or, “why I am currently crocheting two blankets”…
On browsing in a children’s shoe shop on the weekend, one of my boys fell in love with some shoes. No problem – except these shoes were most definitely “girl’s shoes”: jelly plastic, clear with gold sparkles in a T-bar style. Gender-neutral parent that I am, I did let him try them on. Then I had to explain that, even though they looked quite spiffy with his stripey socks on under them, they really were girl’s shoes and that if he wore them to school, he would be laughed at. This led to the (to my mind, quite reasonable) question from my son: “why can’t boys wear sparkly shoes?”
So, why can’t boys wear sparkly shoes?
Why does he feel it necessary to justify his favourite colour (purple) by saying that “I like purple, because purple is a girl’s colour and I like girls” (verbatim quote)?
Why haven’t we got over this gendered stuff?
From what I see at my sons’ school, our society is way more outwardly gendered now than it was when I was a child. I remember having one (maybe two) pink garments throughout my entire childhood. These days, it seems young girls are lucky to get away with wearing only one or two pink things at a time! And any parent (especially fathers) who has had to go toy shopping may require counselling for the terror that is “the pink aisle”. I do wonder what it is like to grow up as a girl who doesn’t like pink or purple in these times – is it actually possible?
It really bemuses me to see the social expectation for boys to wear trackpants and sweatshirts in blues and browns (with the odd burst of yellow, orange or red if you’re lucky) and for girls to wear pretty stuff in pink and purple with sparkles – especially when you see us parents all bumming around in jeans or dressed in black-and-grey work clothes! I really wonder what is going to happen when these kids hit their teenage years and start choosing their own clothes.
I have told my son that when he is grown up, he can whatever he chooses (and I look forward to seeing what he does choose!), but while he is young I do feel an obligation to protect him when I can. In an ideal world, I would be quite happy to buy him the sparkly shoes, and I know he would wear them – but as we live in this world, I won’t buy them because I know he really doesn’t need to be bullied.
And I will grieve with him for the sparkly shoes he cannot wear.
And I will grieve for him for his loss of innocence and his growing awareness that this world is not a fair place.
As for the ‘crocheting two blankets’ bit:
After a long discussion about how it truly wasn’t fair that only girls could wear sparkly shoes without being laughed at and a desperate look around for ‘boy’ things that might sparkle (praise be for a sunny day and skateboard tops being somewhat sparkly!), I suggested that I make him a blanket with lots of purple and sparkly yarn in it (his brother wants one in orange, not purple – but definitely with sparkles). I will post photos when they are done – the beginning stages look promising.