Unnecessary gender stereotyping of children is a topic that always generates discussion, and recently, the boys’ side of the debate has been making itself heard more ― namely that it’s okay to like pink if you are a boy. As the mother of two boys, I have found myself right in the midst of this debate.
My five year old son’s favorite color is pink. He is confident in his choice, and – so far – hasn’t let himself be talked out of it. But while he’s pretty good at holding his own where comments from other kids are concerned, he also has a deep respect for the wisdom of adults. So when adults continuously make comments that imply there is something wrong about him wearing pink, he starts to wonder whether they are right. Which they are not. Because pink is just a color!
This has led me to compile a handy guide on “What not to say to boys who love pink!”:
1. “Is it a girl or a boy?”
*He* is a boy. I appreciate it’s not always easy to tell at first glance, but unless you are a supervisor at a swimming pool and your job is to make sure everyone is using the correct changing rooms, do you even need to know? If you must ask, please don’t say *it*. Especially not to his face. It’s just rude.
2. “You let him wear pink?!”
Said in the same tone of voice as one might say “You let him play with guns?” or “You let him get a tattoo at age 5?” Umm, yes, I do. Because he likes pink. Because it suits him. And because he’s old enough to make his own decisions about what he would like to wear.
3. “Is he the eldest?”
This may sound like a harmless question, but the unspoken question behind it is always “Or is he wearing hand-me-downs?” People assume the poor boy is having to wear pink clothes that have been handed down from an older sister. For the record, yes, he is the eldest sibling and the eldest cousin. And yes, he choses the clothes himself. Because he likes pink.
4. “Aren’t you afraid he will grow up to be gay?”
Such an utterly ridiculous question doesn’t really dignify an answer, but just to get something straight (no pun intended): Wearing pink does not make you gay. Being gay is not, as your question implies, a bad thing.
5. “Don’t worry…”
There have been so many comments starting with “Don’t worry” that I’ve lost count. Don’t worry, it’s just a phase. Don’t worry, lots of little boys like pink. Don’t worry, he’ll grow out of it… Thanks, but I’m not actually worried. Maybe it’s just a phase and he’ll grow out of it. Maybe it’s not and he won’t. I really couldn’t care less either way. As long as he’s happy.
6. “But he looks like a girl!”
Note the “but” – this comment *always* comes as a follow up. Yes, it’s not always easy to tell at first glance whether my kid is a boy or a girl. However, some people really need to learn when to stop talking. Once the mistake has been clarified, stop insisting!
7. “Hello, little girl.”
This has come from people who know damn well he’s a boy. They think they are being funny. Well, they are not. It actually upsets him. I know that for a fact, because he told me. So please, just don’t!
8. “Do you really like pink or did your mom choose that for you?”
This is the one that, out of all comments, threw me the most when I first heard it. Because I guess the other comments were ones I was kind of expecting to hear at some point, whereas as this one… what are you even trying to say? The implication seems to be that I am compensating for the daughter I never had by dressing my son in pink. Which is ironic, because pink is probably one of my least favorite colors. Also, I don’t suffer from any gender disappointment where my children are concerned. I am more than happy with my two beautiful boys. So the suggestion that I am forcing my son to dress in pink is utterly ridiculous. He just likes pink. He choses his clothes himself. It’s not that hard to understand!
And then there was that time his friend’s mom asked him, “Did you chose that pink jacket yourself?” I was ready to fly in to full mama bear protective mode, when he told her yes, and she continued “Fantastic! It’s a great jacket and suits you really well!” I almost cried. But for once, out of gratefulness.
Jenni Fuchs is originally from Germany but grew up in Scotland. She now lives in Berlin with her husband and two young sons. She writes about their life as an expat family, and the ups and downs of Berlin, on her blog www.thebearandthefox.com. You can also follow Jenni on Twitter and Instagram.
This post was originally featured on Selfish Mother.