“You be the girl pup, and I will be the boy pup,” my son says to me as he hands me over the toys we will be playing with. “But what if I want to be the firefighter pup this time?” I reply. “No mama, you a girl.” Lately, these discussions have been occurring more and more in our home. Wether the topic is in regards to the show he is choosing to watch, a book he does or doesn’t want me to read to him, or a battle over not wanting to play with the pink toy. They are innocent comments and observations, usually followed by a five minute rant from me as I refuse to overlook them. My son is a new three year old and the fact that he is already identifying gender roles and beliefs is mildly upsetting to me. When I point this out to my husband he simply blows it off and sees his comments as normal. I get it. I understand the idea that maybe it is ok for boys to like blue, and girls to like pink. For boys to play with cars, and girls to play with dolls, but the problem is that it sets the stage in forming a belief system grounded on the ideas that certain “things, colors, roles” belong with certain genders. Why? Why can’t pink just be a color? Not a girly color, but just a color? Why can’t a baby doll simply be viewed as a toy, and not a girl toy?
This way of thinking is so ingrained in our society that today I was sitting in church when the lead pastor was discussing how he would like to do his job “for the next 30 years or so,” until one day when he wished to pass it along to his son. This pastor has one boy and two girls and yet the words came out of his mouth without even a thought of his girls (one of whom is the oldest child). I turned to my husband and began my rant. This is the problem. My pastors’ comment was completely innocent. He did not mean to under value his daughters, but without purposeful attention to his words, he did so. I was grateful that my son was not listening to his sermon.
Society has become desensitized to words and behaviors like these. Brushed them off as nothing, and ignored. Women who dare point them out are labeled feminists (which I think all women should be, by the way) as if it’s a bad thing. Our children are listening and watching. My son sees and hears everything that I do and say. Behaviors that mindlessly undervalue girls, or define them into a specific role, are a constant part of our children’s schema and encourage a belief system that is not only unfair, but untruthful. Boys are better than girls. Of the many popular TV shows that are available to my son, only three of them pose a female as a hero, only one as the lead hero. This is crazy.
I will not ignore the comments or support the behaviors. As ridiculous that it may seem to stop and correct all misinterpretations that my son has come to believe, I will do it over and over again until pink is just a color. I will do it for him, for me, for my daughter, and for every girl that my son ever encounters. We are all just people and boys do wear pink.