Girls will be… boys?

When DQ was a little girl, I was determined that I would not treat her like the girliest of girls – much to the dismay of my mother-in-law. This was the very first granddaughter in a family of boys, crowning DQ as a little princess. My mother-in-law would buy me dresses and dolls for her, and yet my favorite outfit to place her in was t-shirts and overalls. It was no surprise, then, that when DQ got old enough to make her own favorite style choices she abhorred anything pink. Along with pink, she rejected clothing with flowers, or sparkles, or that was in any other color that could be deemed too girly. Her dolls went untouched, and DQ was more interested in racing her bike (a boy’s bike, of course) around the block or hanging with her many guy friends. Oh, her grandma tried to push the girly envelope, as did other members of the family. Christmas consisted of boxes of untouched clothing that only went back to the store. And despite their best efforts, the DQ of today wouldn’t be caught in anything that might ruin her rep as that of a Tomboy.

Apparently the Jolie-Pitt clan is in the same boat. Their blond-haired, blue-eyed 4 year old daughter Shiloh, the one that sports the same coveted pout that her mother possesses, has decided that she no longer wants to look like a girl. Recently the little girl has been all over the news with a very short haircut, raising eyebrows at what might be considered gender confusion on the part of her parents. She has even decided that she’d rather be called Peter or John.  If you look back at photos of Shiloh throughout the years, you’ll notice that very rarely has she looked like a girl. She has been seen running and tumbling in boyish clothes alongside her brothers, wielding plastic swords and wearing camouflage pants.  (See the photos of Shiloh throughout the years by

Shiloh goes from girlie to the ultimate tomboy

This is an age when some parents have decided to erase the lines between the genders by practicing what is called gender-neutral parenting. Girls are dressed in less girly clothes and are encouraged to try activities like dirt biking or football. And boys are given dolls and taught how to sew and cook. Years ago, these activities were very gender based. But now, it’s almost offensive to some when it is suggested that only girls should be cooking or boys should be playing sports. Even the popular names have changed to lessen the divide between the sexes: Shiloh, Alex, Jaden, Jordan, Riley, Taylor, and so on.

But should the specific traits of each gender be preserved in girls and in boys? Are parents who encourage traits of both genders in their children actually doing their kids a disservice? Should girls be girls, and boys be boys?  And big question: would you let your boy dress like a girl, or your girl dress like a boy, if that is what they wanted?


9 thoughts on “Girls will be… boys?

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  1. Absolutely. We’re told as parents not to mess with a child’s creativity, that fostering their own expressions and relationship with their world is the best way to develop a strong, independent thinker. My mother, who has been in child development for many many years, remembers her earlier days as a day care worker -this was in the early to mid-sixties- when she was admonished by child development experts not to interfere or “correct” a child who played with toys perhaps not meant for their particular gender. For instance, if a boy wanted to play with Barbie dolls, let em’ play with Barbie dolls! The train of thought being “there’s nothing wrong with” it. These days, psychologists no longer say that, but nor do they recommend “pushing” a child one way or the other. I’ve found that peer input will do that for us. If DQ is more Tomboy, that could be that at this point the more “girly” stuff doesn’t speak to her. That may change, then again, it may not. One thing is certain; push kids one way, they will likely, eventually, push back. It’s better, at least in these cases, to let kids figure these things out on their own.

  2. Although I don’t have children, I was one. Forcing a gender role on a child who prefers clothes, games, etc. of the opposite gender is doing more harm than good.
    It is my belief that boys and girls can fall into a wide range of gender identity and are not the extremes that parents, grandparents, et al have been taught.
    And finally, the mind sense of an individual is not necessarily reflected in the genitals.
    Your children know who they are, they just don’t know what that is sometimes. Please, let them be who they are.

  3. I was raised in a mostly gay community and I liked make up and dresses, it got pounded into me daily : “You don’t need make up! It’s better to be a tomboy” so now as an adult I’m finally working on using my make up and dressing up in pretty clothes, and still the people I know from my youth say “oh, you don’t need make up!” I had to get therapy to be able to dress like a woman.

  4. As best as possible, I’ve tried to raise my daughter without imposing borders or boundaries when it comes to gender. We let her choose her own clothes and she happens to like the girly stuff. If she changes her mind later on, then so be it… she needs to feel comfortable in her own clothes.

  5. I’ve noticed something among my friends who are into gender neutral parenting: At times it has gotten to the place where to acknowledge gender has become offensive. Much like some balk at referencing someone’s race. What this “Don’t mention it” method seems to do (in my opinion) is to make gender (or race) seem at best, unimportant and at worst, shameful.

    I say, celebrate your kid’s gender. Embrace it whole-heartedly!

    Of course, I don’t think we should assume only girls like dolls and only boys like trucks. That’s just silly. But in the attempt to raise kids without acknowledging their gender, I’ve seen parents actually push kids away from where they’d naturally settle. (Don’t just play with that doll! You can play with trucks, too! When the girl just wants that dang Barbie)

  6. I have talked with so many parents who do their best to keep a gender-neutral household and still wind up with pink-loving girls and toy gun-totting boys. I completely believe in a gender spectrum and that we all far on it somewhere – from super girly girl to super boyly boy. And I am not sure that parents or teachers can do much to change where we feel comfortable on that spectrum. I have worked with a lot of queer youth who are actively claiming a place somewhere right in the middle of this spectrum and not wanting to be classified as either.

    What it comes down to is giving our children the message that they are able to make their own choices, no matter what their gender. I think that the only reason why this is such a huge issue is because of such an enormous gender imbalance. If girls were, like boys, raised to believe that we could take up space and be powerful, it wouldn’t matter so much if we did that in pink, frilly dresses or camo hoodies.

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