Gender Roles Have Opened, But Only For Girls


little boy playing with a doll's tea setThe other day, I watched two little girls, decked out in Princess t-shirts and tutus, pantomiming to each other through a window. I motioned to one of the mothers, smiling at the display of adorable little girl play. “That’s so cute!” I said, breaking into their world, uninvited.

“They noticed their clothes matched,” the mother responded. “They bonded over Princesses, and have been talking through the window ever since. Little girls!”

I laughed. “I have a boy. I don’t get much of the pretty side.”

She nodded in understanding, and said, “No dresses, no Barbies, no Princesses.”

“Just Superheroes, dinosaurs, and all things dirt,” I remarked. There have been times where I’ve longed for the glitter and unicorns, but I wouldn’t change anything about my chaotic World of Boy.

“We have that, too.” Her clipped tone caught me off guard. It was obvious that my lamentations were offensive, and she needed to point out my gender misperceptions.

I understood. The inflection, and intended meaning, were clear. Mothers of little girls have glitter, diamonds, tutus, fairy dust, Princesses, tiaras, and everything Barbie. But, gender lines have opened, and “boy” toys are now “toys” in the rise of gender equality, while “girl” toys remain in the aisle of pink. Mothers of girls have the soft, the sweet, and the special–but they also have the trucks, dinosaurs, GI Joes, Superheros, and power tools.

Nothing has been limited in the World of Girl. They have it all, because women have the capacity to do anything men can do–and so do little girls. In our ever-evolving world, the patriarchy of old has been pushed against; it’s been shoved aside. Women have gained a stronghold in the majority of former male-dominated arenas, a fact much celebrated. We have the ability to play with any toy, dress up as any character, perform in any sport, and be whatever we want to be in life.

As it should be.

The conundrum, as a mother of a boy, formed when I realized that, although women have pushed against the “patriarchal society in which they’ve been forced to adhere,” the lines of gender neutrality haven’t opened to include our little boys. We’ve maintained this notion that “boys grow into men, and men have the world under their thumb, therefore inequality is irrelevant for men; their gender provides more opportunities.” The last time I checked, little boys didn’t care about social norms, cultural ideals, or societal pressures. They cared about being little boys. Because of this, we’ve established a hypocrisy of standards between little boys, and little girls.


  1. Yes! I’ve thought about this before—if my baby was a girl, we could clothe her in dresses or pants, but if I put my son in a dress, everyone would look askance. I suspect this has to do with an ingrained societal attitude that, deep down, still codes “feminine” things as weak and inferior. People can wrap their heads around why girls might want to try “boy” things, but are still confused about the other way around.

  2. I love this post so much. I’ve wanted to have a little girl since I was pregnant with my first (of two boys) for this reason. I do not limit my son as a parent from doing what he wants, but I find it to be a lot harder to put my infant son in a tutu than I would find it to put an infant girl in a batman onesie. That doesn’t make me a bad person, does it? This problem starts at infancy. It is sad that society has strived for equality for little girls, but in doing so, we forgot to make/keep it equal for our boys.

  3. No, it’s an engrained gender perception. It’s the idea that men have inherent abilities that women do not have, so the push is for equality, but only for little girls. I get that; I’m a headstrong female who wields hammers. But, my son should be allowed to dress up, and “play pretty,” without being shamed in the process. He doesn’t know any different; he’s still tiny.


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