May 282007
 

You might recall that my son had wanted pink sandals some time ago. And I decided not to buy them and to convince him that blue-beige ones are much better. And I felt rotten for it. And angry. Why can’t my son have pink shoes if he likes them? Why do I have to fear that he will be made fun of? To compensate I bought him pink socks. With horses. And hearts. He loved them. He couldn’t wait to wear them to preschool. But, alas, they had to be washed first. So he had to wait for three long days.

He dressed up with his cute socks and jeans and his new sandals. He told me, “But you will have to buy a pink t-shirt to go with them, you know. I have to have a pink t-shirt.” Okay.

He went to preschool. When I asked him in the evening, he told me that everybody loved his pink socks. That he really needed a pink tee. Have you ever tried to find a pink t-shirt without ruffles or something? Just a plain t-shirt. Not too girlish? Not too expensive, too, since I didn’t know how long he would like to wear it. What I saw in the department store made me glad to have a boy. There was not one t-shirt that I liked. (And I remembered why I keep buying my son’s clothes out of a cataloge. It’s not only the girl’s clothes that are ugly.) So I tried the second hand store. And found a pink t-shirt like this for 2 €:


Of course this had to be washed too so he couldn’t wear it the day after I bought it. But he had his socks. The next day we arrived at preschool, late as often, and a little girl sat down beside him. She told her mother, “The boy is wearing girlie socks.” And he showed her, proudly. In the evening he was very sad to learn that his socks had to be washed since they were very, very dirty. A few days later I told him they were ready to be worn again and that he could wear his new pink tee with it. He had loved the tee when I showed it to him. Then he said, “No, I don’t want to wear the socks or the t-shirt to preschool.” “Why?” “L. and F. made fun of me.” It turned out that a couple of kids had laughed at him because of the socks. And that everybody had been talking about it for days. Obviously a boy wearing pink socks is a very hot topic for preschoolers.

And that was it. He didn’t even want to wear the t-shirt or the socks on weekends. They are tainted with the laughter of his peers.

This makes me sad. I’m even sadder because I saw it coming. Of course I could have prevented this but then I thought, “Maybe it’s not that bad.” And that everybody should be able to wear the color he or she likes. I’m still angry that I’m living in a society where people can’t wear the colors they like. Not even when they are only four years old. I knew that preschoolers and kindergarteners are highly conventional. You can’t really blame them, they learn their values from the adults around them. Women do housework, men can work with computers, women are bad at math, men can’t sew, women always want to be pretty, men don’t care how they look, blablabla. As if there were no individuality.

Or am I the only one who thinks that gender inequality is creeping back?

(Edited to add: Since there were so many comments on this post where people felt sad for my son I wrote yet another post on this to round it all up: Pink – the third)

  38 Responses to “Why it was right not to buy pink shoes for my son”

  1. My grade school daughter inherited from an older cousin the most fantastic retro Barbie type carrier case. It looked like something out of the DiCaprio film, Catch Me If You Can.

    Even though I do not like Barbie, the design of the case was awesome, and my daughter was so proud.

    On the first trip with the case, a reallyreally stupid kid, wearing camouflage gear for Pete’s sake, says loudly to his equally brain-dead brutish father, “Boy, does that suitcase suck”. And that was the end of my daughter using the case.

    Maybe we could hold a wonderful funeral service for your son’s pink socks, and pink t-shirt, with my daughter’s thoroughly retro Barbie suitcase…

  2. oh, su. just like the first post, this one too cracked my heart a bit.

    to think that at such a young age his self expression is being diminished, that already children have the power to judge and be cruel.

    they learn pink is not for boys somewhere. somewhere that is a very bad thought to teach.

  3. But when it comes time for high school dances, perhaps pink shirts and cummerbunds will be “in” once again. And maybe some time he can wear a pink dress shirt, or a tie with pink in it. And once upon a time, Elizabethan nobles dressed colorfully.
    It won’t help a bit to make him feel better about his inability to wear pink now, but if you show him pictures of how some men have dressed colorfully in the past, and point out that he isn’t inherently wrong, it’s a matter of styles coming and going, he might feel a little bit better.
    And all of us, I think, have sometimes felt that if we had only lived in some other era, we would have been able to enjoy something that our own time or place doesn’t permit.

  4. Sigh.

    It’s not just you.

    Our daughter wanted to wear a hockey jersey to daycare the other day. We obliged and put her on the back of my bike with her pink bunny helmet (which her grandfather bought her). On the way in the door another parent remarked to someone else, “Is that a boy or a girl?” “I don’t know,” said the other person, “she’s wearing a pink helmet but she’s got a hockey jersey on.” Puh-lease!

    But we are considered “weird” at her daycare. The staff comment on the way she dresses all the time (and yes, we buy most – but not all – of her clothes, but we also let her choose which ones she wears). And, honestly, I think it’s easier for girls to dress “boyish” than the other way around.

    I feel for your son. It’s hard to be told that you’re not supposed to like something when you really do.

  5. I am sorry to say that i don’t really think gender bias went away.

    It’s interesting, and sad, that little girls can wear pretty much whatever, but pink remains verboten for boys.

    Good for you for letting him figure it out on his own, at least he tried it.

    “They are tainted with the laughter of his peers.” Nice phrase.

  6. Thanks for this post. My 2 year old girl really wanted train underpants, but the only ones were the boy-style “tightie whities.” I bought them for her. So far no one has noticed her underpants, but I do wonder what will happen when someone does–especially since she loves lifting her dress up to her nipples.

  7. My grade school daughter inherited from an older cousin the most fantastic retro Barbie type carrier case. It looked like something out of the DiCaprio film, Catch Me If You Can.

    Even though I do not like Barbie, the design of the case was awesome, and my daughter was so proud.

    On the first trip with the case, a reallyreally stupid kid, wearing camouflage gear for Pete’s sake, says loudly to his equally brain-dead brutish father, “Boy, does that suitcase suck”. And that was the end of my daughter using the case.

    Maybe we could hold a wonderful funeral service for your son’s pink socks, and pink t-shirt, with my daughter’s thoroughly retro Barbie suitcase…

  8. oh, su. just like the first post, this one too cracked my heart a bit.

    to think that at such a young age his self expression is being diminished, that already children have the power to judge and be cruel.

    they learn pink is not for boys somewhere. somewhere that is a very bad thought to teach.

  9. But when it comes time for high school dances, perhaps pink shirts and cummerbunds will be “in” once again. And maybe some time he can wear a pink dress shirt, or a tie with pink in it. And once upon a time, Elizabethan nobles dressed colorfully.
    It won’t help a bit to make him feel better about his inability to wear pink now, but if you show him pictures of how some men have dressed colorfully in the past, and point out that he isn’t inherently wrong, it’s a matter of styles coming and going, he might feel a little bit better.
    And all of us, I think, have sometimes felt that if we had only lived in some other era, we would have been able to enjoy something that our own time or place doesn’t permit.

  10. Sigh.

    It’s not just you.

    Our daughter wanted to wear a hockey jersey to daycare the other day. We obliged and put her on the back of my bike with her pink bunny helmet (which her grandfather bought her). On the way in the door another parent remarked to someone else, “Is that a boy or a girl?” “I don’t know,” said the other person, “she’s wearing a pink helmet but she’s got a hockey jersey on.” Puh-lease!

    But we are considered “weird” at her daycare. The staff comment on the way she dresses all the time (and yes, we buy most – but not all – of her clothes, but we also let her choose which ones she wears). And, honestly, I think it’s easier for girls to dress “boyish” than the other way around.

    I feel for your son. It’s hard to be told that you’re not supposed to like something when you really do.

  11. I am sorry to say that i don’t really think gender bias went away.

    It’s interesting, and sad, that little girls can wear pretty much whatever, but pink remains verboten for boys.

    Good for you for letting him figure it out on his own, at least he tried it.

    “They are tainted with the laughter of his peers.” Nice phrase.

  12. Thanks for this post. My 2 year old girl really wanted train underpants, but the only ones were the boy-style “tightie whities.” I bought them for her. So far no one has noticed her underpants, but I do wonder what will happen when someone does–especially since she loves lifting her dress up to her nipples.

  13. I’m sorry, but not at all surprised. When Fiona was three, she went to her preschool class dress as a cat on Halloween. She looked really cute, with spouty ponytails that looked like pointy cat ears. All the other girls in the class were dressed as princesses. I think it was a turning point, and totally out of my hands.

  14. I’m sorry, but not at all surprised. When Fiona was three, she went to her preschool class dress as a cat on Halloween. She looked really cute, with spouty ponytails that looked like pointy cat ears. All the other girls in the class were dressed as princesses. I think it was a turning point, and totally out of my hands.

  15. That makes me so sad. And that little girl sounds mean.

    I think that these things are just so deeply entrenched in our social conscious.

    You know, I do not know how far you want to go with this, but it might be a good wakeup call for the teacher to teach the kids a bit about these issues. Because ya know, he sorta got bullied I think. And it makes me angry.

    The preschool my girls went to was run by two very forward thinking women, one straight, one a lesbian, and we were all completely cool with it. They made these issues part of the everyday and I think they helped alought!

    Anyway, so as not to let the tshirts go to waste, why not tye dye?

  16. That makes me so sad. And that little girl sounds mean.

    I think that these things are just so deeply entrenched in our social conscious.

    You know, I do not know how far you want to go with this, but it might be a good wakeup call for the teacher to teach the kids a bit about these issues. Because ya know, he sorta got bullied I think. And it makes me angry.

    The preschool my girls went to was run by two very forward thinking women, one straight, one a lesbian, and we were all completely cool with it. They made these issues part of the everyday and I think they helped alought!

    Anyway, so as not to let the tshirts go to waste, why not tye dye?

  17. i am so sad for your little guy, and for you…the post broke my heart a little.

    i think you’re completely right about gender inequality creeping back…and it’s the over-gendered branding crap of kids’ stuff where i notice it most. like you said, even a plain pink tee – or a red one, which i’d love to buy for my little boy – is almost impossible to come by. princesses and spiderman everywhere. it sucks. it’s so cheap, and so ridiculous, and so clearly about companies making money from gendering everything so one can’t possibly pass clothes down between brothers and sisters…bah.

  18. i am so sad for your little guy, and for you…the post broke my heart a little.

    i think you’re completely right about gender inequality creeping back…and it’s the over-gendered branding crap of kids’ stuff where i notice it most. like you said, even a plain pink tee – or a red one, which i’d love to buy for my little boy – is almost impossible to come by. princesses and spiderman everywhere. it sucks. it’s so cheap, and so ridiculous, and so clearly about companies making money from gendering everything so one can’t possibly pass clothes down between brothers and sisters…bah.

  19. I find this whole issue sad, especially because I have a boy. I want to buy so many bright clothes that I don’t, because they look too “girlie”. I am a victim of the collective conscious. I thought I was more of an individual than that, but it appears that I bow to convention far too often.

  20. I was so hoping there was a happy ending to those delightful socks and shirt. You are wonderful for buying them for him. Really.

  21. My son is 1 and he wants pink shirts and pink shoes he even told me that pink is the new black.. Char

  22. It is sad that your son will not be wearing pink socks. When he gets a little older, he may be brave enough to add pink back into his wardrobe.

    Early childhood is so difficult but the wonderful thing is that he has two parents who will encourage him to keep trying to be an individual…

    that encouragement is invaluable. Just keep listening to him and letting him try to be an individual.

  23. I find this whole issue sad, especially because I have a boy. I want to buy so many bright clothes that I don’t, because they look too “girlie”. I am a victim of the collective conscious. I thought I was more of an individual than that, but it appears that I bow to convention far too often.

  24. I was so hoping there was a happy ending to those delightful socks and shirt. You are wonderful for buying them for him. Really.

  25. My son is 1 and he wants pink shirts and pink shoes he even told me that pink is the new black.. Char

  26. It is sad that your son will not be wearing pink socks. When he gets a little older, he may be brave enough to add pink back into his wardrobe.

    Early childhood is so difficult but the wonderful thing is that he has two parents who will encourage him to keep trying to be an individual…

    that encouragement is invaluable. Just keep listening to him and letting him try to be an individual.

  27. I can’t help but wonder where kids get these ideas, you know, enough to make fun of your son.

    Peace,

    ~Chani

  28. I can’t help but wonder where kids get these ideas, you know, enough to make fun of your son.

    Peace,

    ~Chani

  29. how stinky is all of this?! My Davis wears a pink shirt to school with reasonable regularity and I haven’t heard a peep. I hope it will stay that way!

  30. how stinky is all of this?! My Davis wears a pink shirt to school with reasonable regularity and I haven’t heard a peep. I hope it will stay that way!

  31. This story and so many of the comments made me so sad, and so apprehensive about what things will be like when my daughter (now only 15 months) starts school. I want to steer her clear of the princessy, in hopes that she will gravitate towards more diverse interests. And maybe more empowering role models. I want her to be an individual, and a non-conformist. But am I setting her up to be ostracized? Even as young as 3 years old?

    Thank you for sharing this poignant story. It was beautifully written.

  32. This story and so many of the comments made me so sad, and so apprehensive about what things will be like when my daughter (now only 15 months) starts school. I want to steer her clear of the princessy, in hopes that she will gravitate towards more diverse interests. And maybe more empowering role models. I want her to be an individual, and a non-conformist. But am I setting her up to be ostracized? Even as young as 3 years old?

    Thank you for sharing this poignant story. It was beautifully written.

  33. This post makes my heart hurt. Not because your son can’t wear pink, but because of the loss of his innocent, sweet enthusiasm.

  34. This post makes my heart hurt. Not because your son can’t wear pink, but because of the loss of his innocent, sweet enthusiasm.

  35. You’re all so kind. I have to post a follow-up on this because my son isn’t devastated at all. Right now he is in a very manly phase again, embracing knights, swords, monsters and spider-man wholeheartedly.

    I have no doubt that he will wear pink socks again when he enters the next girlie-phase.

    As for his sweet, innocent enthusiasm as bubandpie said, my son is so full of enthusiasm that, fortunately, it is springing up again and again no matter how the world tries to un-enthusiaze him. I hope he stays this way. (Looking at his parents I’d say there is hope.)

  36. You’re all so kind. I have to post a follow-up on this because my son isn’t devastated at all. Right now he is in a very manly phase again, embracing knights, swords, monsters and spider-man wholeheartedly.

    I have no doubt that he will wear pink socks again when he enters the next girlie-phase.

    As for his sweet, innocent enthusiasm as bubandpie said, my son is so full of enthusiasm that, fortunately, it is springing up again and again no matter how the world tries to un-enthusiaze him. I hope he stays this way. (Looking at his parents I’d say there is hope.)

  37. The way we gender our kids from such a young age really makes me angry. When I dress my 16-month-old son in tie-dye he gets a lot of “how old is she?”s and sometimes I don’t even bother to correct them.

    I’m glad your son wasn’t crushed by the teasing… your earlier post provoked a lot of thinking for me… I think it will be a hard line to tread as a parent, knowing how nasty the world can be but also wanting to change that nastiness and encourage your kids to be who they are… Thanks for the update!

  38. The way we gender our kids from such a young age really makes me angry. When I dress my 16-month-old son in tie-dye he gets a lot of “how old is she?”s and sometimes I don’t even bother to correct them.

    I’m glad your son wasn’t crushed by the teasing… your earlier post provoked a lot of thinking for me… I think it will be a hard line to tread as a parent, knowing how nasty the world can be but also wanting to change that nastiness and encourage your kids to be who they are… Thanks for the update!

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