Thursday, June 28, 2012

Gender Bending

As I posted a few weeks ago, I painted Ben's toenails at his request. Only minutes after I finished he wistfully said, "I wish we could paint our fingernails, too." Since Uncle Todd and Aunt Sarah's wedding was the next day, and I wasn't sure how they'd like a ring bearer with red fingernails, I told Ben we could do it after the wedding. I wasn't sure he'd remember, but he did, so the next week I painted his fingernails red. A few days after that I was going through my jewelry box and found an anklet I'd forgotten I had, so I put it on. Ben saw that and asked for one, too. I found a bracelet that would fit around his ankle and there we were: Mother and son with painted nails and matching anklets.

This is something that would probably make a lot of people uncomfortable, but I'm actually having the opposite reaction. I'm giddy because my son is asking for things based on his interest and enjoyment. It's another one of those proud mothering moments, because it means that so far I've been able to stick to my morals and not restrict Ben's idea of gender. That's something that's very important to me, because I don't want my children to be restricted by what's between their legs. Sexism is bad for men as well as women, because it puts everyone into these little boxes that don't necessarily have anything to do with what we're really like as individuals. And I'll admit, with Ben's love of trains and cars and construction equipment I was kind of afraid I'd completely lost him to "stereotypical boy land." There's absolutely nothing wrong with those things, but I was concerned that I hadn't done enough to make it clear that he can play with or be whatever he wants. But apparently I was wrong.

It's not like he got his nails painted and suddenly only wanted to play tea party with dolls. No, he got his nails painted and then promptly got them all chipped up running around on the playground like a crazy person. He just wanted pretty nails while he did it. And I've been very pleased with the reactions he's gotten, which have either been positive or none at all. There's been only one negative reaction and that was from a girl in playgroup who said boys can't have painted nails. Ben reported that to me, but didn't seem phased by it and when she said it again in my presence I just simply said that anyone can have their nails painted.

I feel very hipster, liberal feminist for being so proud of this... But I always wonder if my boys are catching on to what's important to me, and it makes me happy to know that in this instance Ben has. That being said, he's not even four yet, so I've had it pretty easy. He's gone to one year of preschool, but it's a very nurturing school and his best friend at school ALSO paints his nails, so we haven't come up against much gender stereotyping yet. And maybe we won't. We live in a pretty liberal area (though in a conservative state), so I doubt too many people would make a stink about a boy's painted nails. We'll see. At this point pretty much all the polish has chipped off and he hasn't asked for more, so perhaps it was just a one-time thing. But at least he knows that if he wants some in the future he can ask.

1 comment:

  1. You are one awesome parent, Katie. And so is Heath!