Earlier today Holden and I were hit with sudden and serious ice-cream cravings, so we decided to venture out into this craptastic weather to get our sugar fix. As soon as I thought we were finally ready to go, Holden noticed my purse and just had to have it. So, like any good parent would do (right?), I went into his room and dug out his own.
No big deal. I fixed it up on his shoulder and out we went. Things were going swell. He was incredibly happy to be going on an outing with Momma, with a purse like Momma’s, getting ice-cream. Tonight was probably his version of heaven.
We made the short drive from our house to Shoprite in the gross muggy rain. Everything was great. We listened to music. We made the walk from our parking spot to the store in the gross muggy rain. Everything was great. We jumped in puddles. We walked in the first set of doors towards the second set. Everything was great, to Holden. He looked at all the cool things.
Everything was not great to me. Before we had even gotten inside the actual store, at least two different people did crazy-long double-takes at my son, and his pink purse.
I tried to ignore them. At first I thought I might purposely stare them down until they made eye contact so they knew that I knew they were staring, and that they shouldn’t, because it’s just a boy wearing a purse. But I didn’t. Holden is still too young to even realize that society expects him to conform to their version of “manliness,” so he didn’t have any idea that wearing a purse was out of the norm, let alone that people were giving us funny looks. He wasn’t on their eye-level; he was on the eye-level of everything children love: cookies and cakes and toys and stickers and books oh my!
So instead of giving strangers death-glares for still living in the 1800s, I did ignore them, to the best of my ability. I noticed, but then I turned to Holden and talked, and laughed, and played, and went about my ice-cream search. I admit that I did this partially to show off; to prove to them that we were a normal family and he was a normal kid and we were happier than their scowling faces. I was so involved with ignoring the purse-stares that I didn’t even notice the probable you’re-taking-your-toddler-shopping-for-ice-cream-at-9pm-and-he’s-wearing-a-purse stares.
At this point in the night I was pretty convinced that everyone knew Holden was a boy, but were just off-put by his choice of accessory and my
allowing encouraging him to wear it. It wasn’t until we had gotten to the checkout line that I realized maybe some of them were trying to figure out just which of the two genders (with which they’re familiar comfortable) he was.
(Now is when I should point out that Holden was wearing very “boyish” baggy jeans and a very “boyish” blue and gray striped hoodie, with skulls on the front and a mohawk on the hood. And a “girly” pink purse, of course.)
As our two boxes and one carton of ice-cream, one pre-made salad, and one half-eaten apple were being rung up, a middle-aged man started speaking to us. He was very friendly and polite; the problem arose when he tried to coax Holden to come out of “her” shell.
This man said she or her in nearly every sentence. I didn’t outright correct him, but instead simply started referring to my son as he. Holden also helped out by saying “I’m a big boy!” to something I said (he gets very offended if I call him my baby, a sweet boy, a silly boy, or anything other than a big boy).
(I should also point out that my son has long-ish hair. It’s not “girly” long, but it’s not “boyish” short. It’s simply never been cut and he’s not even three.)
The man took the hint and didn’t make a big deal about it, he just kept on talking. But then he said “His hair isn’t very girly.”
I guess his whole point of striking up conversation in the first place was hair, because he then proceeded to tell me all about how girls used to tell his aunt they wanted to marry him when he was a young lad, simply so their future children could have his sultry locks. He then threw in that he, not his wife, used to do his daughters’ hair every day when they were young, I guess to show me that he also didn’t care about traditional gender roles.
By that point, our ice-cream was melting and I had heard enough about this man’s past. We finally put Holden’s half-eaten apple in his purse and went on our way (to WaWa to get my ice cream, in case you noticed it wasn’t present in the list of our checkout items).
Our trip to the grocery store wasn’t really that big of a deal. We’ve dealt with things like this before, and we will again. But it did get me thinking about a few important issues:
Why are we still so stuck in our gender-conforming ways? Why does it have to be one or the other? Why can’t my son rock a blue mohawk hoodie and a pink purse?
Not everything in the world has to be masculine or feminine. I’ve blogged about this before. There is nothing girly about the color pink or boyish about the color blue. We — our society — has turned everything into a gender war. Boys get cars and girls get baby dolls. Why?! Doesn’t that make you think back to a time when boys got pants and girls got dresses? Could you imagine women not being allowed to wear pants? The really sad thing is that we’ve only eradicated half of that requirement. Boys still aren’t allowed to wear dresses. I mean, there’s no law against it, but it’s certainly not a cultural norm and people certainly do not react kindly to it. Why can’t it be a cultural norm?
Why the hell, in the year two-thousand-and-freaking-fourteen, can’t we wear whatever in which we’re most comfortable? Why do we have to divide our entire lives — likes, dislikes, clothes, hobbies, posture, way of speaking, looks, etc. — depending on what our reproductive organs are? It simply doesn’t make any sense. My son wearing a purse does not harm you in any way. Crawl out of your hole and realize that you’re stifling our future generations’ creativity and sense of self.
Why is it still more acceptable for women to engage in masculine activities or wear masculine clothing, while men are shunned for even thinking remotely about something feminine?
Holden was wearing “all-boy” clothes, but was assumed to be a girl because of one small accessory. (Maybe two if you count his kinda-but-not-really long hair.) The man who thought Holden was a girl didn’t even flinch, though he obviously thought “she” was dressed like a boy. Yet, all of those people who stared were staring because a boy was wearing a “girl” purse. If this isn’t proof enough for you that gender inequalities still exist, I don’t know what is.
When I was a teenager I pretty much only wore men’s pants. No one cared. I had a mohawk. No one cared. (I mean, yes, a lot of people cared about how abnormal my look was, but not because it was boyish, simply because it was odd all-around.) My old (male) friend used to wear dresses. He got a lot more negative attention than I did. Why does this matter?
Not to mention, it is (even if subliminally) teaching our children that men are better. Girls are allowed to do boy things, because boy things are cool. Boys aren’t allowed to do girl things, because girl things are icky. Are we all still in third grade? Hell, even third graders shouldn’t think that stuff. And, here’s the kicker — they wouldn’t if we didn’t put those stereotypical expectations into their heads.
Why is everyone so obsessed with gender in the first place? Why does the sex of my child matter to you? Why does his gender identity matter to anyone but himself?
I’ve thought about this before, after reading other articles about how hell-bent people get when someone asks them the sex of their baby. Obviously, it’s rude to call someone’s offspring “it,” so we naturally ask the sex so we can properly say “he” or “she” in casual conversation. I get that. I mean, we even do it with dogs. But those people (other than the man) in the store weren’t going to say one word to us. Most of the time, people aren’t even going to mention anything that has to do with gender when they make passing conversation at strangers.
So why are you so obsessed with finding out if my child has a penis or a vagina?
Sounds creepy when I put it that way, doesn’t it? Because it is creepy, and that’s exactly what you’re doing by caring so much about if someone is a male or female.
So, stop thinking about my child’s private parts. I’d greatly appreciate it. And while you’re at it, let’s try to change the world so that your children don’t end up thinking about my grandchildren’s private parts, and so on.