My 11 year old was walking around in my heels for about a half an hour. When I glanced over, I gave him an amused smirk and asked what he was doing. “What?! They suit me!” He proclaimed over the click, clack of wood heel on wood floor. As he left the kitchen and headed toward the couch to play XBox, still wearing my stilettos, he threw an “I like it!” over his shoulder to which I replied, “whatever you need to do, man.”
It may seem like an offhanded response, but this was a careful reply and an attempt not to pay much too attention to it. My first reaction was to tell him he looked silly and ask him to take them off. “Heels are for girls!” However, it occurred to me that telling him not to wear those shoes contradicts the message I’ve tried to teach him up to this point. It tells him the ponies he played with when he was three, the easy bake oven he asked for for Christmas when he was four, and the general understanding that “he can be whatever kind of boy he wants to be” are wrong. It tells him the Legos and trucks he likes are acceptable, but anything that comes painted pink and purple or requires a spatula or brush and and change of clothes are NOT for him.
I know it was just a pair of heels and really, it means nothing other than he was trying them out. But it opened my eyes to how easy could have been for me to confirm stereotypes and validate lasting gender specific prejudices. The confusion of gender in this country doesn’t exist because we allow our children to have options. The confusion about what it means to be a boy (or girl) in our ever evolving, yet frighteningly stagnant culture comes from a child knowing there are options and being told without reason or rhyme that they’re just not allowed to chose them.