Monday, 10 November 2014

Why we're dressing our daughter like a boy

"You can tell he's a boy. He does love playing with that hammer"

"You can tell she's a girl, she's got such finely chiselled features"

"Don't carry that heavy box around, that makes a little girl look like a hulk"

"Little girls should have long hair"

Now these are just a few of the "feminist comments of the day", as my husband and I jokingly call these sexist comments. Because we literally could keep a diary of them. Every evening when we settle down to eat, one of us will inevitably say "hey, listen, honey, I've got a good one"...

So today's the start of a series of posts on feminist parenting which I've planned to publish over the coming year. For those of you who are not into this topic, don't worry, I'll not be posting about parenting every week. As a matter of fact, next week will be about bondage!

So, today's instalment is about why we're making our 18-month old daughter Momo look "like a boy". In other words, why do we keep her hair short, and why do we mostly dress her in a gender-neutral way? The short answer to the first question is: originally, it was because she was too hot during our Mediterranean summer. And then we kept her hair that way so that it didn't get in her way, and so there's no need for painful hair clips or other accessories.  

There's nothing that drives me more insane than children that can't see through their bloody fringe. We don't know what we'll do with Momo's hair in the long run, but of course we'll let her grow it out the day she says she wants to have long hair.

Now as far as her clothes are concerned, we've basically got two criteria:
1) Above all, clothes need to be functional. This generally means dresses and skirts won't work, and neither do delicate clothes, tight jeans that keep sliding down and aren't flexible in the crotch, tight collars and so forth. We may make exceptions for special occasions, like Halloween and New Year.

2) Generally speaking, we prefer it to be impossible to tell whether she's a boy or a girl. So we'll avoid pink and girly stuff. We told our family that if they wanted to give us clothes for her, they should be gender neutral. Or, as my husband put it, "beware that we will dress our next child in this, no matter what sex they are". People still gave us mainly pink and girly stuff, because "it isn't really pink, it's raspberry", or "we know you don't like pink, but this is a really gorgeous pink".

It's the stuff of legends, and I can tell you that we always have a good laugh about it over dinner.

Now, as far as rule number 1 is concerned, the reason is that we want Momo to be able to move naturally. Already, other girls her age are starting to move differently from boys. Some have lost confidence when trying to toddle up flights of stairs because the hem of their dress gets in the way. Or they sit down differently because those tight skirts that are fashionable at the moment mean they can't sit down cross-legged, but they're forced to keep their legs together.

Have you noticed how 4 or 5-year old girls tend to sit on the floor differently than boys? While the latter sit cross-legged or move around on all fours, girls tend to sit on the floor with their feet neatly tucked under their bums or sticking out to the sides so their legs are forming the letter "W", which is really bad for your knees.

I know I'm not objective here. I see everything through feminist eyes. But try it one day: watch a kid play, and imagine that they're a girl instead of a boy, or vice versa. Would you be surprised to see a girl do the same thing? Would you be surprised if a boy did that?

Even when they don't wear tight skirts, wearing dresses often means that girls will become body-conscious much earlier than boys because they need to make sure their panties don't show. So we teach girls about modesty much earlier, and we teach them that the way they look is important. We also tend to compliment girls on their looks, while boys are complimented on what they do. I have noticed that the words people will spontaneously use to describe our daughter is

--"She's beautiful". Or: "She's a princess". Heard a thousand times.

Whereas I rarely hear people compliment boys on their looks, but instead, boys are "strong", or they just "are".

Guys, that just


So this is why we care a lot about the way we dress Momo. So that people (including us!) will see her for what she does, and not for what she looks like. If dressing her "like a boy" is the only way to do that, then that's what we'll do.

Anyway, that's me for today. In two weeks' time, I'll follow up this post with a series of techniques we're using to help Momo do things girls aren't supposed to do.

Have a great week, guys!

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