What's so Bad About a Boy Wearing a Dress?

Topics: Sociology, Heteronormativity, Gender Pages: 5 (1877 words) Published: October 6, 2012
What’s So Bad About a Boy Who Wants to Wear a Dress?

The phone rings and it is your friend letting you know she has had her baby and the baby’s name is Alex; immediately you congratulate her on the birth of her son. It never crosses your mind that the baby could be a girl. While grocery shopping you run into a co-worker and her children. One child is noticeably a little boy because of his short haircut, spider man shirt, athletic shorts, sports team hat and his shoes are covered mud from his morning dirt adventure, he is introduced as Matthew; the other child has long hair and is wearing a pink and yellow dress, purple necklace, green bracelets, black athletic shoes and is carrying a doll, this child is introduced to you as Jamie. In response you tell Matthew you love his spider man shirt and Jamie you think her doll is pretty; quickly your co-worker corrects you and says “Jamie is my son also.” How do you respond? The article I choose is about similar situations; parents and children struggling to find the middle ground between male and female identities and children not knowing which gender they identify best with. Our society is socially constructed to identify boy names versus girl names and gender and identities based on the genitalia of the child; although for some it is not a simple choice to follow the social norms of gender. Recently, the New York Times published an article titled “What’s So Bad About a Boy Who Wants to Wear a Dress?” written by Ruth Padawer. In this article Padawer discusses the stresses provided to parents and children when it comes to identifying with a specific gender. The article details interviews with parents and children who have chosen to identify themselves in a way that bends the gender norms. Padawer connects to the sensitivity of the situation for parents and the complexity of the situation for children. Most parents according to Padawer are lost and do not know who to turn to when confronted with a gender confused child. In desperation they go to the internet to search for forums, and websites to get information on the proper way to support their gender- nonconforming youth. Padawer (2012) introduced, “Edgardo Menvielle, head of one of the world’s few programs for gender-nonconforming youth, at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington” (p. 4). Menvielle states “more parents decided that making their child conform to a gender will damage his self-esteem, and I’d agree. I would argue it’s not even ethical to say to a child, ‘This is the gender you must be’ ” (p. 4). The article continues introducing several families and telling their stories of how they support their children who decided to go against the cultural norms defined by gender. Parents “Susan and Rob allowed their son to go to preschool in a dress…” (Padawer, 2012, p. 1), they refer to their son Alex as “gender-fluid” meaning he was “equally passionate about and identified with soccer players, princesses, superhereos and ballerinas (not to mention lava and unicorns, dinosaurs and glitter rainbows)” (p. 1). Their decision to allow Alex to bend the gender rules and go against what society has constructed as a male and female based wardrobe was difficult, but “after consulting with their pediatrician, a psychologist and parents of other gender-nonconforming children, they concluded that “the important thing was to teach him not to be ashamed of who he feels he is” (p. 1). Alex’s parents continue to tell Padawer that Alex’s “movements ricochet between parodies of gender: on days he puts on a dress, he is graceful, almost dancerlike, and his sentences rise in pitches at the end. On days he opts for only “boy” wear, he heads off with a little swagger” (p. 1). The only right choice a person can make when it comes to their identity is being themself and not allowing society to define who they are.

In the article author Padawer attempts to set aside the classification of what is right and...
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