boy, child development, clothing, feminine, feminism, gender, preschooler, three year old, tutu
Every parent I’ve spoken to agrees – the selection for girl clothes is way better than the selection for boy clothes. The girl section is always twice the size of the boy section, and full of adorable pea coats, polka dot dresses, and bluejeans with butterfly embroideries. Meanwhile, the boy section is full of grubby looking t-shirts covered in corporate characters like Batman and Ninja turtles.
I guess Owl agrees, because one day we were trying shorts on him in the store and he looked longingly over to a rack of pink tutus and said wistfully, “Someday… when I’m a girl… I’m going to wear that.”
PH and I exchanged looks. We looked at the price tag of the tutu. Seven dollars.
“We can get that if you want,” I said.
“No, but those are for girls.”
“Yes, they are,” I said. “But you can PRETEND you are a girl. I mean, you wear a fireman suit sometimes, but are you a really a fireman?”
“No! I’m a little boy!”
“Well, you can pretend to be a girl just like you pretend to be a fireman.”
“Okay! Let’s try it on!”
He has never been so excited about a piece of clothing. He carried it proudly to the cashier, and insisted on donning it the moment the transaction went through.
We were pretty amused, and took some pictures, and tried to cherish this moment while it lasted. We got seven dollars worth of cuteness just that night at Montana’s alone, where he did pirouettes for the admiring waitress.
That was months ago.
He STILL loves his tutu.
We won’t let him wear it to school, ostensibly because tutus are dress-up clothes, and it is no more appropriate to wear tutus to school than to show up in his shark costume. The real reason, though, is that there is a boy at his school who is a little punk and would tear him a new one. This charming child introduced words into his vocabulary like “dead” and “kill” and “gun”. The same kid also taught Owl that pink is for girls, among other things. Once I took him to school with his nails painted and he came home and said “Little Punk says that nail polish is FOR GIRLS.”
God knows what would happen if Owl showed up in a tutu.
We’re not just trying to protect Owl’s feelings – we don’t like things like that parroted at him and we’re not going to set up opportunities for him to receive a lecture in gender norms from some four year old peer.
Other than that, he can wear it pretty much anywhere. He wears it to the store and playing around our complex and out to the park. He wore it to a boy’s birthday party, using the logic that birthdays are a dress-up occasion. We couldn’t argue it and so he went. No one teased him. One larger boy did see and point, but Owl didn’t notice. The other three year olds didn’t even blink.
He was just another boy… in a tutu.
He even sleeps in it most nights. Last night he didn’t sleep with it, but he must have put it on first thing in the morning because he was wearing it when he crawled into bed with me this morning, saying “I’m pretty now, Mom! I’m VERY PRETTY.”
We don’t know if this is a phase or not. We used to think so, when he was a baby. It was his love of pretty dresses that turned me into a feminist. We thought he’d outgrow it once he understood about gender. Now we aren’t so sure. He spotted a doll in PH’s study and wanted red lips like her, so I came home to find him wearing lipstick.
For the most part, he seems all boy. He likes to pretend he’s a super hero who fights bad guys. He likes to shoot things, and destroy things, and he has the restless energy of a male child. But he really likes to do these things while wearing a pink tutu.
Maybe these are the sort of passing inclinations that all children have, and PH and I have seen more of it because we don’t discourage it. Maybe other boys admire tutus and their parents just nod and keep walking, which is what we almost did.
Or maybe he’s a cross dresser. Or maybe he’s a trans girl (although I don’t think so, his mind is still pretty masculine). Or maybe he’s gay. Or maybe he’s just Owl, an active boy in a tutu, like Puck in the performance of A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream that PH and I attended recently.
We don’t care.
Maybe he will grow out of this and then be humiliated by all of these photos of him in a tutu. If so, we’re going to have a word with him, and try to explain that admiring the feminine is not a shameful thing. If a girl can admire the masculine and play with tools, what’s wrong with a boy admiring the feminine and playing ballerina?
That’s the part that I don’t want him to outgrow. I want him to always know that it is okay to be whoever he wants to be.
As long as the Little Punks of the world don’t wreck it too much for him.
Nicki Hunt said:
Totally agree, why shouldn’t a little boy be allowed to wear a tutu? I would probably have walked on too, but that’s putting my inhibitions on my child and I would be wrong. I think you and PH are wonderful parents and Owl is a very happy relaxed child because of it. Good for you xx
I think we’re afraid of the fall out. We dont want our kid to be teased or ridiculed. We don’t want them to come to us some day and say “why did you let me get hurt like that?”
That’s why we won’t let him wear it to daycare. I’m not brave enough to let him do that.
I have nothing of any weight to add but I just had to say how totally adorable Owl is in his tutu ❤
I think so too!
I’d like to say I think your approach to this is perfect, and what a joyful post. I still regret that I talked my then 2-year old (now 6) out of the pink, glittery slippers he wanted. What was I thinking?
Our first thought is to protect our children. I’ve led him away from pink shoes, too. We consider it our job to protect them, and really, doesn’t that include a bit of social awareness when they’re picking purchases? But since the tutu I wonder how many other things I have brushed off that he would have loved this much….
Right on, mama! That kiddo couldn’t look any more delighted with his ensemble. 🙂
He loves it SO MUCH
OMG I’m squeeing in joy at those pictures. My goodness he’s adorable!
It’s a challenge. I had a little boy in my class a few years back who wore pink and dresses and skirts and had long hair. Sometimes he would wear more “masculine” clothing but mostly he dressed very feminine. This was in grade five in a very “tough” school in our city and I worried a lot about him. He identified as male and surprisingly, the students were pretty good about it. Many had known him for a long time and just accepted that L was a boy who wore dresses and was a little quirky. They would very rarely poke fun behind his back but not to his face which I was very glad of. Some of the teachers were less kind unfortunately which made me very angry.
I want to believe that we’re coming to a place where “girl clothes” and “boy clothes” will cease to be a thing, same with toys, but there’s still such a push against that. We have the Little Punks of the world with their Big Punk parents saying that it’s wrong and gross and sick and whatever else. I’ve been getting a bit more of an education on drag culture lately which has really opened my eyes to some things about masculinity and femininity and people who live in between. I hope that our children grow up in a more educated and open society.
“Some of the teachers were less kind unfortunately which made me very angry.”
A similar circumstance happened in my high school. One of my guy friends wore a long skirt to school one day and none of the other students cared. He was known as a quirky guy who did what he wanted, and everyone just shrugged it off (plus, it actually looked pretty sweet with the shirt he wore). It was the *teachers* who were obviously offended and demanded he change. That’s the frustrating part: 3-year-olds don’t care about skirts or pants or bright pink tutus. It’s parents who decide their 3-year-old needs to have a problem with it.
I think you’ve hit the nail on the head there!
Sassy Britches said:
He is utterly precious in his tutu and while you don’t need my praise to know you did the right thing, it’s obviously a parenting win. And all those three year-old boys at the party are testament to that.
Obviously their folks are raising them right!
Owl is really lucky to have you and PH as parents, because I think you’re simply awesome! Isn’t it strange that girls are allowed to wear “boy clothes” all the time and it’s perfectly acceptable, but the opposite isn’t true? How are kilts different from other skirts? I pray for the day when people stop being petty and intolerant!
Omg, Owl would look so cute in a kilt!
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I love this so much. I think we, as a society, forget that clothing isn’t inherently gendered. Tulle is just tulle. Pink is just a color. We’ve only recently decided these things are for “girls” (Pink for girls didn’t even exist as a concept until after WWII and all infants wore dresses up until the 1900s). I have a very boy-y boy who also loves to wear tutus and for him, and kids like yours, I made a clothing company with nongendered clothing items – Every Bean. Thanks to you and your kids for allowing kids to express themselves in a way that’s unique to them!
People have no historical awareness! 1) Pants were invented for horseback riding not because “male chromosomes determine it” 2) In AD 393 the Roman Emperor Theodosius I exiled men in pants from Rome and seized their property 3) People want to read Deuteronomy 22:5 as saying men must wear pants! Did Jesus not understand that verse? In Luke 7 Jesus says the Roman centurion had the greatest faith; those soldiers wore skirts 4) IN AD 1431, the English invaders in France burned Joan of Arc alive, basing it on Deut 22:5 because she had worn pants, they said she was abomination to God. Why did she wear pants? For horseback riding! 5) Flashback to AD 867, the Bulgarians sent messenger to Rome asking the Pope if they could be Christians, even though they wore pants! Surprisingly the Pope said it made no difference. 6) In AD 1550, the top clown in the Italian Comedy of the Arts, Pantalone, gave his name to this garment we call pants! 7) On May 27, 1876, the New York Times editorial, page six, column six, written by a Scot, “A Curious Disease” called for women in pants to be treated “with the usual methods in use at the best conducted hospitals for the insane” and said women in pants were suffering from “permanent mental hallucination.” 8) The ONLY reason women got free to wear pants was that during World War Two, 18 million USA women wore pants in war factories, nearly all of them for the FIRST time! Katherine Hepburn and Marlene Dietrich in the 1930s had nearly nothing to do with it. Modern Greeks, Albanians wear skirts, Indian male Kathakali actors wear petticoats, Egyptian male Tanoura dancers wear skirts more elaborately embroidered than Irish dance skirts worn by females. No difference of interface with anatomy means “no gender difference.” Social forces led to people dressing the way they do today, and upbringing enforces it. Which gender has external body parts in the crotch that could most benefit from the free space of a skirt? Suits and ties were invented by Beau Brummel, a DRUNK who fled England to defraud his lawful creditors. He died of syphilis and gluttony in a French insane asylum in 1840.