Girls Will Be Boys Will Be Girls

Kathy wanted to be a boy when she was growing up. She wanted to drive in the soapbox derby and play Little League, but she couldn’t, because she wasn’t a boy.

Now, though, she realizes that she has all the more options open to her. If she wants to wear a dress, she can; if she wants to wear jeans, she can wear those too.

When I was growing up, I wanted to grow things. Do you have to be a boy to grow things? Turns out that the seeds don’t care what gender you are. The Farmer in the Dell and Old MacDonald are both boys, but there are plenty of women farmers out there too. It’s just that the gender norm was always that a farmer was a boy.

Only boys are allowed to have spotted monsters, or the Target police will get you. Ponies found outside of girl's rooms will be sent to a new home.
Only boys are allowed to have spotted monsters, or the Target police will get you.

Gender norms are funny things. The norms say that girls are cute, and meek, and boys are rowdy and rambunctious. If you’re female and you grew up in a certain time and place, you might not feel so comfortable asserting yourself. If you’re a boy, you might not feel so comfortable acting gently, and lovingly. Heck, that time and place can be now and here.

And we thought we left stifling gender norms behind with Donna Reed and the 1950’s.

We didn’t. Last week, I walked through Target to buy plastic from China: A bike helmet, a bunch of water guns for an upcoming birthday celebration, that sort of fun stuff.  Rolling down an aisle of furniture and accessories, one side held brightly colored monsters and figurines. The other side was soft pastels, with owls and ponies. Target labeled the two sides of the aisle, by gender. (If you guessed the boys were going for ponies and owls, I’m afraid you’ll be disappointed.)

Ponies found outside of girls' rooms will be sent to a new home
Ponies found outside of girls’ rooms will be sent to a new home.

WHY? Would the world stop spinning on its axis if my son had a pink owl on his bed, or my daughter had a three-eyed monster that she snuggled at night?

Who fits into a single label? When someone asks us what we do, there’s no word to paste on to explain us. Kathy’s a pole-dancer/editor-publisher/Mennonite/cow whisperer/design artist. I’m a rock climber/editor-publisher/dirt geek/mom/agriculturalist. But there’s so much more to us than that. Gender may be a lot of it, but it’s just a drop in the bucket.

Let’s drop the labels and perceived norms. You don’t have to be quiet and “cute” because you’re a girl, and if you’re a boy, you aren’t necessarily going to beat the stuffing out of everyone and everything. Let’s let everyone just be people. The kind of people we choose to be means so much more than anything else.

P.S. Rachel sent an email to Target asking about their displays. (Because you can’t complain about things without doing something about it.) Target wrote back with the following message. Screenshot 2015-07-13 17.08.22

We kind of wish it was a bit more like this message, which surveyed limitations for girls.

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