Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Pink Coats and My Little Pony Backpacks

I took my two-year old son into JCPenny a couple months ago to buy him a winter coat. As I browsed through a rack of gray, blue, and red coats, my son grabbed a bright pink puffy coat from the girls’ section and said, “This one mommy!”

 What’s a mother to do? On the one hand, I loved the fact that my son’s preferences were uncorrupted by our gender-based society, and I wanted him to stay that way. On the other hand, I couldn’t let my son walk around in that thing! His friends at day care would say, “That’s a girl coat!” and I would get all kinds of odd looks from family, friends, and neighbors. As much as I hate the way American society shoves gender roles on people I am not willing to allow my son to be laughed at and criticized in order to make some kind of statement. It about broke my heart to refuse that innocent little boy standing there with the pink coat, but I was resolved. We went home with a perfectly normal blue and gray coat.

 I have often thought back on this decision I made at JCPenny. I never thought I would be the kind of mom that would push social norms on my kid. I majored in sociology for Pete’s sake! It’s never made sense to me that our likes and dislikes should be dictated according to our sex, and yet here I am refusing to buy my son a pink coat. I am guilty of the very thing I find so disgusting in society, regulating what is and is not okay based on gender.

The problem here is that I care too much about what other people think. Within our own home gender roles don’t matter in the slightest. Whether we're having tea parties or shooting nerf guns, pretending to be princesses or dinosaurs, watching My Little Pony or Avatar the Last Airbender, it doesn't matter.  At home we are safe from disapproving looks and pointing fingers. I am not yet ready to allow my son to publicly challenge gender roles, but thankfully there are parents who are. Bruce Grayson, a nine-year old boy, has recently made a big splash in the news and on the internet for wearing a My Little Pony backpack to school. (Their story is actually what inspired me to write this post in the first place. Visit https://www.facebook.com/SupportForGrayson if you’d like to find out more.) I realize that in order for a change to come about people have to take risks and make sacrifices. I am so grateful to Bruce Grayson, his parents, and other people out there who are taking risks and making waves, because they are the ones who are going to make this world a better place.

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