Dear readers, I have a confession to make – I am a feminist. I get deeply upset by inequality, but just as much for the constriction of choices of men as for women.
Yesterday I saw a news article trending on my Facebook newsfeed, exclaiming that a young celebrity male has been photographed wearing – wait for it – a DRESS! Gasp! Shock! I should never read comments on online media, it’s not good for my blood pressure, but I did and they were just as horrible as I could have predicted. Thankfully since then there have been more messages of support, but it’s telling that the first reaction to this “news” (I don’t actually qualify this story as newsworthy) was a wave of homophobic ignorance.
It’s insane that in a time where a woman or girl can wear whatever she wants, be it dresses or trousers, or a princess costume or a pirate outfit, a man or a boy is still constrained by such attitudes. A young woman is encouraged to enter male-dominated fields like construction, but a young man is still too-often ridiculed for entering female-dominated fields like nursing.
As a feminist I’d like to think of myself as more enlightened than this – and yet recently, when out shopping with my almost-18-month-old son and my mother-in-law, I found my views momentarily challenged.
In one lovely little shop my son became enamoured of a pink music box with spinning fairies. He was obsessed in that delightfully exhausting toddler fashion, being over-enthusiastic in his playing with it and I realised that I should probably buy it for him a) to pay for it in case he was wrecking it, and b) because he was so enthralled by it. While considering this, for one moment, I thought something along the lines of “Hm, but is it appropriate?” The fact that I caught myself asking this was a wake-up call for me, and made me doubly determined that this lovely pink confection was coming home with us.
Why wouldn’t it be appropriate for a toddler to enjoy something that makes music, and spins around, and causes him to laugh hysterically? Why would it be more appropriate if it were simply in a different colour, or with spinning pirates or something instead of fairies? It doesn’t change who he is, at the basic level of chromosomes, because he will always be a male despite the colours of his playthings, or clothing. It won’t change his sexual orientation. It won’t in any way affect him, apart from setting a precedent that there are indeed no gender boundaries to constrain him when he’s old enough to make his own choices.
So my son has a pink spinning fairy music box, so what? So a male celebrity sometimes likes to wear dresses, so what?
We still have a long way to go.