I have seen many articles covering Land’s End recent addition of science-themed shirts for girls to their fall clothing line. This is great, and clearly long overdue. I don’t even have a daughter, but I’ve noticed the major anti-feminist themes running in clothing for shockingly young girls out there. I get it, and I applaud Land’s End for doing something about it.
But I come to you as a mom of boys, specifically of a mom of one boy who doesn’t like camo print and sports, to tell you that over here, on the boys’ side of the store, the picture isn’t much prettier. The truth of the matter is, when our daughters want to play soccer and be an astronaut we rightfully say “Rock on!”, but when our sons choose a lavender flowered backpack “because it’s just how our garden looks in summer” we cringe and say “…well…flowers are really more of a girl thing.” It’s great that we embrace girls getting to do it all, but let’s not forget that not all boys like science, aggressive sports, violence. Admittedly, men are over-represented in fields like math and science and certainly the military, but male elementary school teachers are few and far between. Stay-at-home dads still face some stigma. Men who are nurturing and quiet are brushed aside by society so often. Why is that? Why do we accept this? Why do we look at a boy in pink Crocs and say, in a hushed voice, “Well, pink is kind of girly, don’t you think?” as if something being “girly” meant it was less-than?
What baffles me still is the seemingly arbitrary assignment of themes and motifs as “boys things” and “girl things”. The boy stuff is decorated with military prints, dogs, dinosaurs, lions, vehicles, and sports equipment. The girl stuff features flowers, cupcakes, fruit, cats, and peace signs. Sports and the military are for boys? Gardening and pacifism are for girls? Ugh.
I’ve chatted with my son about how other kids may say some things are “girl things” and “boy things” as he gets older, but not to worry because this is not the case. People are free to be who they are and to like what they like. There’s zero truth that says you have to like football because you’re male and I have to like ballet because I’m female. Girls can grow up to love Star Wars and boys can grow up to design dresses, even if the toy aisles and clothing departments disagree. I hate to dance and my husband hates football, and life has gone on just fine for both of us. My hope that what we teach at home, about being yourself and accepting others who do the same, will be a louder voice in his head than voices of those who disagree with us.