Thursday, November 4, 2010


So a blog about a woman who let her pre-school child dress up as a female Scooby Doo character has made its way around the shared links of facebook. Here is the link:

While I applaud this woman for her strong stance, good writing, and acceptance of her son’s possible homosexuality, I sort of have to agree with some of the other mothers’ reactions.

Children at such a fragile and malleable stage in psychological development need to know how society works. Like it or hate it, men have certain roles and women have others. They are ingrained in every member of society by observation and reinforced by generations and generations of repeated norms. People who shy away from the norm are exactly that, not normal. This doesn’t make them horrible people. It isn’t grounds to be chased with pitchforks by the townspeople. But, it will illicit reaction.

Even as a fully grown man who (in all good fun, on Halloween or theme party or Friday night ‘staying in’) will throw on a wig and whip his hair back and forth, I don’t think these children should be encouraged to stray from the norm at such an early age. Should the child be made feel ashamed of what he or she wants? No. But I think this mother could have tactfully encouraged the child against his wish to cross dress. I mean, the kid walked up to school and already felt out of place or that he would be made fun of. Luckily his peers were more pleased with the costume than the parents.

Early on, I think children should be aware of the norms of society to help define them as a person, and if and when they are old enough to understand how society works and choose to be a horse of a different color, then they can make that informed decision at that time. However, I don’t think it is appropriate to encourage a child (who doesn’t really know better) to act so out of normal. As much as I hate that word and wished we lived in a world where that word carried very little weight, we don’t and it does. When everyone is aflutter talking about how bad bullies are, I don’t think it helps to give them ammunition in a wig and a pair of sensible heels.

She also mentioned the double standard of a girl going as Batman and how that would have been totally acceptable. I got made fun of for being a male cheerleader, but a female footballer was praised for being different. Yeah, it’s there, it sucks, but this is the crappy world we live in that you have live in. I was a stubborn 15-year-old who was doing something I loved and was quite aware of the ramifications. This kid wasn’t old enough to know or understand the consequences of his actions. His mom should have known we do not live in a perfect world.

When it comes down to it, unfortunately, growing up is all about trying your hardest to fit in and maintain the status quo (aka be invisible/boring enough to not get made fun of). Then, once you actually are grown up, you realize how stupid that is and you can shine like whatever star you wanna be and be happy!


Anonymous said...

Johnny Boy - I don't always agree with your self-hating republican ways (I keed, I keed!) but you're spot-on with this one. I posted about it too. Her support is touching, to say the least, but when she saw that even he was getting uncomfortable with his decision, she should have opted for a plan B. It almost felt like she had to push him through the doors of the school. What you want/feel versus what is acceptable are not always the same things, even if "what's acceptable" has been wrongly or unfairly predetermined by society's rules, or the Real Housewives of Bumfuck, Illinois. I had to repost her blog though, because it was so well written and because, yeah, it was touching. I applaud her, but would also ask her if she was really keeping her child's best interests in mind. As a parent, you're supposed to foster your child's creativity, encourage them to be who they want to be, but you also have to protect them up to a certain point. Sometimes the two are mutually exclusive.

Anonymous said...

Previous post by "Anonymous" was by ME...Tyler Horton. I just didnt' want to sign up for an account.

Gina said...

1) I like that you point out that being different will illicit a reaction. I think you said it perfectly- different is not bad, it's just different, and kids need to know that.

2) A girl going as Batman? Maybe this lady got confused, because Batgirl is a real character. I understand what YOU said about the double standard, and you're totally right, but I think this lady has her wires crossed.

J said...

Haha! Batgirl = Priceless.
I just love that this woman is so supportive, but she needs to understand that she is raising her child in the real world and not an idealistic land of acceptance and open-minded, all-loving hippies.

Wanda Wisdom said...

i'm not sure what "generation after generation"-repeated "norms" you're talking about. is the norm that males don't dress up like females for halloween? i'm pretty sure that's been going on as long as halloween. it's not like she let her son go to school in a dress on a non-holiday... you honestly just sound like you're trying to excuse the bullying of the other mothers with a paper-thin veneer of intellectual gobbledygook.

J said...

@Wanda-I appreciate you taking the time to read my blog. I'm sure these women spoke about as gracefully as apes in tutus, but I think their intentions were in the right place. They were trying to show concern for this child's well-being and feared the backlash that would occur when other kids (who are even less tactful) pointed out his outfit not being "normal."
And I'm not directly addressing the Halloween norm, I myself was the Morton Salt Girl last Halloween. It was the message this woman would support and almost encourage her son to dress like this everyday if he very well pleased.

John Hubbard said...

This is a tough one. I agree with you guys that it's important for kids to understand how society works. It's imperative that parents set their kids up with appropriate expectations of the challenges they face in the real world. American society has probably gone a bit too far with the idea that, "every child is a rare flower to be fostered for their uniqueness." It's pretty obvious this mom has a bit too much of that.

Still it's also really important that she not try to foster shame in her child. Society is going to give her kid a lot of chances to feel shame if he's gay or not. I'd probably have let me kid wear the costume, with the appropriate discussions before about the world.

Which is why I think this mom is nuts, and her kid has a better understand of society than she does. If he thought people might laugh it's because he's probably already been teased about being different. He's already seeing and internalizing the differences between him and the other boys. Experiences this woman probably has little experience with.

I applaude her for letting her kid chose his costume and follow through on it. But, I agree with Tyler that it looks like she pushed him through that door when he wasn't sure he was ready for it. I can't wait till she shoves him and his bf out of the limo in front of the prom thinking "who would laugh at kid at his prom?" (Carrie says, "Hi, I've got some blood remover for you.")

So, yeah foster your child's individuality. Teach him not to feel shame about who he is. But she also needs to teach him to trust his instincts and express him when and how his is ready. Explain to him the risks and possibly results of their choices. Explain to him that there are assholes in the world, and that you as his parent will love him not matter what he chooses.

Do not shove your kid out of the (possible) closet because you think it's so awesome and cute that he (might) be gay. That is wholly narcissistic on your part as a parent, and has nothing to do with allowing your child to grow become HE wants to be. Empower him to be himself in the face of what society might throw at him, but WHEN HE IS READY.

Anonymous said...

Johnny I'm going to have to disagree with you on this one. I think that by encouraging her son to dress in whatever outfit that he wanted, she was showing him that she is going to love him no matter what. IF his desire to change costumes was because he found something he wanted instead, and she forced him to go in the woman's outfit, then I think it would be a different story. He didn't want to go because he was worried he would be made fun of, and she taught him that he needs to be himself and not worry about those things. You say the other mothers were trying to show concern, but in reality they were masking their bigotry with concern. The faces of disgust, the comments... if PARENTS would not have made a big deal out of this, these YOUNG CHILDREN would have had no reason to see this as anything wrong, or something that has been predetermined unacceptable by society's rules, as 5 year old don't know what that is. These "concerned" parents are going to be what keeps bigotry alive over the years.

J said...

Parents can show unconditional love. That's pretty much their job. At the same time, parents need to teach their children that they live in a world that is full of people who judge because they can only function in a world where people fit into pre-assigned roles. I'm not saying it is right. It definitely is not. But it is the way it is. And EVERYONE has to know it. Teaching your kid that these things do not exist or that defying them will not elicit a negative response from bigots, is setting him/her up for heartache and/or shock that not everyone loves and accepts unconditionally. Someday, I’ll be able to go to work in high heels and a bob wig that flatters my impeccable jaw-line, but it is NOT today.

On a side note: "gobbledygook" is my new favorite word.

Jason said...

your arguments just seems silly and archaic
gender defined roles are evaporating quickly... and John boerger is their defender?
not likely
furthermore, the child obviously had an understanding of the difference between males and females, hence him worrying about being made fun of
her squashing his creative propensity doesn't prepare him to be a better functioning "male
" in society
it may prevent him from being a target of bullies in the short term.. but in ten years that very creativity will be rewarded

Anonymous said...

Jason is right. I suppose you would've encouraged Rosa Parks to sit at the back of the bus too.

John said...

Thank you, Anonymous. I like when my arguments are met with equally intellectual rebuttals.

As far as your URL recommendation is concerned, I think you left off the -IT and I think changing it again at this point would be problematic for my 5s of 10s of readers.

Liddy said...

Wow, great post! I love your honesty and lack of pretension (like having a handle that claims you are wise). It is a complex issue where the mother got some tunnel vision in trying to do what was right for her child, and since I am not a mother I feel a little unjust in criticizing her.... But I do feel that she handled the situation poorly. Her son should have been the focus, not making some sort of social statement, which it looks like is what the ordeal turned into before it was even an ordeal.
There is so much of a focus on 'creativity' and 'individuality' that some people force themselves to be 'different' to feel special. I, for one, do not feel that my creativity has ever been infringed upon by dressing gender-appropriately or avoiding unnecessary ridicule.