Interesting conversations arose.
In any case, my 2.5 yr old son is OBSESSED with trains and automobiles are of great interest. At the same time, he has a pink stroller and a hot pink big eyed monkey doll he calls baby and HAS TO carry around with him wherever he goes. I try to encourage “girl toys” mainly because he gets a huge dose of these socialized gender norms from everywhere else he goes. I have to work twice as hard to normalize the antithesis of this whole pink vs blue thing in order to feel like I’m giving my son a proper perspective. In essence “Let’s try it out. You do what you like if it turns out you like it. Fuck what everyone else says. Mom thinks you’re awesome!”
It amazes me how deep these ideas run. My niece who is only 9 months older than my son thinks it’s law of the land that boys wear blue and girls wear pink and it confuses the shit out of her to see otherwise. It’s so hard to be the only one fighting these ideas and all the baggage that come with it for the sake of you family.

catherine June 14, 2011 at 5:59 pm

My kids are too young for me to see any effect of gender stereotyping (I have a 2y old boy and a 2 week old girl) so for now, I read a lot about it.
I highly recommend these two websites:

kjoy June 16, 2011 at 9:06 am

walking down the street the other day, we stopped and ran into a family we knew…chance (almost 4) immediately blurted out to the dad “why are you wearing a pink shirt”? i thought it was so weird…wasn’t sure when he made this association and then felt the need to ask the guy!. this is the same kid that begs his older sister to paint his nails…which she did on saturday…blue with a silver glitter coat on top. a couple days later, before school, he asked me to take it off because one of his classmates told him only girls wear polish. :( they are influenced in so many ways beyond our control…my biggest goal is to help them feel ok about doing things outside the norm (if they are inclined to do so) and to teach them not to judge others for their choices, whatever they are.

Samantha June 17, 2011 at 9:15 am

@kjoy I agree totally. Fuck that boys don’t cry shit. And judging people for doing their own thing is wack! That’s what I’ll tell Fritz! It’s actually wiggidy wiggidy wack!!! He’s gonna say “okay mom…but can you stop talking in 90s slang?”

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