How Important Are Gender Boundaries and Why?

10:49 AM

When Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie started letting their daughter walk around in clothing that was more traditionally seen on "boys," a few people gasped, but most saw it as cute. When a fellow blogger let her son dress as one of his favorite characters, Daphne from Scooby Doo, she was ridiculed by many and it was implied by some that her son was gay! All of this raises the question. How important are gender boundaries and why exactly are they so important?

When my 7 year old son was five, he asked me for a baby doll while we were at a garage sale. It came with a backpack full of fun accessories and he really wanted it, so I bought it for him. He played with that baby doll and took care of it for weeks and I never thought anything of it. Eventually, it is something that he outgrew and it went on to join a new family. Throughout the years, my boys have played with my old Barbies at my mom's house, the same son has a love of Disney Princesses and occasionally Hello Kitty, but do I think anything of it? No. Why not? Simply because anyone should be free to like, wear, participate in or speak about whatever they like, regardless of gender.

Was I supposed to think my son was gay because he had a need to nurture and care for a baby doll? No, I personally feel that makes him sympathetic to other's needs and that is a lesson I would not want to stop him from learning. Why is it that society tends to take less offense to a girl who plays with trucks than a boy who plays with dolls? What's the difference?

Personally, I don't think gender boundaries are necessary. If any of my boys came to me tomorrow and said that they would feel more comfortable wearing dresses each day, I would let them. Not because I am encouraging them to be a certain way, but because I want them to grow up with a strong sense of self and truly know and believe in who they are.

I think many people encourage clear gender boundaries because they are afraid of what the alternative may lead to. Letting your son play with a doll or dress as a girl is not going to turn him into a homosexual, that is a decision he will come to in his own time despite what you dressed him in or allowed him to play with and there is nothing wrong with that. I am not saying you have to encourage your son to put on a dress, but if he wants to do it once to see what it is like or to wear as a costume, do you really think it is going to turn him gay?

Perhaps by allowing our children to bend the gender boundaries a bit, they will all learn valuable skills and characteristics from the other side of the fence. What are your thoughts on gender boundaries, are they important and why?

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  1. Kuodo's to you and your wonderful post! I too am a Mom to boys..five of them. The oldest is my step son and 26, the youngest is 4. Daddy is LESS then empathetic towards my sons need to nurture also! I recently purchased a boy baby doll off ebay for Kaden. I also bought some little outfits for him. Kaden loves him...he puts jammies on him before bed...and dresses him for the day. He's the Dad. And I dont think there's a darn thing wrong with that. His father is certain I will turn him gay. I want to smack him. Kaden also loves cars, races, legos, and anything that makes noise. Heaven's maybe I should be afraid he'll be a race car driver someday! Personally, I think he's going to turn out to be an awesome father and win the Daytona 500 some day!
    A fellow "Kathleen" and Mom to lots of boys!

  2. My boys have always played with baby dolls, kitchen set and fake food. While my daughter loves to wear a firefighter dressup outfit that I bought in the boys section of the store. I think doing those things will help them be better Adults. My boys will never see taking care of a baby or cooking as women's job and my daughter will know that she can be whatever she wants when she grows up and not ever think that being a firefighter is a man's job. Now that my children are older I have them doing Chores, my boys vacuum and wash dishes, just as my daughter helps with yard work. I don't see the reason to force them in to thinking something is a Male/female role. As far as clothes, whatever makes them happy. My toddler son would wear PJ's everyday and everywhere...with a superman cape around his neck. I don't think that will make him think that he is really going to be a super hero no more than a girl wearing boots makes her a boy. I am jeans and t-shirt girl...I don't wear dresses, I played football and would dig in the dirt as a child, and I am straight. Be happy and stop stressing over the small stuff in life is what I would say to anyone that is worried about Gender confusion. Let your children be children and they will decide who they are as adult once they grow up.

  3. Wow, maybe we Kathleen's only make boys lol. Good for you, for sticking up for what you believe in and indulging your son's need to nurture. There is nothing wrong with it and perhaps more men would grow up to be better fathers if their mother's had indulged that need when they were children.

  4. the notion that someone can 'turn' someone else gay is absurd. Let kids do what they need to do to explore and learn and all will be well.

  5. My boys have played with dolls in the past and I think that is perfectly ok. They were also obsessed with cars and other "boys" stuff too.

  6. The little boy who dressed as Daphne got brought up in my psychology class last week during class and I couldn't believe how many people jumped in saying it was disgusting and saying his mom was going to 'make' him gay. One person said 'no, HE wants to dress that way so she's just allowing him to be gay'. I appreciated that this person realized that his mom wasn't MAKING him gay, but I thought it was crazy that she thought a 5 year old could be gay. In my opinion nobody that young can be gay...or straight, for that matter. You have to at least hit puberty and experience those feelings before you can have any idea what you are sexually attracted to. It's SO normal for little boys to have at least a slight interest in "girl" toys or clothes at some point early on it childhood. I feel bad for the little guys who get criticized for it.

  7. I just read another post from a blogger who talked about how people tend to defend their daddies, and they're afraid of letting their sons grow up to be "wusses." BUT, we all really want men who are more sensitive, so why aren't we raising the men we'd want to take care of us, rather than ones who think they need to be tough all the time.

  8. When I first read that post I was enraged. I know my own husband asked for a Barbie when he was growing up and his grandmother had a FIT about it. I was totally a tomboy and I was happy playing in the dirt and rough housing with boys instead of playing with Barbies. (in fact, I hate barbies). I think gender stereotypes this early is absurd. And obviously, these people don't know what makes "homosexuality". You can't MAKE someone gay, they're born that way. Ok... stepping off my soap box.



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