Susan Edmunds: It's time for girls to be cool

Being "girly" is fine, even for boys.
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Being "girly" is fine, even for boys.

OPINION: When is it going to be truly cool to be a girl?

I have two kids and I am trying hard not to let their lives be ruled by what other people think is appropriate for their genders.

I've noticed some big differences, though, in how each are received when they stray from the norm.

Things like sports and superheroes are the domain of both girls and boys nowadays.
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Things like sports and superheroes are the domain of both girls and boys nowadays.

With my daughter, I encounter very little resistance when I tell people she can wear whatever colour she likes, she can play with cars, she can grow up to be a policeman if she wants, and there's no obligation whatsoever to want to be a princess.

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In other words, most people are (mostly) fine with the idea of a girl doing "boy" things.

Being "girly" is still seen as second-rate by some people.
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Being "girly" is still seen as second-rate by some people.

But with my son, the pressure is much more intense to stick within the realms of what is considered appropriate for a boy.

He is the older of the two so he does not get the gender-crossing hand-me-downs that his sister does. 

But when I used to put him in a purple onesie, people commented every single time.

I even had a raised eyebrow about a mint-green shirt from Kmart that, yes, came from the girls' section – but was $3 and fits him perfectly.

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When I thought about enrolling him in a dance class, teachers at two different schools made mention of the fact that what he would be learning was *not* ballet.

I didn't care – I'd be impressed if they managed to get three-year-olds following any set type of dance. But one teacher told me that she often encounters resistance and outright refusal from fathers who cannot handle the idea of their sons indulging in "girly" ballet.

It seems sometimes even girls aren't allowed to be girly.

In our desire to make sure that our daughters know they do not have to be pink and pretty, some mothers deliberately reject all traditionally girly things.

I've encountered comments from women who are so disdainful of other parents dressing their kids in pink and sparkles that one even suggested it showed a lack of intelligence.

I know I'm hesitant about the prospect of my daughter being interested in Barbie, largely because of the questions about what she might do to her body image. But really, if she understands that Barbie is a fiction, is it any worse than some of the action figures that boys play with? I've seen some fairly unrealistic representations there, too.

It all seems to be rooted in the idea that girls and girly things are somehow "less than". 

Girls can strive to do all the things that boys do and that's to be celebrated. We applaud people's efforts when they sneakily move "future scientist" and "superhero"-slogan t-shirts from the boys' section to the girls'. 

But when boys want to do something that's traditionally seen as girly, that's somehow ruled a step down for them. And girls who enjoy stereotypically girly things are seen to be somehow missing out.

Kids of both genders need to see that being "girly" or indulging in "boy" things are both fine – and mixing it up or being neither is fine too.

Girls and the things that (some) girls are interested in aren't lesser – I'll prove it to you at my son's next princess party.

* This was first published on ThatFamily.co.nz

 - Stuff

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