A few days ago my sweet little boy asked me to tie a day-glow orange bow into his hair. Without blinking I swept his bangs into a little pigtail. He ran to the mirror and exclaimed at how “adowable” he was. He really did look adorable. But, instead of enjoying his cuteness, I was angry.
I am still angry.
My son doesn’t yet know or care about gender roles. He likes trucks, trains, dinosaurs and mud. He likes nail polish and glitter shoes. He likes bow ties. Since Monday he’s also liked his hair tied back with an obnoxiously bright orange bow. He’s too young for these things to have any significance. But they do.
These things matter to the disapproving adults who shake their heads at his butterfly wings when we go to the library or the park. They matter to the other children who have already learned at such tender ages which color sippy cup he is allowed to drink from. They matter to my son’s little cousins who tell him that his painted toenails are “weird.” They really seem to matter to the small boys whose fathers and mothers have taught them to be ashamed for being drawn to beauty and that they should crush that joy for my child too.
Someday our society will probably change him and teach him to be ashamed of his light, sparkling self.
But, just to be clear: He’s perfect. It is the rest of you who need to change.
Written by: Mara Morken Fogarty