Parenting

Want Your Boy to be Polite? Put Him in a Dress.

(YouTube.com Nicholas Ballasy screenshot)

I’m going to brag and I’m going to do it to prove a point. Every morning and every night I help my son brush his teeth. He stands on the counter while brushing and points to three pictures on the wall. One is an old drugstore ad from the early 1900s featuring two women we call “the ladies.” The next is a reproduction of an Ivory Soap ad featuring a mother bathing two children we call “the babies.” The third is an image of a regal woman we call “the princess.” He’ll point to the ladies, the babies, the princess and then to me. I am his princess. He makes no bones about telling me this as he snuggles his drooly mouth into my shoulder, pointing back and forth between the princess and me. Right now my little boy is content to be my loyal, loving subject.

My son also gives Eskimo kisses to his father, stretches his arms out to hug his favorite TV characters, and makes sure his stuffed animals eat right alongside him at the dinner table. He says “uh oh” when we reach the part of the story where Tigger gets stuck in the tree and cries when too many things get broken at Gordon’s house on Sesame Street. He is a beautifully sensitive boy as are all young boys of tender ages. So why do we think we need to “feminize” boys in order to get them in touch with their emotions?

Writing in the UK Daily Mail, Leah McLaren determined she’s got to enroll her 3-year-old son in ballet classes because he responds to a proffered flower with, “Flowers are pretty and I’m a boy.” She’s bothered that he won’t play princesses with his little girl friends in preschool, even though she’s super-grateful she only has boys so she never has to deal with that icky princess phase. Because even though she’s a ball of ideological contradictions, McLaren is sure of one thing: “I’m automatically wary of notions of biological determinism. When he hands me back a flower because pretty things are for girls, I think, what’s next? Kindness? Decency? Dancing?”

What do flowers have to do with kindness or decency? Unless you’re Hallmark and its Mother’s Day, absolutely nothing. Yet McLaren persists, quoting feminist princess expert (no lie) Jerramy Fine:

“Encouraging boys to reject princess culture is dangerous because what other traditionally feminine concepts are they in turn going to reject later on?,” Fine pointed out the other day. “Will they see romantic love as abhorrent? What about parenting and housework? Or even just being polite?”

Again, what the heck does being polite have to do with womanhood? Obviously ignorant of their own history, these two Brits fail to recall that the Romantic Movement was championed by men. Also ignorant of contemporary parenting trends, they fail to note that parenting and housework have largely become shared duties as well.

McLaren and her ilk are grossly ignorant and hypocritical. Yet this is the kind of dialogue that plagues parenting conversations regarding boys. If your boy rejects pink, he’s embracing the evils of masculinity. If he embraces pink he’s obviously a girl in a boy’s body. Either way you look at it, boys are being set up for failure and rejection, sometimes by the very mothers who are raising them. Science proves that little boys are strongly emotional, more so than girls, and rely heavily on their mothers to help them understand and express those feelings with the world around them. These women ignore fact in favor of popular trend, choosing to diagnose a boy’s behavior via the equivalent of a Cosmo quiz instead of solid research.

Emotions aren’t feminine, they’re human. Kindness, decency, and politeness are learned, not engendered behaviors. Telling me your son rejects flowers and pretending to be a princess doesn’t tell me anything about how he feels or behaves towards girls. It only tells me he’s doing something that disagrees with your politics. “’If I want my son to love and respect women, I am going to have to teach him to embrace – and ideally appreciate – “girlish” things,” McLaren, the princess-phase hater, ironically concludes. If anyone’s exhibiting the bad behavior here, it’s mom. It’s just a shame that her son is the one who will ultimately pay the price.