Boys vs. Girls


 We (or more specifically, Nicholas) are enrolled in Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, which sends one book a month. The last two have been sibling photo books.

Big Sister, Little Sister” came first. I rolled my eyes a bit at the sight of the tutu/princess dress-clad girls, but yanno. Okay. It’s a cute book. In its pages, the girls (perfectly coutured and exquisitely matched throughout) zip up in one coat, play violin, give each other a boost, and wear high heels together—basically the picture of What A Girl Is Supposed To Be: well-behaved, empathetic, supportive, nurturing. My kids adored it—so thoroughly that within a week it had the ripped, bent look of every other book in our library.

Then came “Big Brother, Little Brother”, which you know is going to be an animal of another kind altogether based upon this cover.

Cover Image

On the first page, they’re eating worms. (Right. Your boys do that every day, don’t they?) Then they stick fish in each other’s faces and try to kiss a tropical bird. There’s a token moment or two in which the boys comfort each other—and the two pages devoted to adoption choke me up. Even so, I look at these books and I wonder: whose boys, and whose girls, are these kids? Because they don’t look like any kid I know!

I grew up with three sisters, and let me tell you, we did not have the gorgeous Kodak moments portrayed in the “sisters” book. No, we had pinching, hitting, screaming catfights. All.The.Time. When we did play, it was outside, jumping off hay bales or climbing on trucks and tractors down in the third driveway. Our play houses were in dusty attics around the farm: the milk barn, the machine shop, the abandoned grain storage above the two-story cinderblock garage. With the wasps.

But mostly, we fought. Especially when we were the ages of these girls (2 up to about 8).

Fast forward to the present. I have two boys and a girl.

My boys:

My girl:

Okay, I know that wasn’t fair. How about this one?

She likes baby dolls, but she also likes trucks and trains and bicycles and wallowing in the mud at the edge of the creek. And my boys? So far, Nicholas is more a “boy’s boy” (except he sleeps with a baby doll). But at six, Alex is a well-balanced child who enjoys art even more than baseball, and on par with riding his bicycle. He’s brainy; he loves reading and writing, school and playing the piano.

I guess the thing that bothers me is the “never the two shall meet” way boys and girls are packaged inAmerica. Let me explain.

Have you ever tried shopping for boys’ clothes? Go to the children’s department and the girls’ clothes—most of them adorable, except for what I call “attitude” clothes (“Little Miss Perfect,” “I’m the queen,” etc.)—stretch out of sight. And hidden on about three racks are the boys clothes, in muted hunters’ colors. If you don’t want a sports or occasional hunting reference, you might as well not waste the gas to go to the store. Meanwhile, girls are presented with an array of spangles, colors, layers, butterflies and crowns, one top for one pair of pants, no mixing and matching here! And have you ever noticed that nobody makes short-sleeved shirts for girls? Only wrist-length or sleeveless. What message is that supposed to be sending? That girls don’t go outside in mid-temperature weather?

I’m not one of those people who denies the difference between genders. But I think it’s a little weird how advertising shoves boys into one box and girls into another, completely ignoring the reality that human beings are complex and beautifully messy in packaging. It’s like girls are supposed to be prissy, clean little angels who are only interested in dolls and princesses—but woe to anyone who suggests that these associations continue into adulthood! Is it just me, or is this a mixed message?

7 thoughts on “Boys vs. Girls

  1. I agree with you! My girls have had their days of prissy and princess and all that. But I have a daughter who gives her friend at pre-K a “stink-palm” (if you don’t know what that is…I could explain, but in a private message, LOL) and laughs at bodily functions. And my son is into books and coloring just as much as he is into trucks and balls.

    I get VERY frustrated at the lack of selection for clothes for my son! Especially the fact that there’s very little available for “church” clothes and what IS available is WAY too expensive!

    • Yes, WAY too expensive! I’m a huge believer in secondhand. Children’s Orchard. Garage sales. But boy, it’s hard to find used boys’ clothes. I always thought it was b/c they’re rough on the clothes, but I’m thinking it’s more complicated than that. Boys don’t GET as many clothes in the first place–no wonder they wear them out!

  2. LOL The lack of boys’ clothing has been my biggest pet peeve, too! But I never noticed the discrimination until my son was born, because obviously my daughters had a wide selection.

    And I hate buying racing car and fishing themed t-shirts… Jake would rather wear his sisters’ floral shirts than a big mouth bass. 😛

    It’s enough to tempt us into taking up sewing our own clothing. There are plenty of plaids, stripes, and solids at Joann Fabrics. LOL

    P.S. You know if we allowed our kids to engage in all the unsafe and unsanitary activities we read about in children’s books, we’d have Social Services at our doorstep in a heartbeat. 😉
    I don’t know whose kids are serving as the models in these stories…. lol

  3. My mom made lots of clothes for us when we were kids, and tried hard to teach us the skill. Others of my sisters own sewing machines. Um. For me, let’s just say it didn’t take.

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