Thursday, August 2, 2007

Tomboys and...

"Claire at camp says she's a tomboy because she likes to do boy things," Baxter declared tonight, and then added, "What is a tomboy, really?"

"Well, a lot of girls and women might say they are 'tomboys' when they like to do -" and here I faltered because words like this have never passed my feminist lips - "umm, things that people associate more with boys." Gulp.

"Boy" games. "Girl" colors. Gender-divided Happy Meals, for God's sake!

I had the hardest time with this conversation. I wanted to explain to him what people meant by that - he was asking me, after all! - but he truly doesn't have a sense of the traditional lines of demarcation between the genders, and I hated to even give him the list.

You know The List:

Girls = dolls, dressing up, pretending, tea parties, ponies, pink and purple
Boys = active play, rough-housing, vehicles, dinosaurs, blue

Because don't you think that a kid only has to hear that once before he internalizes it on some level?

My boys have plenty of cars, trucks, and dinosaurs. But they also have a pink stroller, pink shopping cart, and a full play kitchen. Some of the dinner plates and cups they use at our dinner table are pink or purple. We have tons of dolls, and both of them have had special baby dolls, and sleep with stuffed animals and blankies. I recently posted a cute photo of Lyle wearing a pink shirt; tonight when we had this conversation, Baxter pointed out himself that his favorite color right now is purple.

I think it went okay because I managed to bring him on board with me as I scoffed at the whole notion of gender-based games, colors, and the like. "It actually makes me really mad when parents don't give their kids all these different kinds of things to play with, just because they only have boys or girls," I told him. He was right there with me: "That doesn't make any sense! Anybody can dress up! I love purple!" But I also saw him look at the play kitchen out of the corner of his eye and say, with slight hesitation and a defensive tone, "That's...not a girl toy..."


So then he asked the following question, probably trying to figure out where exactly he fit in, what he could call himself, maybe wanting to know if there was a label for a progressive boy who loves Star Wars and purple and rough-housing and dressing up:

"Then what is it called when a boy likes 'girl' things?"

Chew on that one, readers.

Chew on that, and then let's all join hands for a rousing chorus of "God Bless America", why don't we?

Because sometimes our culture is really messed up.


Christopher Tassava said...

Q: "What is it called when a boy likes 'girl' things?"

A: "Good."

(As the father of at least one girly-girl who nonetheless doesn't seem to have internalized the boy/girl stuff yet, I wholly concur with your conclusion.)

Elise said...

Damn, Christopher beat me to it. Only I was going to say "awesome." Do you ever read Bitch, PhD's blog? Her little boy, PK, has extremely long hair, enjoys wearing nailpolish and is amazingly (to me) confident and resilient when his gender-play is questioned by his peers. Gives me hope that all of our kids can live in a world with fewer hard and fast rules about what's male and what's female. Stupid happy meal segregations aside.

Jordan said...

Good answers, you two. And welcome to the conversation, Elise! Glad you're here. I'll go check out Bitch, PhD now...

oooooooodoooooooooo said...