Category Archives: Gender Gibberish

Boy in a Dress: How it Ends

There is no answer, is there?  There is no consensus on whether I should allow my two-year-old boy to go forth wearing a dress.

So you know what?  I’m just going to let it happen.  If he asks for a dress, he’ll get one.  If he wants to put it on, he can.  If he wants to go out in it, he can.

If there’s no right answer?  Fuck it!  Let’s do it. I’m not going to get all Aunty Mabel on his arse because he happens to want to wear fabric swishing around both legs instead of one at a time.

It’s as good an answer as any.


Boy in a Dress

L’il Boo wants to wear a dress.

If I were a different kind of person, I would get all panicky and start throwing Tonka trucks in his general direction, but I am not that kind of person.  Not least because I know where this desire has come from.

Every evening, to avoid school morning meltdown, I ask Boogie the following question: ‘Skirt, dress or trousers?’  She picks one, then I get two of the chosen items out of her wardrobe and she points to the one she wants to wear the following day.

Whilst largely not being arsed about clothes, Boogie is very specific about what kind of clothes she finds acceptable on her skin at any given time.  Some specifications are long-term, non-negotiable (buttons, frills), others are entirely arbitrary and fleeting (‘today I will scream if my jeans are in the wash, tomorrow I will tremble at the very mention of the word jeans’).

Given that this has been the case since she first turned two, the current system (after much trial and error) really works for us both; I get to take the ring road round Whinesville in the mornings and she gets to feel she ‘chooses’ from a choice simple enough that it doesn’t overwhelm her. Happy smiles all round.  By a conservative estimate I reckoned it’s saved me approximately eleventy million whining hours. Good times, eh?

L’il Boo, ever the copier, has now started to display random, fleeting likes and dislikes to items of clothing (dear god, no!).  So random in fact that I have no idea what he’s objecting to in any given case.  I very much doubt he knows either.  He’s just seen his sister do it, and that’s good enough for him.

He’s also, of course, seen that his sister gets choices he’s not offered.  No ‘dress, skirt or trousers’ for him.  Firstly, he gets offered nothing because I’m desperately trying to convince him he doesn’t have any preferences whatsoever.  Secondly, of course, because boys just don’t get the same choices, do they?  It’s ‘trousers or trousers?’ for them.  Or maybe ‘trousers or jeans?’ if I’m being creative.

The boy wants the option.  Practically, I can give it to him because I have enough of his sister’s old clothes in boxes to find something that fits.  But should I?

My first instinct is to say Fuck it!  The boy wants a dress, he can have a fucking dress!

Two things about this: I know enough to know that ‘Fuck it!’ is my first reaction to most things and to far too many things than can actually be good for me.  I also know the way the world works and it does not work well for boys who wear dresses.

He’s two.  Wearing a dress, he would be entirely unaware of any statement he’s making.  I, on the other hand, would be acutely aware of the statement he’s making and, because he’s two, it would be a statement about me more than him.  I’m already known as the resident weirdo feminist amongst both friends and acquaintances.  L’il Boo rocking a dress will do naught to lessen this reputation.

I will be accused (just ask Storm’s parents) of using my child to make a political and social statement, one which, bless him, he can’t possibly have had a say in.  That he chose a dress will not be a defence, merely another example of my man-bashing indoctrination of my children (y’know, like we feminists do).

Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a problem with any of that (Fuck it! I say – see?)  If anybody has a problem with me letting my son wear a dress, it’s just that – their problem.

But, though L’il Boo’s only two, he understands shock, and disgust, and horror and disapproval.  He understands all that just by looking at people’s faces.  Just like we all do.  And he will not understand that those faces are in reaction to his clothes, not to him.  And – have I said he’s only two? – he’s too young to have that explained to him.

Why would I want to put him through that?  It’s been bad enough when he goes forth wearing pink trousers (which, along with green trousers, are currently top of his ‘like’ list).  Trust me, people do not like being flummoxed when trying to assign children to a gender box.  On the other hand, why should I restrict him in an entirely unnecessary way?  My only stipulation for Boogie’s clothing choices are that they be weather-appropriate and even that’s fairly laxly enforced.  Why should it be different for L’il Boo?

Is he too young to wear a dress? Or I am just copping out, bowing to The Man?

And if I do cop out here, where’s the fucking line?  What do I compromise on next to stop bigots looking sideways at my children?

Answers on a postcard, please.


Awesome Females II

[This is the second part to a post from way back in January.  And that post was six months late.  So don’t be confused by the reference to summer]

Our second summer film was Coraline.  And all I can say is: if you haven’t already, make sure you do.  You don’t even need to have children; all you need is a fondness for beautiful images and deep, scary themes.  Oh, and a love of awesome females, obviously.  I enjoyed this as much as the kids did.  More so probably as the large RadFem in my brain which normally sits through kids’ films mumbling Urggh? What? Are you frickin’ kidding me? Oh, for the love of god…, kept jumping up and down shouting FUCK YEAH! in my ear.

Because Coraline rocks.  If I’d seen Coraline as a kid, I would’ve wanted to be Coraline.  I’m not sure I don’t want to even now.

I cannot believe I can even write this sentence about what is a fairly mainstream film: there is nothing wrong with Coraline.

Coraline doesn’t have personality issues, and she does not, at any point, need saving.  She is brave, fearless, gutsy and smart.  She is deeply, profoundly awesome.

She is so awesome that she actually gets her own movie named after her.  Unlike, as we know, poor Rapunzel.

Coraline is not conventionally pretty.  She has short hair.   And it’s blue.  She wears (mainly) jeans and wellies.  A hair clip is her only nod to conventional femininity.

There’s a boy in the movie.  At no point is there so much as the slightest hint that Coraline therefore should go all goggly-eyed in his presence.  She never goes within a hundred miles of a swoon.  Though she rocks a fine grimace at him on occasion.

She does a admirable line in expressive sarcasm.

She has no fear of insects.

She’s bored, so she goes out to seek her own adventure.  She never expects life to come to her.

She faces a series of obstacles.  She faces them all without whining, without faltering.  And she wins.

Despite all her ‘male’ characteristics, she is never once painted as ‘abnormal’ or ‘odd’ or evil.  She never gets a comeuppance for being brave and fearless and gutsy and smart.

She saves everybody in the end.  And though nobody realises they’ve been saved and she therefore gets no congratulations, no thank yous, she just gets on with being AWESOME.

SHE ROCKS.

For the ignorant among you, I suppose a plot précis is in order.  Well, what’s wikipedia for?  Although treat the first line, which tells us this is a story about ‘a very “different” girl‘, as the sexist shite it is.

This film is almost perfect.  The only part I had a problem with was the characters of Miss Spink and Miss Forcible, two ex-strippers (yeah, I know) who at one point perform a stage show in the alternate world which basically involves them getting their kit off and singing about sex (sort of).  Not only did my RadFem shriek, Aah, fuck no!, but it just seemed odd subject matter for a kids’ film.  And I really couldn’t see the point of the scene plot wise.

And yes, Coraline’s real mum is mean and grouchy, but she’s shown as being under specific pressures and is allowed to have a human side nonetheless. So she actually came across as pretty typical as a mother (well, what they look like round here, anyway).

And, no, nothing is going to spoil my enjoyment of this film.  So there.


UBB-B (Hons)

I’m an ugly, butch bitch-bitch.  I’m thinking of adding that to my business cards.  It’s snappy.

From tristyntothesea, via The Riot.


It’s Really Very Simple: Part II

Now everybody lookin' good!

I get more like this every day.  If shit happens to me, shit happens to everybody.  See how they like it.

This is not a good phase.

From the very talented Theamat.


This is not about Teh Menz

It’s about women.

But it really, really is about men, too.  Because, for me, this is about L’il Boo as much as it is about anybody else in the whole world.

I have a daughter and a son; if my feminism isn’t about the men as well, what am I saying to him?

I’m saying, you don’t count.  You, yes, you little boy with the Y chromosome, you, who is going through a phrase of such overloading cuteness I have the constant urge to squeeze you till you squeak, you don’t count.  I don’t fight for you.

Well, fuck that.

And no, this is not a please-go-gently-into-the-night with those poor, timorous menfolk, poor things can’t handle having to share their sweeties plea.  Fuck that, too.  Men will, I’m afraid, still make up the majority of those lining up by The Wall come the revolution (The Wall, of course, being the name of the buildings which will be established to teach feminism to the unsuspecting masses).  And if those men have to be brought kicking and screaming to The Wall (and they will), so be it.

But you know what?  My anger comes from a place of love, my friends.  Yes, indeedy.  I have always truly believed that feminism will free us all.  Not just women, everybody.  Advanced theorists may want to turn away now, because this shit is the 1 in ‘Feminism 101’: the gender binary hurts us all.

See?  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

L'il Boo

L’il Boo, who as you can see from the accompanying photo is cute as smush even from behind, is (to use a phrase from I Blame the Patriarchy somewhat inaccurately, but accurately in spirit), ‘my Nigel’.  He counts to me.

And I see him now, at 2-and-a-half, still largely innocent of what’s expected of him as a boy.  He is still, to himself, just a child.

A child who happens to like (in no particular order): his sister (copying? sometimes I think he’s the victim of a particularly successful cloning experiment); Kung Fu panda, making tea, cabbage (uh-huh, you heard that right), practising karate with his sister (see Kung Fu Panda), football, hair accessories, cooking, green trousers, pink (seriously, it’s the kid’s favourite colour, I don’t know where I went wrong) dresses, fire engines, glitter, his sister’s friends (due to second child neglect syndrome, he has few of his own), Tangled, trains (though Thomas bores him, so he has some taste), slam-dunking his parents when they’re least expecting it, chocolate buttons (but only those that come with a monkey on the packet), Octonauts.

He is, in short, very ‘boyish’ in many ways.  And very ‘girlish’ in many others.

My god, what does this mean for his future??!

Well, nothing much I suspect.

But what is his future?  In the short term, I can tell you that it will include a period of being INCREDIBLY LIKE A BOY.  He will be so like a boy that I will be able to present him at an MRA conference and they will appoint him their mascot and shower him with plastic trucks.

Whilst he’s so far been seemingly unaffected by the gender mores he will be absorbing at nursery and elsewhere, make no mistake, the seeds are being planted each and every day.  Some time soon, we will see them grow and they will sprout with such speed that it’ll take my breath away.

He will come to an understanding of what it means to be a ‘boy’.  He will figure out the sheer, over-whelming importance of gender and he will do his damnedest to fit himself into that straightjacket, because that’s what kids do.

And it will break my heart.

I know all of this because I’ve been through it all before.  Boogie went through a phrase of being INCREDIBLY LIKE A GIRL.  Some time around turning three, she morphed into a fully-formed stereotype before my very (observant) eyes.  Her favourite colour turned from blue to pink, girls didn’t play football and princesses were delightfully-dressed goddesses.

Christ, that was a tough stage of development.

But we’re through it and out the other side and Boogie is, once again, a wonderful mix of girlish and boyish.  Which is to say she is a wonderful example of herself.   She’ll try and kick the crap out of you as soon as look at you (oh, the martial arts!  Martial arts is her new god!) but she’ll do it in a princess dress.  Seriously?  She rocks on so many levels, I cannot imagine trying to change her, trying to damp down certain aspects of her personality.

I will do my utmost to ensure that L’il Boo comes through similarly unscathed (I mean, it’s all relative, amirite?)

And L’il Boo?  Well, he’ll probably try and kick the crap out of you, too.  Whilst rocking a pair of multi-coloured fairy wings.

This says nothing much about my children.  It just says we’re feisty down here in Boogieville.

Which we are.  They get it from their mother.


An Addendum

genderless partywear

I meant to add something else on the bottom of that last post which is that I also trust my children.  I trust them to come to their own conclusions and I trust them to have the humanity to make those conclusions good ones.

Mainly, I was thinking about this point because of this I read in the Guardian on Saturday in the ‘Gay Dad’ column:

On the way home [my son] chats animatedly about the afternoon while digging out the contents of his party bag. He mentions, en passant, that one of their friends turned up to the party wearing a tunic dress. Apparently he often turns up wearing one.

‘Why, I ask. “He just likes them,” Ed replies. Do the other boys tease him? I ask. “Nah, he’s a really good guy… Yay! I got a Transformer!” Ed can’t believe I’m asking so many questions about a subject he obviously considers relatively humdrum.

‘I ponder how much has changed between my generation and his. The other fathers and I don’t quite know what to say to each other because they work in finance and I work in fashion, while our eight-year-old sons will happily run around playing games together barely batting an eyelid that one of their number is wearing a dress.’

Because sometimes, children’s conclusions aren’t just good, they’re way better than what adults come up with.