In all the brouhaha lately about GoldieBlox, princess culture, and childhood cartoons, the spotlight has been on girls, especially the elementary school aged set, and freeing them from the shackles of traditional female gender roles. Great! After all, feminism is about creating a world in which men and women are treated and represented equally in all walks of life. It's wonderful that we're ready to shift some of the movement's focus to the younger generation, but we seem to be overlooking a piece of the pie, a piece which makes up half of the pie.
That's right: the boys. What about working to subvert the traditional male gender roles that confine little boys? Without making gender equality a two way street, we will continue to propagate the idea that the All Things Male are superior, and All Things Female are inferior. We cheer when see pictures of pint sized stormtroopers with pink-adorned pigtails sticking out, but how do we react at seeing a four year old boy dressed up in a glittering tutu and tights? Little boys get teased or bullied and lose friends when they make choices outside the male norm. Worse yet, their own parents discourage this behavior.
We want to send a message to little girls that they can be more than princesses and caregivers to dolls, but we also need to send the message to little boys that sparkles, strollers, and butterflies can be theirs. What's so bad about the female side of the aisle? Why are we so focused on women's liberation without expending similar energy to liberate the men?
Let's pop back a few decades to the seventies, when gender bending was more of a two way street. Then came the eighties and nineties and the conservative backlash, frosted with a layer of homophobia. We have been trampled by the heteronormative elephant in the room: if your little boy loves girl things, he might grow up to be gay. Or weak. Or a coward. Someday, horror of horrors, he might want to stay home and raise children instead of braving the corporate wilderness to slay PowerPoint and bring home the bacon.
We need to put an end to this. "Girlie" should not automatically be an insult and "tough" a compliment. Let's applaud boys who throw like girls, and girls who roughhouse like boys. Let's make lists of toys for boys that bridge the gender gap the same way we do for girls, lists that include doll houses, jewelry making kits, dress up clothes, and glorious, scintillating swathes of glitter. Let's create clothing companies that market typically girlish fashions to boys, akin to what this company is doing but in reverse. Let the boys reclaim their right to wear pink and pastels and ruffles and rhinestones. If we can convince society to accept little boys who act in ways traditionally reserved for girls, not only will we begin to lift the stigma and the double standard that we accept today, but we will accelerate progress toward feminism's ultimate goal: truly equal treatment of men and women, girls and boys.