I’ve recently found myself in an odd little situation. My husband Kasper is your typical guy. He’s not buff (well, kind of but not really), he’s not overflowing with testosterone and he’s not exactly in favor of feminism [he is but he doesn’t grasp what feminism really is; if he was against it he wouldn’t agree with me on most sociopolitical issues] and he’s middle-of-the-road when it comes to traditional gender roles. He believes in choice and that’s a large part of feminism; what he doesn’t have is an openness to what’s still considered too far from the norm to be acceptable.
With two sons it’s hard to be a feminist and to not be a feminist. When my son says he wants a “girl” toy– let me break away for a quick sec:
I was just going to write “instead of a boy toy” and I want it to be clear that there is no option; there is no “instead of” because I never point only to the boy toys for them to choose from. We go up and down each aisle.
When my son says he wants a toy typically designated for girls, I look to Kasper as if we need permission even though my answer is a straight yes. This has only happened two times that I recall. JJ wanted something Doc McStuffins but before we could put it in the cart he noticed some other toy that was cheaper so of course I obliged. I don’t remember the other time clear enough to describe it. Kasper says he doesn’t care but he would prefer to “make sure” it’s what they really want first. I feel like this “making sure” nonsense is an excuse to pressure them into picking a “more appropriate” toy (i.e. a toy for boys). I understand he doesn’t want our boys to be made fun of or bullied but I feel like he’s adding a sense of shame to their choice to see all toys as gender neutral. I feel like this lingering sense of shame that stays with boys not given the option to select from all toys is why there are bullies in the first place.
I don’t think asking my boys about the opinions of others before they make a final decision on something they like and want builds self-confidence. I think it does the opposite. I’m here to buy you a toy, not judge you on your tastes. I know what it’s like living with the question of what will others say/think in the back of your head, I don’t want to raise my boys to have this same negative voice. Doubt is the ultimate termite to your spirit and confidence. It eats away at you until you’re relying on the good grace of others for support.
I see Kasper’s face when I read to him meme’s or viral posts about parents letting their sons dress up as Frozen characters for Halloween (we had a Mario and a Stormtrooper) and I see the distaste in his still expression. The fact that he is showing me nothing tells me everything. He doesn’t think boys should be a princess under any circumstances. I don’t care. Why was it okay for me to dress as an ugly male killer clown but boys can’t be pretty princesses? It seems unfair to me.
The thing is, Kasper doesn’t care what other people think unless it comes to our kids. I understand this but I think the worry is unwarranted. He doesn’t care what other people think about the things he likes and that’s one of the things I love about him. He sees a shirt that makes me question his eyesight and if I say something about it he’ll just tell me he likes it, he’s buying it with his money and he’s the one wearing it so my opinion doesn’t matter. He likes it and no matter how ugly or funny I think it looks, he’ll wear it anyway because it’s his stupid shirt and it’s this sturdy stance in defense of his tastes and style that keep people from picking on him or making fun of him. I’m sure being grown has something to do with it but this is the confidence I want our kids to have about their style, tastes and personality.
Kasper bought a woman’s billfold and he doesn’t know it. He loves it, I mean loves it. He keeps going on about how it clasps and closes “all the way!” and “there’s so many slots!” and I haven’t told him and I somehow feel ashamed. I mean, I guess it could be either a men’s or women’s wallet but I’ve only seen women use them. I think it’s great he’s potentially using a woman’s wallet and doesn’t care because all he sees is the use he’s getting out of it. I wouldn’t think anything of it if I didn’t know how he felt about gender assigned items mixing. I think that’s where the guilt is coming from, knowing how he feels about these things.
It doesn’t stop there, though. He recently bought a belt. It has flowers on it. He bought it because of the skulls. But it’s a women’s belt. It was misplaced in the men’s section. I haven’t told him about it because he likes it so much. I feel like I’m horrible for keeping these lies! My husband is into women’s accessories [**snarky laugh**] and doesn’t know it! All he sees them as are utilities, things that suit his needs…that’s the freedom in the confidence I want my kids to have while they develop their personalities and character. They should be allowed to pick the toy they want for the reasons they want it: It’s what they like and it does what they want it to do. Being pink or lavender, blue or camouflage shouldn’t limit who is allowed to like, play, wear it.