My Son Wears a Dress & That's Ok With Me

Thu, 07/17/2014 - 07:44
Submitted by Carlin Ross

I love this post written by a father about his 2 year old son's love of dresses. I'll never understand why we're so preoccupied with policing kid's gender.

Here's my favorite passage:

"It used to embarrass me slightly when he wore a dress in public. And it wasn’t because I cared about people who thought it was weird that my son was wearing a dress. It was because I cared that they thought I had chosen to put him in a dress. As if there was an agenda on my part to use my son as a way to break societal norms, or as my friend’s mom said to me -- a religious Sephardic Jew -- “You wanted another daughter?”

This was at a birthday party for my friend’s daughter and before I left my house I had tried to convince Asher to change into “boy clothes.” I knew that if he showed up in a dress, it would be an endless series of questions and judgments, and I just didn’t feel like dealing with it.

He had a huge tantrum as I tried to force his legs into a pair of shorts. His nose was running into his mouth as he cried and protested and I suddenly realized I was fighting for something I didn’t even believe in. I was making my kid feel badly for something he shouldn’t be ashamed of. And I stopped. And I gave him a hug and I apologized. And then I put back on the purple princess dress with his sister’s sparkly Tom’s shoes."

Great parenting.

Editor in Chief & Keeper of All Things Betty Dodson

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Boys like pretty things!

Thu, 07/17/2014 - 13:08

I have a lovely picture in my album of a young boy aged around 3 with a beautiful pink feather boa wrapped around him. He loved the feel and the joy of it so much, for a good year or so. The picture came out some years later at his barmitzvah. I expect I'll be asked to bring it along to his wedding eventually.

Mathew was in no way "doubtful" about his gender. He identified himself as a boy, and now as a man. He just liked lovely pretty things. His parents were relaxed and eventually he found something else in the dress up box or moved on to different games.

Boys and girls are policed so very differently as children. Girls are socialised to be careful, to be polite and meek. In constrast boys are encouraged to be brave and loud. They're allowed to be rude. The only thing they're really not allowed to be is "girlish" and the most obvious signifier of that seems to be pretty clothes.

It seems such an unnatural segregation given the long history of male dandies & beautification. And ultimately so pointless.

The piece that ran close to the bone was the father's anxiety that his son's clothes reflected upon him and his parenting choices and attitudes. I really wish that all of us parents (& grandparents) could just chill out and be kinder to each other.

Boys can like pretty things, and girls rough ones

Thu, 07/17/2014 - 16:12

I like the story of Mathew's understanding parents, because ridicule rather than tolerance would have been his fate in many families. Girls are usually socialized to suppress their daring and explorative sides, which is a great tragedy. Boys may be encouraged to be 'brave', but this also means that they're trained to disown a vast range of their true emotions, such as tenderness, fear, and the appreciation of beauty. This, too, is tragic.

It's true that the one thing boys are never allowed to be in our society is girlish. Tomboys are 'cute', but effeminate boys are mercilessly tormented. (Adults would smile at a little girl who dressed herself as Captain America or Zorro, but a little boy who went to his school Hallowe'en party attired as Wonder Woman would be torn to shreds). I've often wondered why this should be, and I now think it's because femaleness itself has been held in contempt for so long in our culture. And there are historical reasons. Very masculine men used to dress in lace and douse themselves with perfume, but this changed with Puritanism, the Industrial Revolution, and other factors that steered men towards a severe, 'practical', and militaristic appearance. We seem to be trending towards a world of much greater tolerance today, and although we still have a long way to go, that is incredibly good news.

Boys in dresses

Fri, 07/18/2014 - 07:20
Jeffrey65802 (not verified)

FDR was dressed and groomed as a girl until age 6. As the pics at link show, the future US President was indistingushable from girls.

Boys dressed as girls

Fri, 07/18/2014 - 11:57

There's a photograph of my uncle as a toddler, dressed in a frilly frock with his hair hanging down in Shirley Temple curls. He grew into a very masculine if not macho man; no wonder he overcompensated when he grew up. The real surprise is that my grandfather, who had been a cowboy before he became a doctor, allowed his son to be dressed like that. The custom must have been a common one in that era. I wonder why?