Danielle Bean, a wife and mother of eight, is editorial director of Faith & Family magazine and author of My Cup of Tea, Mom to Mom, Day to Day, and most recently Small Steps for Catholic Moms. Read more of her blogging at Faith & Family Live and DanielleBean.com.
I must say, I was disturbed by this recent Salon column by Nathan Hegedus:
In it, Hegedus discusses the significance and importance of putting “feminine” clothes on his young son and reflects on the meaning of his own reluctance to do so.
I can understand being challenged in the laundry department. I can understand wanting to save money on clothing and thus re-using “girlish” clothes from an older sister. But Hegedus’ motivation to put his son in pink is not a practical one at all. In his mind, the importance of putting pink pants on his son is both social and political:
The stereotypes run both ways—feminine may be perceived as weak and passive, but it is also seen as gentle and sensitive. And if men are going to make it in post-industrial society—and there is much fear that they will not—they need these interpersonal and nurturing skills, both at work and at home.
Could we raise gentle and sensitive boys without the feminine symbols, without pink? Probably. But what’s wrong with a little pink, with a flower here and a butterfly there? So, Ms. Steinem, I’m on board. I get it. I can’t just toughen up my girl. I also need to make my boy confident with his softer sides. I need to embrace a metaphorical pink.
Haven’t we already tried this gender experiment? The one where we pretend there is no innate difference between the sexes and we need to force little girls to play with trucks and little boys to play with dolls? And hasn’t it failed?
While of course there will be some cross-over between little boys’ and little girls’ interests and natural abilities, to pretend that the only differences between boys and girls are the ones that society imposes upon them is not only ridiculous and futile—it’s unfair to the kids themselves.
Any young man who wonders whether he needs to “get in touch with his feminine side” should try acting more feminine around women and see how that works for him. Here’s a hint: Chicks don’t dig it.
Any dad who wonders if his sons are naturally more active and aggressive creatures than their sisters should spend an afternoon watching them play. Here’s a hint: There won’t be many tea parties.
Instead of fretting over pink pants, more dads should take seriously the important role they play in their sons’ lives. They are the ones who will teach their sons to be men. They are the ones who will model masculinity and fatherhood for their children. That job might require working hard, talking honestly, and setting a manly example by loving their mom. But I can promise you this: it will not require pink pants.