Paul Henson let his son wear a Princess Elsa outfit this week and it went viral. And props to him -- he'll be taking his son trick or treating this Halloween in full Princess Anna regalia, upon request. He's the image of a badass, progressive father who wants to raise his son without stereotypes or labels. And I love it.
It made me compare my two children. I have a boy and a girl.
My daughter is nine, and is a self-declared tomboy. I tend to quickly correct her with, "Sweetheart, you're an awesome, strong girl who doesn't like skirts and dresses." As a three-year-old she loved swimming, Jeff from The Wiggles, her daycare teacher and soccer. She grew up in overalls and her favourite outfit was black leggings with bright tunic shirts. No one ever blinked an eye when she'd regularly roll into daycare in black slacks and a purple Wiggles shirt, complete with logo -- dressed as a man.
My son is almost three, and likes bright colours. When I posted an image of him onto social media in a Hawaiian Wondersuit covered in pink flowers, a portion of the internet lost their mind and were permanently deleted from a clothing group by admin. For making hurtful comments about a two-year-old child's choice in clothing.
Granted, these were not typical women. They were the exception to the rule. Most in the group were shocked. But enough made comments for me to realise how strong the stereotypes hold today.
I was pretty pissed off. So I got my son booked by two gender neutral clothing companies, Aventyr Kidswear and Freestyle Threads, to appear in their latest advertising campaigns. He rocked it, and he loves his new outfits. My experience opened my eyes to the sheer volume of discrimination in advertising. It went viral too, because that's what happens when you challenge society's perceived norms -- ones which have steadily been chipped away at over the last decade.
So why the hell does it continue?
- Boys hats, girl hats. Last time I checked, no kid has a penis or vagina on their head.
- Socks. Why the hell does my kid need boats on his socks? He's never been on a boat. He does have a kitten, though. He likes kittens.
- Dinosaurs and Monsters. I love these two things. So does he. So did his sister. Why does she have to wear blue and grey? Last time I checked, we can't actually prove what colour the dinosaurs were. Bet there were some red and fuschia ones in the evolutionary mix. Take THAT, chainstore clothes buyer. Won't somebody think of the dinosaurs?
- No skirts for boys. What the hell? My son rocks my nylon Blackmilk dresses every time I forget to shut the cupboard door. His dress-up box is there for him to explore adult concepts in a child appropriate way. If it weren't for his sister's remnants kicking about in that box, he'd basically be Batman. Or a doctor.
I'm not even going to get into the toy debacle -- chef outfits for boys, aprons for girls. Pink tool kits. Butterfly catching kits in pink boxes and insect catching kits marketed in 'boy' colours.
I love that mainstream society finds it awesome when boys wear dresses, shares pictures of a little dude in a flowery jumpsuit, and supports one's life choices in general. So let's keep gender neutral parenting in the limelight, until it's known as 'parenting'. Keep buying BOTH your kids a doll. Keep teaching him/her how to change its butt. Keep showing your daughter how to mow the lawn and change a light bulb.
Let your son wear that crazy flower hat to the store. Take pictures when he dresses up. Treasure them. Let's elevate women in our society, make them as heroic as the men, and praise our son for aspiring to be like their female role models. Bring his pictures back out at his 21st as an adorable family memory, not as a 'shaming tool'. Because when you turn it into a joke, you're telling him that his sisters, mother and future daughters have been relegated to an inferior position by society and it's funny when your son sinks that low, too.
Or, if you think I've gone too far, and it's not like that at all, keep it gender neutral your own way. Just be sure to start laughing at your daughter every time she wears pants, votes, or goes to her job.