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“Mama, what is he wearing?” was the first reaction we got when my then two-year old boy ventured out of the home in a dress that was too small for his sister. Though we live in a large city, that old community feel that makes neighbors lend each other cups of sugar and makes them feel entitled to stick their noses into other peoples' affairs is still very much present here.
The same woman, who runs a little convenience store in the neighborhood we have since moved away from, also gave us plenty of other gems. Once, she gave my daughter a pink bouncy ball and my son a blue one. She complained, “but pink is for boys!” when my boy asked to have a pink one like his sister instead, pointing to the large bowl filled with lots of bouncy balls sitting on her shop counter.
This same woman complained that I kept my “maiden name” after marriage, told my daughter off for liking Spiderman, and told my husband I should be doing the cooking when he popped to the convenience store for a last-minute ingredient he needed for a meal he was preparing.
My son is four years old right now, and he has had a fascinating with girl's clothes since he was tiny. Since he has a big sister and a mom, he saw plenty of exquisite examples of sparkly stuff — and he wanted in. He isn't the only one. Let's face it, girls' clothes just look a lot nicer a lot of the time. Most little kids are rather fond of glitter and pretty pictures. Plenty of boys my son's age want to wear skirts. The question is, is that OK?
I'll be brave, and admit that I do not feel comfortable with allowing my son out in a skirt or dress at this stage. I let him wear whatever he wears at home, but in the outside world he has to stick to stuff that won't prevent us from going about town in peace.
Some people are braver than I am — like the German dad who appeared in various newspapers from all over the world in 2012 when he decided to don a skirt right alongside his five year-old son, in solidarity. Nils Pickert said: “Yes, I’m one of those dads, that try to raise their children equal. I’m not one of those academic daddies that ramble about gender equality during their studies and then, as soon as a child’s in the house, still relapse into those fluffy gender roles: He’s finding fulfillment in his carrier and she’s doing the rest.”
I couldn't agree more. I am a feminist, and a divergent thinker by birth (that's probably what you get from being multicultural and thus a perpetual outsider). Yet, there are plenty of people who don't agree. I asked around on the internet, on a mom forum I am active on. I got three pages of replies within next to no time. It is clear that there are many strong feelings on this seemingly benign topic.
So, what did people say about boys wearing “girl's clothes”? And what are the pros and cons of skirts and dresses for boys? That's what we'll examine next.