A few months ago while waiting in the pediatrician’s office, my toddler son took an interest in the four-year-old boy sitting across from him. My son would run up to this boy who would smile and remark on my son’s behavior with great interest. “He’s waving,” the little boy would say, or, “now he’s trying to run!” The little boy’s mother wasn’t paying much attention to him, so I responded and eventually, we struck up a conversation of sorts about my child.
“What’s his favorite color?” the little boy asked me.
“Well, I’m not sure but he seems to really like blue,” I replied.
At this, the four-year-old grew very serious. “I like pink. Even though I’m a boy. Is that ok?”
“Sure,” I replied without skipping a beat. “Pink is a great color. Do you like bright pink or soft pink like on ballet slippers?”
“Soft pink,” he replied, only partially at ease.
At that point, my son pulled this little boy away to continue playing and I was left wondering why a four-year-old would turn a conversation about colors into a discussion on gender norms. He’s four. He’s going to encounter a lot of colors in his life and change his mind a million times about everything. Why should he be plagued with questioning the validity of his gender in preschool?
Perhaps because folks like photographer Kirsten McGoey can’t just let boys or girls be kids. “Facing a slow winter season,” McGoey decided to emulate another photographer’s recent project featuring “girls as active and rambunctious and anything but what is stereotypically considered feminine” (apparently neither photographer has ever encountered a female sports team – what is it with gender activists being complete social luddites?) by creating a project of her own featuring boys doing stereotypically feminine activities. Titled “A Boy Can Too,” the photographs feature toddler boys wearing baby dolls in Bjorn-like carriers and learning how to dance ballet.
Any Billy Elliot fan will tell you there isn’t much more to the incessant obsession with “gender norms” than virtue signaling and perhaps, as in this photographer’s case, a desire to make a quick buck. Plenty of boys played with Cabbage Patch dolls when I was a kid, including my own husband who managed to hold onto his beloved Eddie well into adulthood. Shockingly, even the Greatest Generation knew men could dance. Late Gen-X and millennial dads have brought male baby-wearing into style. In other words, the actions McGoey depicts are normal to anyone who isn’t a member of the gender-obsession brigade.
Perhaps it is this segment of the population, the one claiming to break all the stereotypes, that’s actually propagating them. Writing on McGoey’s project, Glynis Ratcliffe comments, “We spend so much time fighting against the message of girls needing to be pretty and preferring dolls and clothes over trucks and mud, that we’ve forgotten about the boys, and what they’re being directed toward.” It isn’t the “what” that we need to worry about. It’s the who, as in who is doing the directing, that’s the problem.