My sons wear pink, AND they have intact penises

I was recently out with my mum and younger son in our local town centre for a spot of lunch and shopping.  My baby son was 13 months at the time, and had acquired a pair of chopsticks from the fab restaurant we were in (Busaba Ethai).  He was happily waving them around, nibbling on them, dropping them etc., as we made our way around Kingston.  We wandered into a stationary shop, where one of the shop assistants was admiring his chopstick-skills.

“She’s going to be a drummer when she grows up.”

Mum and I whipped round and simultaneously piped up with,

“He’s a boy!”

We weren’t aggressive or offended, and actually found it more amusing than anything.  The shop assistant, however, was mortified and didn’t utter another word.

So what’s the big deal?  Babies must get mistaken for the opposite gender all the time, right?  Well, the big deal was this; the reason the shop assistant assumed he was a girl was because he was wearing a bright pink tank top.  It was a modified t-shirt bought in the girls’ section of TK Maxx.  It had a bulldog on the front, and I thought it would make a cool tank top with the sleeves cut off.  And it did.  He had it teamed with a pair of urban-camo shorts (very ‘masculine’, although I frequently rocked the urban-camo trousers back in my Scary Spice days, circa 1995).

If you’re unfamiliar with the gender non-specific clothing movement and groups like Pink Stinks, you may be wondering why I decided to choose a bright pink tee for my son.  Well, I was getting pretty sick of my sons’ clothes being confined to blues, greens, greys and khakis.  Men, women and girls can purchase clothes in styles of their choice in any colour, yet little boys have such a limited palette to choose from.  This is all because we’ve got it into our heads that wearing pinks, purples and lilacs will somehow make our boys less male than they are.  And this is so ludicrous because really, I’m fairly certain that nothing untoward is going to happen to our boys’ penises if they choose to wear pink.

Children are children and they all seem to enjoy and appreciate every colour.  My children certainly don’t discriminate between any colours, and they’re both boys.  They don’t even discriminate between toys aimed specifically at genders.  I don’t force cars and trains on them, although they do like these toys.  As well as their vehicles, they also have a girl doll called ‘Baby’, as well as an array toy kitchen apparatus.  My elder son loves flowers and cooking as well as horsing around and rough games.

Indeed, my elder son also takes a keen interest in the variety of nail colours that I wear, and insists that he have a nail or two in a matching colour.  In the park recently, we met a woman who saw his toe nails and asked him if he was a girl.  And when shopping in Next a few weeks ago, I was picking two lilac t-shirts for the boys in the girls’ section.  I was with my elder son, and the shop assistant said ‘I hope they’re not for you’ (talking to my son) and directed me to the boys’ section which was home to ONE salmon pink polo shirt.  Amongst other things, I told her to open her mind, which she didn’t appreciate, but hopefully it made her think about her attitude.

Anyway, I know there are other parents who take gender neutrality very seriously, probably way more seriously than I do, and have indeed written about it.  A lot of the focus is on the negative effect that the colour pink has on little girls, but there isn’t so much about the effect of limiting boys to stereotypically boyish colours/appearance.  If a girl dresses in ‘boy’ clothes, she is deemed as a tomboy, which is fairly endearing.  There is no equivalent for boys.  Little boys couldn’t possibly play with dolls, yet they’re expected to grow up and be amazing fathers.  Isn’t the whole purpose of roleplay in childhood to learn about some of the activities that children see their parents doing?  Caring for a younger sibling can be mimicked by looking after a baby doll, and surely this is a positive learning activity for little girls and boys?

Boys’ sexuality is referred to or questioned in a negative manner if they’re seen to be wearing or playing with anything traditionally feminine.  I have never heard of anyone being coerced into a sexual preference because of the clothes they wore as a child or the toys they played with.  And anyway, even if that child later discovers that they are gay, who cares?!

So there.  I just wanted to share with you my annoyance at the absurd notion that girls and boys should have certain toy and colour preferences.  They are all innocent, curious and blank canvases, and should be allowed to make up their own mind about the things that they like.  They shouldn’t have to deal with the nonsensical and historical notions that we hold around gender specificity and I can only imagine how pleasant a world with less of that attitude would be.

In the meantime, here are some photos of my boys rocking pink.  I would, as ever, love to hear your thoughts on this.

 pink4

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17 thoughts on “My sons wear pink, AND they have intact penises

      1. 🙂
        Mine is currently rocking he’s sister’s purple (shock horror! 😮 ) wool jacket from Janus. ❤

        BUT it has a …blue threading on the seam, that makes it OK….. :p :p

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  1. I couldn’t agree more, my sons’ wardrobes are as vibrant as they come-red, pink, yellow, green, blue, black, grey, multicoloured striped shirts, polka dots, flat caps… you name it, they wear it and you know what more than anything, boys that are as beautiful as ours (hehe-what, it’s true) are often mistaken for girls because they’re so pretty and that’s a lovely thing.

    My son Oliver is constantly told he looks like Jessica Alba now why I can’t look like her I don’t know. How did he get the longest eyelashes known to man (or woman-ha)!

    I like you, never take offence but I do take issue with the fact boys choices are limited and can be limiting in clothes and life.

    I promote an openness to clothes, interests, roles-kids should be free to express themselves. I love that Oliver, 4 likes to paint my nails and Alexander has sampled all my make up. They both love brushing their hair and we spend hours drawing, painting, singing, dancing, watching Frozen as much as we play outdoors.

    Gender restrictions are ridiculous. It’s harder as they start school no doubt as peer pressure comes more into play and conforming…and I can’t believe the Next shop assistant, I would have said something too! Love this post and you lady, write like a dream!

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    1. Vicki, that’s so lovely to hear that your boys are also lucky enough to be given the freedom and opportunity to wear and play with what they like and choose. I still come across people who are baffled by the idea of a boy wearing pink or playing with a toy pram.

      As parents of boys we should instil in them a different, more open view of life and what they CAN do, as opposed to what is perceived that they shouldn’t do. Limiting little boys is totally unjust and is getting them off to a bad start in life. It sounds like your two are getting a rich set of experiences in their young lives with all of those varied activities. This is wonderful to hear.

      I do wonder how things will pan out (in two years) when Fin has to go to school and there is a five-day-a-week presence of peer pressure. Will he be a strong enough person to still follow his instincts for what he likes? I hope so. (Good luck to Oliver next week!).

      Thank you so much for such a thoughtful and kind comment, Vicki. I’m touched, and I thank you for taking the time to read x

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  2. Popping over to say ‘hi’ after seeing Vicki’s share on FB. I find the entire colour debate really interesting, after all I understand that in 19th Century England, pink was traditionally reserved for little boys. I have 2 young boys who have both been mistaken for girls at some point whilst wearing entirely blue outfits. I wasn’t offended, just intrigued as to what made people jump to gender assumptions (must be the long eyelashes I gave them lol!). I’m honestly happy for my boys to wear whatever they please as neither of them attends school yet (where there are usually more strict regs/uniform) and have spent many an afternoon out with them in mismatched sandals, socks, shorts and and character hat of their choice in the middle of Winter! However, as you quite rightly point out, there are very few choices for boys in the colour department of ‘boys’ sections and I have to be honest and say that I haven’t made a conscious effort to introduce them to more colours i.e. by shopping in the ‘girl’s’ section as you have done. I’m already aware of the effect the media is having on my eldest: in terms of which colours/activities are considered to be ‘for girls’ and am genuinely displeased about it. I’m now spending time trying to ensure his mind remains open (I already have a post in draft about boys toys usually only portraying male role models). Anyway, just wanted to say I enjoyed your post, which you’ve clearly managed to organise more concisely than I’m managing in this comment! 😉

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    1. Hi Marissa, thanks for popping over (o:

      You’re right, historically it was boys that were dressed in pink. I think the rationale was that men or possibly the military wore red, and pink was a slightly more calm, younger version of red. Blue was popular for girls. Either way, it is still nonsense that genders should have a ‘uniform’. That’s very interesting that your boys were mistaken for girls, despite the blue attire. Must be the eyelashes…

      I haven’t always been so conscious of the colour limitations. It started to cross my mind when I w walked through toy sections in the shops, and I realised I hadn’t been introducing ALL toys to my elder son. So I started showing him the ‘girls’ toys as well as boys, to give him a balance. It then spiralled from there, and I began to consider the impact of gender stereotyping on the colour options of their clothes. And then I thought that I may as well have a rummage in the girls’ sections if I were to ever introduce a bit of pink into their wardrobes.

      You’re right in that it is incredibly displeasing to see the effect that the media has on influencing children’s choices, and it would be wonderful if these stereotypes ceased. In the meantime, we can encourage open minds in our families, and hopefully there will be less of the peer pressure issues once school begins

      Please drop me a link to that post you have in the making once it is written. I’ve just followed you over on Twitter, and would love to read it. Thanks for your thoughtful (and very concise) comment (o: x

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  3. My eldest son is 10 and wants to grow his hair long! I don’t have a problem with this other than he is super lazy and wont take the time to manage hs hair so I always get it cut, it still has some length, it flops over his eyes and is somewhat longer in the back. I have told him that when he can take the responsibility of maintaining his hair then I will be more than happy to let him grow it longer. He made a comment that he wished it was ok for boys to wear clips in their hair. I tried to reason with him that of course its ok if that’s what he chose, but he is 10 and has been in the school system long enough for peer pressure to amount to more than just what we get upto at home and refuses to wear clips, even those that are plain brown and would blend with his hair colour! x

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    1. Zoe, what a shame that your son feels that he can’t use a clip to keep his hair out of his face… Another example of the nonsense that society imposes on boys. I hope that he finds the courage to utilise a form of hair accessory that he feels comfortable with, that also keeps his lovely locks out of his face. Perhaps in a couple of years he may realise that it is actually fine to put whatever he wants in his hair, and be proud of it. Good on him for maintaining his choice of hair length, though. Thanks for sharing your story and taking the time to comment here, Zoe xx

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  4. Was just talking about this to a friend of mine doing his PHD at The University of Melbourne. It has always been more socially acceptable for females to appear androgynous or masculine, yet much less socially acceptable for men to appear feminine or associate themselves with feminine products. Also explains why transgender people are more likely to get kicked out and abused in gendered toilets. In terms of colour, funny thing is, pink used to be considered a “boys’ colour”. Really hope that society’s stereotypical views on gender identity will change. Introducing unisex or gender-neutral products and facilities will take us a step closer to that.

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  5. You are so right – gender stereotyping, or not, can happen to boys and girls, I love to see boys in pink, red, orange yellow, any colour, and I don’t think anyone with good eyesight would think your boys look like girls, keep up the good work x

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  6. When you think about it, there’s a bit of a gap there isn’t there? Why CAN’T boys have hair accessories beyond a plain ponytail band? There are lots of men out there with longer hair. Someone should start a business selling ‘masculine’ hair accessories. It would only take a couple of celebrities to be seen in them for it to take off…

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  7. “Little boys couldn’t possibly play with dolls, yet they’re expected to grow up and be amazing fathers.” I enjoyed the post, but was confused as to why you made this statement in it. Of course, little boys can play with dolls, and I mean baby dolls. Mine did when he was small. He’s 34 now. I tried to bring my one son and two daughters up gender-neautrally and without war-toys and war games. One daughter is now a mother, one’s in a lesbian relationship, and my hetero son’s still happy to wear pink or lilac.

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    1. I think the quoted statement was meant in sarcasm–the author doesn’t think it’s a problem for boys to play with dolls, but most of society does. She was trying to make the same point you did in a different way.

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      1. Thanks for that, Rebekah. I think I tweeted Magi about this at the time. You are right, I was indeed being sarcastic. You have also reminded me that I was hopeless at responding to the comments that came through on this blog post when it did a little viral thing all those months ago!

        Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. Much appreciated (o:

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  8. Just flicking through some of your older posts and came across this, which I’d somehow missed before. Posts like these are why I LOVE your blog! Bloody good for you!!! When my godson was born, I gave him a pink babygro. It was sort of dark pinky-red with owls on it (I think) – I just liked the style! I wasn’t sure how his mum (my best friend) would react, but I knew that several of her university friends were quite . . . shall we say . . . traditional in their attitudes. As she unwrapped it, I saw a few confused looks on their faces so loudly proclaimed “I REFUSE TO BE CONSTRAINED BY SOCIETAL GENDER NORMS”. (And this is why I no longer get invited to parties). They didn’t really respond but I was delighted to see him wearing it in a photo on facebook not long afterwards. I’m always so relieved to see mums like you keeping an open mind when it comes to their kids’ clothing choices. Never stop!

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