Boys Can Love Pink

Posted on | April 3, 2013 | 29 Comments

Several days ago, J came home from school and went on a walk with me.  As we turned a corner in our neighborhood, there was a pink bicycle lying in someone’s yard.  He looked at it for a moment and said “That’s a girl’s bike,” in a very matter of fact sort of way.

“Why do you say that?” I asked him, my step faltering slightly.

“Because it’s pink,” he shrugged, “and pink is a girl color.”

I reigned in my feminist need to shake him and say “NO! COLORS ARE GENDERLESS” and just asked him a simple “Why?”

“Because it is,” he shrugged, “and blue is for boys.”

“But you have a pink shirt that you wear, right?”

“Yeah…” He looked at me for a minute, confused.

“And I have blue clothes that I wear, right? Like these jeans I have on? And my Carolina shirt?”

“Yeah…” He wriggled his fingers slightly in my grasp, listening intently.

“So what makes colors boy or girl, then?”

He thought for a moment and then smiled.

“I don’t know.”

“Me either,” I grinned, “So I guess they aren’t, really, are they?”

“Nope.” He swung against my hand, our shadows dancing in waves at our feet.  He looked up at me and nodded, his voice matter of fact, as though I’d just helped him solve a great mystery. “So I can wear pink if I want to. Because boys can wear pink, too.”

Damn straight, I thought to myself, silently cursing some unknown foe. He then asked me about ballet tutus and dolls and several other “girl” things which I quickly dispelled as being for anyone who loves them.  And then we kept on walking, talking about this and that and not mentioning boy or girl toys or gender specific colors again. But somewhere inside me my heart broke a little. Because, you see, it’s already happening.  Even without my knowledge, even without my participation and especially without my consent, the world is telling my little boy he is limited in who he can be, in what he can play with, and even in what he can wear.

The world is telling my little boy that there are gender limitations, that there are ways little boys MUST behave, things little boys MUST play with.  And things they shouldn’t; things they “mustn’t.” And though I’m trying my best to counteract it all… I’m just one mom to one little boy.  There must be something more we can do, right? There must be someway that we can teach our boys that they can be anything, right? There has to be a way to convince even one little boy that he can be a boy and still love dolls.  That loving a pink shirt doesn’t make him less of, well, a boy.  There must be a way to show them that having a tea party isn’t some admission of guilt, some acknowledgement of wrong, some inability to be, well “masculine.”

If my son loves something age-appropriate, than dammit it is for him… pink, green, black, blue, yellow or polka dot.  It doesn’t make him “girly” it makes him three.  Or four. Or five. Or seven-freaking-teen.  And that goes for toys, clothes, and everything else.  Because I don’t like anyone, and I mean ANYONE, limiting who or what my child can be.



29 Responses to “Boys Can Love Pink”

  1. Kirsten Piccini
    April 3rd, 2013 @ 10:22 am

    oh yes!! I agree! The boys had pink pinstripes for Easter, and while Gio had a moment’s hesitation until he saw me in pink, Jacob couldn’t wait to put it on. They are navigating their friends’ opinions and that’s always hard, but I think if we , as moms, keep expressing the fact that colors and genders have nothing to do with one another, we’ll raise, strong, capable, not afraid to wear pink boys. 😉

    loved this.

  2. Law Momma
    April 3rd, 2013 @ 10:29 am

    It really is so hard. And I don’t BLAME anyone in particular, because even I find that I gravitate towards the “traditional boy” colors when I’m picking out things for J. But it’s got to start somewhere so it might as well be with me, right? 🙂 BOYS CAN BE ANYTHING! BOYS CAN WEAR ANY COLOR THEY WANT! 🙂

  3. Kate Sama
    April 3rd, 2013 @ 12:19 pm

    Yes – thank you for this. My son has always had pink as his favorite color. Not so much for clothes (hard to find), but he loves having a pink plate/bowl, pink spoon, playing with his pink pig, etc. He is just about 3.5, and only recently has he started saying that “pink is for girls”. Where does this come from? It isn’t anything I taught him. Besides, at least half the men I work with wear pink and or purple shirts to work now (and they are accountants for God’s sake, so they are not exactly progressive). I think we all like to have a little variety and some color in our lives/wardrobes/house decorations, etc., so I am trying to help him embrace that. So many things in this world to worry about and fear, I don’t think color should be on anyone’s list.

  4. Law Momma
    April 3rd, 2013 @ 12:22 pm

    AGREED. It’s a color. That’s all.

  5. trudja
    April 3rd, 2013 @ 12:20 pm

    My little boy is 16 months and we have dolls, stuffed animals, blocks, trucks, and other toys. He is not yet influenced by “the world” but, on his own, he gravitates towards the dinosaurs and sharks, not the dolls. I encourage all play with any toy (he wanted to wear a tutu the other day and I let him). I think that society definitely plays a role in gender identity, but I think a lot of it is just how they are made. More boys like rough housing, for example. I think it’s okay for boys and girls to be different, because let’s face it, they are. Boys have a penis, girls have a vagina. Can boys wear pink, absolutely. Blue is my favorite color. Some gender lines should be blurred, but it is my opinion that some shouldn’t. We still need our men to be men and if we tell our little boys that they can be anything, even a mommy, then we may end up with confused boys who don’t know how to be men and can’t be women.

  6. Law Momma
    April 3rd, 2013 @ 12:22 pm

    See, I disagree. We tell our girls they can be anything they want to be. That doesn’t mean we tell them “You can be a daddy.” We just tell them they can be anything. I just think the same should be true for boys… I should be able to tell my son “You can be anything” and have him believe it… if he wants to do ballet, he should be able to do it without someone telling him it’s “girly.” If he wants to wear pink, he should be able to wear it without being told it’s not for boys. I don’t think it’s a slippery slope of saying “You can be anything” and therefore he’ll want to be a woman. I think it’s just a matter of letting our boys be themselves… whoever that is.

  7. trudja
    April 3rd, 2013 @ 12:47 pm

    I’m not saying they shouldn’t be able to do ballet, I’d go to all my sons recitals. I’m just saying we need to be careful, with girls too, that while we encourage them to be anything, we also encourage them to be what they are, boys and girls. And not get so caught up in being gender neutral that we don’t also nurture what is inherent in them, their desire to be boyish and girly.

  8. Law Momma
    April 3rd, 2013 @ 2:55 pm

    I think the most important thing is just to nurture whoever it is they are… however they see themselves… in whatever roles they take on for themselves. Just as I don’t force my son to wear blue and wrestle (he does both on his own), I don’t force him to wear pink and play with dolls. I just want to encourage him to find out for himself what he likes to wear, think, dress in… no matter what it is.

  9. trudja
    April 3rd, 2013 @ 7:23 pm

    I agree to some extent. We do need to nurture who they are, but it’s the “no matter what” part that I have a hard time with. When my son is three, I won’t want him to play in tutus or wear dresses to school, even if that’s what he wants, because at 3 he will already be forming who he is. And I don’t think it makes me a bad person (I know that is not what you’re saying) to want my son to be a boyish boy. I’m not saying it will make him want to be a woman or anything, I just think encouraging boys to wear dresses (if that’s what they want to wear) could confuse them because, well, boys don’t wear dresses and I think that’s a good thing, unless they’re Scottish. 🙂

  10. Law Momma
    April 3rd, 2013 @ 7:46 pm

    I guess my point is that I never want my son to be embarrassed to be exactly who he is… whoever that is.

  11. trudja
    April 3rd, 2013 @ 11:58 pm

    I can get on board with that. 🙂

  12. Law Momma
    April 3rd, 2013 @ 7:47 pm

    And OF COURSE I don’t think you’re a bad person! 🙂 I love that we can discuss our differing opinions without getting ugly!

  13. CM
    April 3rd, 2013 @ 12:58 pm

    You’re an amazing mom.

  14. Law Momma
    April 3rd, 2013 @ 1:01 pm

    you’re biased. But thanks! 🙂

  15. NinjaPanza
    April 3rd, 2013 @ 2:04 pm

    YES! Thank you. Now tell that to my husband? :/

  16. Law Momma
    April 3rd, 2013 @ 2:53 pm

    Give me his number… 😉

  17. notmommyoftheyear
    April 3rd, 2013 @ 2:11 pm

    One of my (many) frustrations about living with my in-laws is the constant, “Chessa gets the pink plate, Cole gets the blue plate” and “Boys like these toys, girls play with dolls” crap that I hear coming out of my mother in law’s mouth. Chessa’s favorite color is pink. So, yes, she gets a lot of pink clothes, pink crayons, pink scissors, but I try to give her choices and expose her to as many activities as I can. Hearing those old world stereotypes come from MIL makes me want to scream.

  18. Law Momma
    April 3rd, 2013 @ 2:53 pm

    Yeah… that would be tough to handle. You *might* be a saint… just sayin’ 🙂

  19. Amanda Chapman
    April 3rd, 2013 @ 3:17 pm

    I love reading your blogs. I love that I don’t have to agree with everything people write to still enjoy reading it. I agree with Trudja (like anyone cares who I agree with, LOL) Your blog was well written. But I do believe God puts in each of us natural instincts. Men and women are different and have different interests, naturally. I don’t push it one way or the other. But I encourage my kids to be who God made them. Kylee is a girl, Logan is a boy. If my son wanted to wear a tutu (probably bc he looks up to his older sister and saw her wearing one) I would clarify that those outfits are for girls, not boys… because… well they are… I also wouldn’t condone him wearing lipstick just because his sister got to wear some on Halloween… There are lines that don’t need to be crossed or confused just for the sake of being “gender neutral” or “equal rights” or the new “liberal” on the block.

  20. Law Momma
    April 3rd, 2013 @ 3:39 pm

    Oh I think disagreement is healthy! 🙂 While I don’t encourage J to wear tutus or put on makeup, if he wanted to try it, I wouldn’t tell him no. Because he’s three. I think it’s part of self-expression for him. Thus far, he’s shown absolutely ZERO interest in tutus or lipstick or dolls. So that’s not who he is. But I felt like it was his to pursue if he wanted to.

  21. Amanda Chapman
    April 4th, 2013 @ 9:38 am

    Right on! And from what I read, you are doing a kick ACE job at raising J. As parents, we are to guide our kids and eliminate confusion that the world and society puts on them when we are at work. I’m old school and still believe that being gay (not that this was the original topic but it was in that neighborhood) is a choice. And if my kids ever wanted to explore things that aren’t for their gender I would explain it and cross reference it with God’s word. I wouldn’t allow it and call it self-expression. Allowing it could cause additional confusion and you might accidentally be condoning behavior that isn’t “natural”. Yes its normal for children to be curious and want to explore things, but its our job to guide them to the safety zones and away from the things that could lead them in the wrong direction as they get older. I hope that made sense. You said your heart was broken bc of what society teaches our kids without your consent… I am too. Example:

  22. trudja
    April 3rd, 2013 @ 7:02 pm

    Amen! 🙂 Very well said. And I care that you agree with me. 😉

  23. typea.nightmare
    April 3rd, 2013 @ 3:39 pm

    Okay… so YES. I completely agree. In fact, EK’s room is a fabulous shade of blue… painted that way AFTER we knew she was a she. People questioned that, but I held firm. I did not want pepto walls. That being said, I bathe her in pink because I love it so much. And I am fast to tell the hubs which shoes are “boys”. I think that mostly had to do with having a new baby and now wanting people to mistake her for a little boy when she was so clearly a girl. 🙂 And I am fast to buy her basketballs and softball sets and four-wheelers (but I buy them in pink). Ah, except the basketball goal. I didn’t know they came in pink and purple so she got red/blue. I like to think that I would be better about this if I was a boy mom, but the reality of it is that I’m EK’s mom and she really likes “pink” and I really like it, but I can’t recall ever telling her that something is “boys” or “girls.” At the end of the day, I definitely want her to have what she wants to have… So, all of my ranting to say… Good for you. You handled that well, but I agree. It’s one of the many things being taught without permission… and quite likely without a conscious, decision-making, thought out process.

  24. typea.nightmare
    April 3rd, 2013 @ 3:44 pm

    As I wrote that, and I read the other comments, it feels very different with respect to girls vs. boys, which is why my comments turned out so all over the place. No one will tell EK that she can’t ride a blue bike (even considering the comments on her blue room), but you would get many more comments about a pink bike for J. It does seem to be more double-standardish.

  25. Law Momma
    April 3rd, 2013 @ 3:49 pm

    yeah… that’s what I don’t like. We’ve pushed so hard as women for equal rights and we try so hard to teach our daughters they can be and do anything… that sometimes I think we’ve forgotten to do the same for our boys. It’s MORE than okay for a man to stay home and raise kids while the woman works if that’s what happens in your family. It’s MORE than okay for a man to be a teacher or a nurse or one of the other so-called “girl” professions… and I think we forget that in our rush to let girls know it’s okay NOT to fit a mold.

    All that to say… yeah… boys don’t have to fit a mold. They can just be who they are. Just like girls.

  26. Jessie
    April 3rd, 2013 @ 8:27 pm

    I sometimes find it hard to walk the gender line. My son has a kitchen and plays with dolls at school and I love that but there have also been times where he wants to try on girls shoes at the store. We usually go look at them and comment on how pretty they are, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable buying them for him. I’m not sure if it’s a good thing or a bad thing and I hate to say it but people’s perception has a lot to do with it.

  27. Law Momma
    April 3rd, 2013 @ 8:32 pm

    I’d love to say that I don’t have the same problem, but is be lying. When J was younger and asked for the Hello Kitty rain boots at Target, I totally deflected and bought a monster pair another day. It’s a struggle but I figure as long as he knows I love him no matter what… That’s all that matters.

  28. kryptogirl
    April 3rd, 2013 @ 9:07 pm

    Watching the emergence of gender in a toddler is a very strange thing. Like you, I was very keen to avoid gender stereotypes and see what emerged naturally. And lo and behold, without any prompting at all, I have a blue-loving, dinosaur obsessed, pirate sword waving, kung fu panda jumping little ball of mini-testosterone. Things become stereotypes because they are most commonly true.
    However, my 3 year old has no idea of the difference between boys and girls. Everyone is either a ‘boy’ or a ‘grown up’. Thank the lord we don’t speak Spanish or French where we have to assign a gender to every noun!

  29. Guest
    April 7th, 2013 @ 4:34 pm

    So I’m totally being a coward and signing in as guest in the event my friend should happen upon this blog and my comment. 🙂 We have an older daughter and so my son (almost preschool) ends up playing with A LOT of princess stuff, has worn princess costumes, etc. If he pinks the pink plate, I’ve got no issue with that. If he’d rather play with Snow White than his dinosaur, no sweat off my back.

    But, I do feel like there are limits to this (for me). A woman I know has a son in elementary school and she will paint his toenails because he wants to be like her. I have no idea if her son wears sandals with the painted nails or not. But I personally would not paint my son’s nails. That is a situation where I would say, boys don’t paint their nails. It’s part social norm and part (in my opinion) my responsibility to do my best to keep them from ridicule. I also wouldn’t let him wear a skirt to school but if he wanted to rock a kilt, I’d say go for it.

    Is there anything you wouldn’t let J do?

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