14

I had a conversation over dinner with my BIL that I'm a little bit stumped about and wanting to hear your perspectives as women and feminists.

The topic of what my husband calls my children's "propaganda" books came up (stuff like the beautiful "My Body is Me") and I mentioned one I would like to read to my nephews - "I Love My Purse". It's basically about a boy who takes a ladies purse to school. Over a few days, various people tell him that boys aren't supposed to carry purses and suggest other boy things he can do, and he is just like "idgaf I like my purse." Eventually they are all inspired to start expressing themselves in ways they've been afraid to. My husband hates this book because the dad starts wearing Hawaiian shirts to work and he is totally offended by the idea of not dressing properly at work. But it's just an exaggerated story for kids, lol. The general message is great.

Anyway, my BIL was really bothered by the premise of this book. Basically, he thinks that while we should all be more accepting of gnc behavior, if he lets his sons go to school in feminine clothing and they get bullied for it, then he will just be throwing his own kids to the wolves, sacrificing them for the greater goal of a more tolerant society. So he doesn't let his kids wear anything that is not stereotypically boyish. He often makes my SIL return clothes she has bought for the kids if he thinks they're too girly. I've met his parents and they are ridiculously conservative wrt gender roles (offensively so, imo) so I can really see where he gets this fear.

What do you think about this argument, forcing your kids to confirm to gender norms to protect them from bullies? I've heard it a bunch of times from other people, often stated as an obvious fact that parents should never let their kids, especially boys, do things that might get them bullied. What do you think is the feminist perspective on this?

I had a conversation over dinner with my BIL that I'm a little bit stumped about and wanting to hear your perspectives as women and feminists. The topic of what my husband calls my children's "propaganda" books came up (stuff like the beautiful "My Body is Me") and I mentioned one I would like to read to my nephews - "I Love My Purse". It's basically about a boy who takes a ladies purse to school. Over a few days, various people tell him that boys aren't supposed to carry purses and suggest other boy things he can do, and he is just like "idgaf I like my purse." Eventually they are all inspired to start expressing themselves in ways they've been afraid to. My husband hates this book because the dad starts wearing Hawaiian shirts to work and he is totally offended by the idea of not dressing properly at work. But it's just an exaggerated story for kids, lol. The general message is great. Anyway, my BIL was really bothered by the premise of this book. Basically, he thinks that while we should all be more accepting of gnc behavior, if he lets his sons go to school in feminine clothing and they get bullied for it, then he will just be throwing his own kids to the wolves, sacrificing them for the greater goal of a more tolerant society. So he doesn't let his kids wear anything that is not stereotypically boyish. He often makes my SIL return clothes she has bought for the kids if he thinks they're too girly. I've met his parents and they are ridiculously conservative wrt gender roles (offensively so, imo) so I can really see where he gets this fear. What do you think about this argument, forcing your kids to confirm to gender norms to protect them from bullies? I've heard it a bunch of times from other people, often stated as an obvious fact that parents should never let their kids, especially boys, do things that might get them bullied. What do you think is the feminist perspective on this?

31 comments

I think children should be allowed to wear what they want, as long as it's age appropriate. Sexualized clothing is obviously off the table. Most kids are adaptable and will wear what they're told, but some aren't. Highly GNC children are distressed by being made to wear clothing associated with their biological sex. I believe it's abusive to force them. I doubt I would have made it to adulthood if that had been done to me.

I second this, I was one of those little girls that didn't want to wear dresses or frilly shit and it was terribly upsetting every time my mother tried to force me to do so. There's an Easter pic of me around age 8 or so where I have the stupid dress on (my aunt had to bribe me) and I'm basically in tears and scowling. While I don't agree with allowing kids to steer the ship, I don't see the point in making kids unnecessarily uncomfortable by forcing highly gendered clothing on them.

I agree with this but would also add that the clothing needs to be appropriate for the occasion. It wouldn’t be appropriate to wear a bathing suit to church with Grandma, obviously, and I think (some) parents need to stop trying to be their child’s friend and provide guidance about appropriate dress even if it isn’t popular.

Agreed. If they're going to church or a similar destination, they need to wear something appropriate. But a little girl should be able to wear anything that would be appropriate for a little boy to wear for the same occasion.

I tried the BILs way to escape the bullying. I was very gnc in school, bullied by my classmates and I really hoped that me being girly and nice to them would make them like me. Didnt work. Fuck them. My baby son was shame by other moms for wearing...purple, green with white dots; they asked me if he was gay...a BABY. Fuck them too. He looked adorable and babies dont have a sexuality. No matter how you do it, you do it wrong. Closed-minded people will always complain, for me, other peoples opinions dont matter anymore. I do what I want and this is what I teach my son. If he cant stand bullying later in life (which i hope wont happen...) and tries this route, I will support him. But this wont work, bullies will always bully, if the victim stops with what they dont like, they'll find something else.

I think it's up to the kids to decide. My friend's daughter, aged around 10, had a pair of scruffy shoes that she got teased for every day. The more she was teased, the more she was determined to wear those shoes and damn all her bullies' eyes. She wore those shoes to school every single day until they fell apart, and that was entirely her choice. She knew she had the strength to handle it. Anything less would have been compromising her integrity in a way she couldn't stomach. Kids who have the courage to do this should be allowed to do it. It sets the tone for their rest of their lives, as strong people who know their own boundaries and stand up for themselves, and who won't let themselves be cowed by bullying and intimidation or pander to the mob. This girl has been very successful in life. Any kid who sets off to school in GNC clothing is well aware that they're going to get hassled for it. If they choose to wear those clothes, it's because they feel ready to do battle. That willingness to fight prejudice and bigotry should never be undermined.

This is fantastic. If the shoes are unsafe (soles are so worn she could hurt her feet) or nakedly inappropriate (heels for gym class) then parents should step in. If the kid is willing to stand up to bullies to do what she wants? Encourage that steel in her (or his) spine.

The gender identity industry and the whole ideology relies on people with opinions like your BIL. Without them “trans” kids, puberty blockers, sci fi levels of mutilation of children could not happen.

Your books sound great.

Nothing wrong with gently explaining to children how their peers might react, informing them that you support them either way and letting them decide what they want to do. Even young children are capable of having this discussion.

This is exactly the issue. My sister’s sons aren’t allowed to have any clothing in certain colors and even though one of them is a toddler, she won’t even put a shirt with a cute animal on him because it’s too girly. She and her boyfriend are very picky about them being masculine and the kids’ father threw a fit when the older one played with my daughter’s dress up clothes and put on a dress.

My daughter likes feminine clothes, but her personality is more gnc. As long as it is age appropriate and not like violent, I generally let her wear what she wants. I’ve just picked a lot of good ways to get mud and stains out of her clothes. She can bring all the rocks, sticks, and leaves she wants in the house, although frogs and bugs need to stay outside.

How funny that controlling what their kids wear is of paramount importance, while something as fundamental as being married before having children is trivial and easily ignored. Rules for thee but not for me indeed.

This sounds very similar to how my BIL behaves. I think it's a matter of contention between the two parents because his wife wants to give the kids a larger variety of (still gender conforming imo) clothing and he vetos it out of fear.

In my opinion you have it just right!

Sounds like your sister’s boyfriend has some serious issues and is passing them on.

On the other hand if gender identity theory continues to gain power in society some parents may feel so anxious to protect their children from the mutilation that can result as well as loss of parental rights if you object to “treatment” they may become extreme in pressuring their children into conformity with stereotypes to avoid any suggestion of being trans.

This is another way the ideology solidifies and perpetuates stereotypes. Making the cage of conformity that much harder to escape.

Dare to let your son have long hair, his teacher or doctor may decide he is trans, persuade him of that and there is nothing then that you can do about it. Terrifying.

My sister’s boyfriend is a gun nut who I’m uncomfortable having around my daughters because he open carries a loaded weapon in his underwear around children. He has all sorts of problems and they regularly fight about how old is old enough for him to hand my nephews a gun.

And yes, I have serious concerns about gender identity shit and feeling forced to encourage gender stereotypes with my daughters. I’m trying my best not to do that, but my 4 year old daughter has already been asked by at least one person if she isn’t really a boy since she gets along with boys more than girls. She’s also asked me multiple times if she might really be a boy just because her good friends are boys. It’s tough and it is going to get worse. My 2 year old is already highly gender conforming for a girl and I have felt relieved about it and that made me really sad because it shouldn’t be relieving, but my fears of trying to navigate two daughters through a gender minefield are pretty anxiety inducing.

So this is the thing where I was really curious to hear what others had to say. I think you're right, and it's not just the gender industry that relies on policing children for their conformity, it's patriarchy itself. And therefore women's liberation. I can't quite remember a quote I heard about this that was really good... Basically someone was saying that men are hurt by patriarchy too because of things like this, gnc men being shamed, etc. And the response was no, this is men enforcing the pecking order to maintain their status as the dominant sex class, it still benefits them on the whole. I really can't get over that. Especially when you consider that girls wearing gnc clothing is generally tolerated by everyone. And yet the other way around is terrifying to people. This is about more than bullying.

[–] lucrecia 9 points Edited

I think adults are often quick to assume that kids will care about certain things, but those kids are generally getting their cues from the adults. The idea that you get bullied for looking different in any way doesn't match with what I witnessed at school. Ime 'do things that might get them bullied' is more likely to be to do with behaviours (and isolation) than appearance. Some kids will make mean comments or hassle you if you look different in any way, but it's not the same as a sustained, targeted bullying campaign from your peers.

I also wonder where you're meant to end with this logic. Seems like a short step to 'kids tease other kids if they don't have straight hair; I will put lye on my daughter's hair' or 'kids tease kids with big noses; I will buy my kid a nosejob'.

Anyway, if women worked according to these principles, we wouldn't have feminism. He wants to teach those kids 'keep your head down, conform, and try to be invisible'. For those of us here, that's obviously not going to get us far.

Bullying is complex. A socially popular boy can get away with wearing girly clothes and still remain popular. A boy with less good social skills will probably get bullied.

I can see where he's coming from, being bullied is really detrimental to a child's (and consequently adults) mental health, especially if it's ongoing. That being said, I think it can depend on the child, the peers, and the school. Some kids might be ok being briefly made fun of, especially they have good friends and a good school. Others won't be so resilient, and that's when the parent should step in and explain what might happen if he decides to go so radically against the grain.

I don't think there's really a clear answer. I don't know if this is a feminist perspective, but it's mine as a parent and feminist.

You're right. It's not a one size fits all issue. Some kids are hardier than others or sometimes bullies will give up or move onto a new target. If physical assault or emotional trauma occurs then parents need to make proactive decisions to protect their child. Radical acceptance of your child can mean many things, but as parents we have to also enforce boundaries that keep our children safe.

Personally, if my child was extremely GNC and being bullied I would opt for self defense classes and think about switching schools, depending on the severity of the bullying. I wouldn't want to quash my child's self expression, but if things continued badly homeschool or altering their clothing would be a last ditch resort. Of course the child should be consulted (age dependent) and talked to about this so they understand it's not a punishment but a safety measure.

I hope kids can be who they want without getting bullied by other children or adults. We don't live in that world yet, but I think encouraging children to accept themselves as they are will get us there.

[–] Fluffy_gender 3 points Edited

Self defense classes won't help with psychological bullying, especially if part of the bullying is because the child is clumsy/awkward physically. The child might even get bullied in those self defense classes.

Bullying is very complex. There are many reasons why children are bullied. Changing schools is a good idea if the new school uses evidence based interventions to stop and prevent bullying.

[–] mountainwitch 2 points Edited

Self defense is a good confidence builder (mainly why I would put my kid in it if needed) but you're right- it's not a solution, especially for psychological bullying.

Even if they are worried about the child being made fun of, that's not really a reason to make the wife return the clothes. They could just not wear the clothes to school and wear them at home or during holidays. That way the child at least still has a way to wear what they want to.

And concerning school I guess it depends on how feminine the clothing is. I understand being scared to send a child to school in something like a pink dress. But there could be a compromise. The gnc boy could wear clothes that are gender neutral instead of specifically masculine. That doesn't make them the target of mockery as much as feminine clothing but also might not make him as uncomfortable as stereotypical boy clothes. They could also let him have long hair if he wants. I think in this situation it might be important to both protect the child from being made fun of but also make the child feel like their needs and wants are being considered so outright banning everything that isn't stereotypically boyish is a bit too much in my opinion

I think it depends on the child, the school and what kind of clothes it is.

I would make a difference between what you wear for school (needs to be more professional, school appropriate) and free time.

Even if you don’t adhere to the above, I think that a very confident boy who is on the top sports teams can usually wear what he wants and have “girly” interests. DS (extremely sporty and quite popular) joined a club which was considered to be for girls. Now lots of boys want to join.

If the child is more introvert and shy, I would be slightly more careful with the more extravagantly different clothes around other children. Bullying is real. However, as others have pointed out, if a child is aware that they can get teased for something and determined to wear in anyway, they are probably ready to deal with it.

[–] Turtlefuzz 6 points Edited

I can understand your BIL's desire to protect his kids. However, bullies are going to make fun of kids for even normal things.

Take the example of people who give their kids really unusual names. "I don't want to name my kid Pickle, she's going to get made fun of! I'll name her Ashley". Ashley is probably still going to have a bully make fun of her for something else.

Unfortunately I don't think there is any way to completely protect kids from bullies. Mean kids will find ways to hurt others.

Tell your BIL if he's worried about bullies, enroll his sons in self-defense martial arts or karate.

I think the age of the child/ren matters a lot. Middle school is where I saw the most bullying of boys going on. In pre-school and the lower grades, it's live and let live. Third grade is when bullying amongst boys becomes intense. By 8th grade and HS, being "gender non conforming" is cool again.

But kids pick up their attitudes on what kind of dress is acceptable from their parents. I raised kids in NYC in the 90s and early 2000s, where/when the attitudes were liberal/progressive and most of the parents were relaxed and didn't give a toss. It was before the new regressive genderism reared its ugly head.

Load more (4 comments)