You Can’t Be a Princess

It’s not every day you see a video about parents who purge the identities of their children.

When I was a child, I wanted to dye my hair blond.

I wanted, like every child, to explore the possibilities of my person – whether it be my physical or my mental characteristics. I doubt that there’s a single person out there who can honestly say they did not try something new as a child, that they did not crave for change or something exciting. Childhood, in essence, is about discovering the depths of your world, and who and what inhabits it.

I remember telling all of my friends in my fifth grade class that I was going to dye my hair blond. When I got home that day, I looked up at my father, eyes wide, and exclaimed my wish. He looked at me, amused, and told me we would have to ask my mother.

Of course, she shot it down immediately. Too feminine, too weird, too not traditional – too much of everything she stood against. Similar to what she tells me now, when I want to keep my hair a little longer, “How many men on the list of billionaires have long bangs? Zero!”

Harper Lee, the author of To Kill a Mockingbird and one of my biggest role models, was a tomboy and a big reader as a child. Image via timeinc.net.

Now, as a seventeen-year-old, I am aware that the blond would have clashed terribly with my tan skin. But at that time, I wanted just to be, to express myself, even if it was through something superficial. I wanted the support of my peers and the foundation of my family to guide me with my choice. Instead, it was shot down.

One of the things that strikes me the most about one of the moms in that video is when she says this, “I agree that he shouldn’t [wear the feminine costume]. Just because kids are cruel. I don’t want him to get picked on at school. That’s all.”

I have no experience in parenting whatsoever, but isn’t one’s job as a parent to provide their children with unconditional love? To build up their self-esteem and to make sure that they know they are loved, even if others say they are not? That’s my problem with what that mom said. Instead of shielding her son from the potential flames of his peers, she should have reinforced that he is perfect no matter what he wears. That no matter how many sticks and stones are thrown at him, he can be whoever he wants to be and he will still be loved. To create change in society and to serve as a strong model, parents cannot go with the flow – they must rise up against the unfairness of contemporary culture and raise their children to the best of their ability.

To be a parent is such a big position. I always say things like “when I have kids, I’m going to have them read by the time they’re two,” or “when I have kids, I’m going to sing Lady Gaga to them so much they’ll recite lyrics in their sleep.” But it’s not that easy. I probably won’t have kids for another ten years or so, and I can already tell it’s not that easy.

As a parent, an entire person’s life is in your hands. You have to step up to the plate. You have to take charge and combat the monsters and the cruelties your child faces, whether it be the Boogeyman or the bigoted kid next door. You have to protect your little prince or princess from all the nasty things people say. You will have to keep their heart – your kingdom – safe.

And when I’m a parent, I will let my children dye their hair brown. I will tell them that it’s okay to wear costumes that other kids aren’t wearing, that being like a boy or being like a girl isn’t as important as being you.

I will love them, unconditionally.

What do you guys think of traditional gender roles and the responsibility of a parent in raising his or her child? I’m looking forward to feedback from parents and from others who have experience with children. Now I am off to shower and do homework, until next time!

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6 Comments

Filed under Personal, Society

6 responses to “You Can’t Be a Princess

  1. We did a chapter in my sociology class at university on gender roles. I learnt that children around the age of 4 are the most ‘sexist’ of any age, in a way. They put every thing around them down to either boy stuff or girl stuff, which comes from their parents / extended family mostly, and they don’t often play with members of the opposite sex, though we’re not sure why.

    It’s really interesting, and also, they’ve done social experiments with raising babies ‘without gender’, so not telling anyone if the baby is a boy or a girl to see how the family / friends / peers react.

    It’s easier to be a girl in a spiderman costume than a boy in a dress. And it’s easier to be a girl and change your hair than a little boy who wants to dye his hair blonde. Tomboy girls can be seen as ‘cool’ and ‘tough’ whereas boys being girly isn’t seen often, so makes people uneasy.
    When you’re a kid you just want to do those things because you think it would be great, not because you think ‘this haircut will be more feminine’ or ‘this haircut will make me look less girly’ for girls. Of course, I’m sure that has happened! I’m just referring to that innocence children have with these sorts of things. They see something they think is cool and want to be it. It’s adults and society that actually teach us our gender – according to the sociology books / class I had anyway!

    • I can see why children at age 4 are the most concerned with gender. At that age, they’re still in their preconventional moral stage of development. They’re probably trying to make sense of the world, and putting things into simple categories like “boy stuff” or “girl stuff” makes that easier. As for not playing with members of the opposite sex, I’d assume that it is because children are most comfortable with what they are most familiar with – similar to how they’re taught that strangers are bad and that they can trust their family.

      My AP US History teacher told my class last year that it’s tougher to be guy because gender stereotypes are so prominent in society – girls can be tomboyish and get away with it, whereas if a boy acts feminine he is called out and castigated. You’re right that children are more innocent at a younger age, before they develop the distinctions often made by the society or culture they live in.

      It’s great that you’ve learned so much from your sociology class – I cannot wait to go to college. Thank you for reading and commenting!

  2. justxJosh

    The issue of gender roles is something that really annoys me. When I go shopping I don’t see mens sections and womens sections, I see clothes I like and clothes I don’t like. If it fits and I look good in it, I’m gonna buy it, despite what area of the shop it came from, and honestly, most people couldn’t tell the difference in what I’m wearing.

    In a historical sense, up until the Victorian era in England pink was considered a boys color and blue a girls, it wasn’t until the start of the 20th Century that those roles swapped.

    There’s also a lot of social bias surrounding gender roles. It’s deemed alright for girls to be tomboys growing up, and thats acceptable but a boy is outright now allowed to take an interest in girly things?

    There is a blog called Raising my Rainbow and it is written by a mother who’s son doesn’t conform to gender roles at all. It’s really inspiring and touching here’s a link: http://raisingmyrainbow.com/

    Final note: The last woman in that video really touched me with her compassion. It takes a lot to say what she did in front of a parent.

    • Yes, I am glad that you are confident enough to shop in whatever section contains clothing that suits you! It is interesting to note how gender roles and society’s stereotypes surrounding them have developed in history, and I agree that the social bias is definitely there. From what I’ve seen and experienced it’s much tougher on boys – I know a mother who allows her daughter to be tomboyish, but forces her son to watch football so that he will be more “manly.”

      I am a regular reader of Raising my Rainbow, she is a wonderful mom! And, like you said, the last woman in that video would also be a wonderful mother.

      Thank you for reading and commenting!

  3. Very interesting post and I love the cartoon at the end! As you say – most of us have ideals about how we will be as a parent, but it’s not as easy as that. Our circumstances and our experiences form our view and attitude of the world, which we will then pass on to our children. Even siblings brought up by the same parents do not end up growing up in the same way or having the same feelings towards their parents. Bringing up children is something that must be learned case by case – no child and no parents are ever the same!

    • Yes, exactly. Parenting is a prime example of when experience is the best teacher – though it does help to have good guides and morals along the way. Thank you for reading and commenting!

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