Thursday, December 13, 2012

Sam and His Pink Shoes

Someone recently sent me an article about a controversy sparked by a picture of a little boy, Sam, wearing what appeared to be girl’s pink, zebra- striped flats.  The picture, posted on Facebook, received overwhelming support and LIKES but stirred up a heated debate on the internet. 
Poor Sam’s mom was criticized by family members who feared that this kind of behavior might turn him gay!!  Wow, if that were true!  Maybe THEY should read the article published in the journal Pediatrics about a study which found that  children in lesbian homes scored higher than kids in straight families on some psychological measures of self-esteem and confidence, did better academically and were less likely to have behavioral problems, such as rule-breaking and aggression.
Read more:,8599,1994480,00.html#ixzz2EzVwGM3q

Judging from the picture, Sam appears to be carefree and confident.  He was quoted as saying, “Ninja’s can wear pink shoes too!”   Yes, he is only 5 and five year olds do not understand they nuances of the adult world. Five year olds don’t understand racism, bigotry, discrimination or gender specifics.  If they do, it’s only because they learned it from the adults around them.  Really, if you think about it, most  3 and 4 year old boys would  love playing  with dolls, strollers and the kitchen sets.  But somehow the dads, and moms too, feel that they need to be more manly and start overloading them with Ninja’s, dinosaurs, race cars and such.  Otherwise they might become too soft!!   

I don’t deny that men and women are inherently, biologically and hormonally different.  In Sweden there was a movement at one school to do away with gender specific toys and practice gender neutrality in the preschool.  Instead of addressing the kids as “him” or “her,” the teachers referred to the children as “friends", by their first names, or as "hen" - a genderless pronoun borrowed from Finnish.  I guess that would be like the English pronoun “it”?   Gender neutrality, as it equates to gender equality, is good.  But to totally deny our gender differences is wrong too. Being more gender neutral does not have to mean referring to ourselves as IT’s.  Gender neutrality is also not an attack on our masculinity or femininity.

I have 2 boys and I see how different boys and girls can be.  They play differently; they interact with each other differently.  But is it because that is the way we have been programmed to believe for so long?   Is it because WE steer our boys and girls in a certain path…or towards certain toys or colors…because of our expectations of what it means to be a man or a women. 

The focus on Sam and his shoes makes me ask, is pink inherently a feminine color?  In the early part of the 19th century, fashion magazines promoted pink as the perfect color for men.  Red was considered a very strong, masculine color, and pink being derived from red, it was only natural!  Blue, on the other hand, was considered cool and dainty.  Go figure!!  Maybe 50 years from now, after more incidences and debates instigated by the likes of Sam and my son, our society will decree that pink is gender neutral!!


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