Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Reactions to “Princess Boy” Story

I watched a video yesterday about a little brown boy who calls himself a "princess boy" because he loves pink and sparkles and wearing dresses (If you haven’t seen it, click here).

Social media outlets have been abuzz with people expressing their reactions and opinions--some intelligently and others ignorantly; but what most of the responses had in common was the strong stance on one side of the issue or the other. I, however, have mixed emotions.

On the one-hand, it's just a dress. It's just clothing--just something we use to cover ourselves. Who initially decided that girls and women were to wear dresses and men were to wear pants? While the answer to this question is probably available somewhere on the internet, the point is that it was just some other person who made the decision--not a deity; "Thou shalt not let men wear dresses" was not one of the Bible's 10 Commandments as I recall them. So who's to say the rules can't change? It used to be unacceptable that women wore pants. Now many of us don them daily. What is it that makes the custom unacceptable in reverse?

On the other hand, I can't say with certainty that I would be instantly at ease with my own son wearing dresses. Not because I would love him any less, but because of my fear of the judgment he would face (a fear that Princess Boy's mom expressed initially as well). Princess Boy is currently 5 years old, so he is still in a heavily sheltered world created by his parents. I shudder to think what types of cruel judgment children will pass on him once he enters school, or what judgment other adults will pass on him when he becomes an adult. Further, how will this judgment be expressed? Children can be especially cruel to other children who are "too" different by teasing, name calling and bullying. Adults are exclusive in other ways; for example: What will happen to the man who arrives for a job interview wearing a skirt?

I also have to wonder at the psychological implications—good or bad--this whole ordeal (the media attention and promotion of the book his mother wrote) will have on him later, particularly if he should outgrow his penchant for dresses. He’s being essentially paraded in front of the media, and no matter how old he gets, he will always be “Princess Boy”. And then there’s the issue of the profit from sales of the book. I believe the intention of publishing it was to draw attention and awareness to a social issue, but the family profiting from it becomes a gray area for me.

What I do know for sure is that I admire the mother of Princess Boy. It can't be easy to be aware of all the potential consequences of the decision to allow her son’s self-expression, and to be brave enough to do it anyway. It can't be easy to take in the stares and the questions without reacting negatively, but instead handling them in a way that sets the example for her son to handle them on his own if/when the time comes. While I can't be sure of the implications of this mother’s/family’s decision, I can and do hope that Princess Boy becomes confident in his individuality, and is able to remain strong emotionally due to the love and acceptance of his family, despite what anyone else may think about the way he feels most comfortable. And, whether or not I agree with their decision, I applaud this family for stepping out of the box and giving themselves the freedom to make their own rules.


Redbonegirl97 said...

I think mom made a bad decision by going on tv because these images will never go away. When he is 15 years old and trying to be a normal teen these images will come back and make life terrible. We all know how kids can be.

Peace, Love and Chocolate

Kim Jackson said...

I agree with that point, Tiffany. A national spotlight has been pointed at him so there won't be anywhere he can go to start over where someone won't be aware.

GG said...

I agree with you ladies. I love that she allows her son to follow his instincts even if they are not "typical" for his gender but I have to wonder how this will affect him when he's older. I also have to wonder if the parents' motivation is to spread awareness and encourage other parents to be more openminded with their children or if they are just trying to create a stir that they can profit from. I hope, of course, that it's the former.

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