This cute meme has been doing the rounds recently. What's not to love about a little girl dressed as Batman, when all the girls around her are princesses? Well done her for sticking out from the crowd, for doing what she wants, for not bowing to peer pressure.
Except, it shouldn't be a meme. It should be the norm. The fact that it is a meme means that we still have a long way to go in allowing our children to be what they want and make choices for themselves, regardless of what others think.
I, in fact, have a little boy, who in a world full of Batman, would love to be a princess. But this doesn't make a cute meme. In reality, he is mocked for wanting to be a princess, by children and adults alike.
We strive to let him make his own choices and for quite a while he didn't care what anyone thought. But as he gets older, each day gets harder. He comes home from daycare saying things such as "pink is for girls" or "boys are superheros, not princesses". Due to the influence of others, his dream of owning a princess dress has, over the course of the past year, gone out the window.
So why is a girl dressed as Batman cute, but a boy dressed as a princess considered odd?
Is it because women have always inherently had to fight to do the same things as men, making everyone want to cheer for the girl who is winning this fight? Or perhaps it's because, over the course of history, particularly in a theatrical sense, men have dressed as women for a joke, creating a stereotype we cannot help but find funny? Or have we, in fact, created a gender inequality by trying to specifically get the needs of females recognised?
There is a huge focus in today's society on empowering girls to be strong, brave, fearless and other 'masculine' adjectives. Which is an amazing step forward for the feminist movement. We need equality and we need girls to realise from a young age that they can do whatever they want in life. The recent Target 'Bat Girl' t-shirt scandal is a prime example of just how far feminism has come, and what can be achieved when we force the ideal that stereotyping females is not okay.
Yet the same push is not there to encourage our boys to take up personality traits, hobbies or professions that seem feminine. I can't count the number of times my boys have been doing something stupid, and someone has said to me: "Oh well, boys will be boys".
There is no similar saying regarding girls, and the fact that it is encouraging what we consider to be masculine behaviour is not okay. We are still stereotyping our boys, discouraging their feminine side, and it seems to be a non-issue in the wider public.
Children should be children, and we should be encouraging and enabling them to be the best version of themselves, irrespective of perceived gender roles. How we do that, with a society that wants to empower girls to be whatever they want, but simply won't let boys act feminine, I know not.