Why Santa is Bringing my Son a Pink Suitcase for Christmas

The title is a bit misleading. The answer to the question, “Why is Santa bringing my son a pink suitcase for Christmas” is very, very simple: Because it’s what he asked for. And that would make for a very short blog entry.

What this entry is really about is why I think it’s totally cool that my son wants a pink Trunki for Christmas and how I wish he would always ask for sweet pink things for Christmas. Well, for as long as he wants to anyway.

This morning I read an excellent, slightly tongue-in-cheek article calling for a National “Let Your Boy Be a Girl” Day. And I thought YES. I’m so glad someone else is saying this.

I have watched all three of my sons begin life with a refreshing, joyful openness to all experience. Yes, my boys started loving engines and trucks and airplanes from an early age in a manner that seemed clearly biologically programmed. But at the same time… all three of them adored the color pink, they all loved to dress up in fancy clothes (one threw the largest fit of his life when he found out he wouldn’t be allowed to wear a dress to his great-grandfather’s funeral), all loved to paint their nails, all three were attracted to toys in both the boy’s and girl’s sections of the stores.

Everett (age 3) proudly pulls a pink princess rolling backpack behind him whenever we leave the house, and announces that: “If it’s pink, it’s mine. If it’s not pink… it’s still mine.”

Sadly, I know his pink time is limited. Because I’ve watched the world constrict for my older two as they’ve grown, even from the haven of our open-minded unschooling homeschool. I’ve watched how at a certain age, my children start noticing sideways glances and embarrassed giggles from relatives and friends when they announce their favorite color, or show off the lipstick they’ve happily applied to their lips. They start to see the raised eyebrows from store employees when they run joyfully down the pink toy aisle. They start to hear the whispered comments. And so, when some other, slightly older and significantly more jaded male child looks down his nose at them and sniffs with utter contempt, “You don’t like PINK, do you? PINK is for GIRLS…” Well, when that happens, they are primed and that is the moment when their world shrinks.

Eli (age 7) now peers down the pink aisle of the toy store with disdain… but, as his mother, I can feel its draw for him, under the surface of his carefully cultured contempt. I can feel the longing. Not necessarily longing to BE a girl–in fact, I know he doesn’t want to BE a girl. He just wants the freedom to be what he is, to be interested in whatever interests him, to not have to worry that he will call down shame upon himself for wondering if there might be cool toys down *that* aisle as well.

Monty (age 10)… well, he’s pretty thoroughly into guns and video games and legoes (favorite colors: yellow and black), and I don’t think he even looks down the pink aisle any more. I wonder. Would he? If he hadn’t heard the societal taboo so early? Who knows. How could we ever know?

Does it matter? I think it does. I can’t really say it any better than Soraya Chemaly does: “Boys will discover their own interpretations of their gender if they’re given the freedom to explore masculinity–and femininity–on their own.” I believe my children will become better men if they have the freedom to explore the world without fear of shame or disgrace for being interested in a category of things named “feminine.”

And that’s without even going into the depths of what it says about women when we tell boys that being “girly” is “shameful.” Really? What does that make girls? What does it tell our little boys about the value of  femininity?

I kind of like the idea of a National “Let Your Boy Be a Girl Day.” Better yet, maybe we can just have a National “Leave Kids Alone and Let Them Be  What They Want to Be” Day. We could start a movement. We could call it “Occupy Pink.” Who’s in?

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21 responses to “Why Santa is Bringing my Son a Pink Suitcase for Christmas

  1. So true! My 6yo still loves his hand made doll, but when other children come over he hides it away. When he was 5, another child teased him about it and he’s been a bit sad about it ever since.

  2. I LOVE the idea of “Occupy Pink” day! Awesome. I do have a son who went through his doll and pink phase, but also a daughter that went through her tomboy phase. Extended family members didn’t like that she never wore pink, never played with dolls, always had torn up jeans and refused to wear a dress. She wouldn’t even go into the girl’s section of Jcpenney or any other section of stores that had even a HINT of pink. She was nauseated by the site of the color. She’d rather wear a monster truck shirt or something with a bear hunting fish than to be caught dead in a color like pink. LOL There was only one time as a 4 year old that she requested to wear a dress and the color of the dress was blue, not pink. She was always the one to play aggressively with her stuffed animals, but would never touch a barbie doll. This daughter of mine was one of the most masculine girls I knew (next to myself) and yet for all her masculinity, she was still as feminine as ever. What is she like now? Amazing, and yes she grew out of her tomboy ways and enjoys dresses and high heel shoes. But I shutter to think how my girl would have turned out had I not protected her need for individuality? I’ve done the same for my son when he wanted to play with baby dolls, wear nail polish and get dressed like his sisters. Our children should have the freedom to explore and interpret femininity and masculinity for themselves and it should be a privilege for us to witness such beauty. 🙂

    • SO TRUE. I was a tomboy too, partly because I like being outdoors and getting dirty, but I think also, I very early internalized the idea that being a girl was not all that cool. I did want to be a princess–I even wore a crown to school every day for an entire school year. Thank goodness I lived in a community and a family where that was acceptable. But, my tomboy won out most of the time, to the extent that my mom was surprised when, as an adult, I purchased some very beautiful feminine jewelry when I had an opportunity to do so in Thailand. I’m so grateful I was able to explore all sides of my personality… though I wish it hadn’t taken me to adulthood to truly embrace my femininity. It would just be so much better for EVERYONE if “pink” and “girly” weren’t subject to contempt. OCCUPY PINK!

      • I did like pink as a child, but I wanted a pink motorcross suit and bike…my dad said no motorcycle. I wanted to fix cars and have a pink uniform and pink car. That was a no go. Pink was never an issue for me, it was the role that my father refused to let go of for me that angered me. I was a “girl” but he had his standards of what that meant. It meant that when I wanted to do ballet, I wasn’t tall enough, or thin enough or graceful and feminine like them. He called me gracie for most of my young life because I was accident prone. (they say that goes along with being dyslexic). He had clear ideas of how a girl was supposed to be. I had my own ideas, and continued to express them regardless of what others thought. It got me into trouble, but that was the tomboy in me bucking the system. LOL

  3. I entirely agree with your approach. I’ve never limited my daughter to girl things. She mostly preferred “boy” toys or stuffed animals, never wanted to play with Barbie unless the other girls were, has no interest in make-up, and really hates the color pink. It’s too bad that our society labels things so distinctly as being male or female. It limits peoples choices for what they want to do and how they express themselves, far too much.

  4. Perfect timing for this post! I have always been interested in making things with my hands. Software, wood projects, mechanical stuff, arts and crafts – doesn’t really matter what it is, I enjoy it. Last night, I started crocheting my first scarf. I never really gave any thought to whether it was a “manly” activity until I started trying to find instruction on youtube. At least 9 out of 10 of the videos featured women instructors. The ones that starred males were all men making some kind of rainbow themed thing. I guess when I realized I might be doing something a little less than masculine is about the same time I tuned the tv to a football game while I was working on my masterpiece. After reading your post I’m not ashamed to admit that I barely knew who was playing, let alone the scores. I kind of like the idea of a “Let your boy be a girl day.” In my mind though, we may as well call it “Don’t be ignorant day.” I’ve found that people who are ignorant don’t know they are ignorant, so I doubt that it would have any affect on the general population. I’m not sure there is a way to brand the thing so that the point would reach the people who need it the most? Speaking of pink, I wonder if I have misunderstood Steven Tyler’s song by the same title all these years?

    • Good points, Ben. Why can’t men be interested in crochet without someone questioning their masculinity? I detest those Miller Lite commercials about being ‘unmanly’–have you seen the one where the guy enthusiastically greets his elderly, wheelchair-bound friend and his (ahem) “friends” raise their eyebrows at his “unmanliness”? Ugh.

      I yearn for a world in which everyone gets to be whoever they want to be, do whatever they like doing, without having to worry about the scorn of others.

  5. I love this post.

    It also makes me think a lot about how one color (pink) is feminine and how boys are exploring their femininity and/or masculinity by liking that color, and yet you say (and I agree) that colors should be neither feminine or masculine. But if they weren’t, how could boys explore their femininity/masculinity? If things didn’t have gender-assignment, would children just be? Would nothing be “exotic is erotic” anymore? This tangles up my mind.

    But since I think male/female doesn’t matter at all except in the area of reproduction, none of this worries me. Even in the area of reproduction, it’s not like we can screw it up. It’s not like if a boy likes pink too much his sperm will cease to work. So why is everyone so concerned about people projecting their gender? I think it all goes back to patriarchy and/or religion.

    And as a Christian, I wonder what I Corinthians 11:14(ish) is talking about. Sometimes I find the Bible unpleasant to think about. There, I said it. It seems simpler to say “whatever” if it’s not hurting anyone else.

    • So confusing, right? This is kinda why I like the idea of “Occupy Pink”: Maybe we can learn to see that “pink” isn’t masculine or feminine… it’s just a color. And maybe then we can learn that children (and grown-ups) don’t have to be “masculine” or “feminine” either. We can all just be ourselves.

  6. Wow Heather, I really love your piece. And I applaud the way you are raising your kids. There is an entire spectrum of behaviors in children and I too think it is such a shame to almost mold children into the stereotypes. And I can understand that parents do this to protect their children from the rest of society, but what a breath of fresh air it is to hear that you are protecting yours in such a way that allows their freedom 🙂 This is progress. You have such lucky children that have amazing parents!!!

    • Thanks, Sunil! We’re doing the best we can by them… which is certainly not perfect, but I hope it’s good enough. Which is all anyone can really hope to be, and fortunately, as my mom likes to say… good enough is good enough. 🙂

  7. I am a public middle school counselor and found your blog when I was on craig’s list glancing at goat ads.(Why i was doing this mindless net search – I don’t know!) I have 2 pygmy goats .We dress them up for Christmas card pics and they tolerate it. We are going into our 2nd year with them and plan to give them forever homes- 18 years i understand. I have 2 sets of Goat God parents set up -just in case. I don’t need anymore goats, but really appreciated the way you were seeking EXCELLENT homes for yours! My husband does NOT understand why we have goats and will be even more shocked when he finds the chickens i plan to get in the Spring. Yet, he will survive me , as I have him.
    I then found “In my mind” music video by Amanda Plyler and LOVED it. I had never heard of her. I felt you are my type of person and relieved that there are others somewhat like me out there as i have few in my social circle who get/embrace all this!
    I am just writing you this to say hi, I know it has nothing to do with pink-just think
    (ing). 🙂

    • Hi Debbie! I’m so glad you stopped by. The goats found their wonderful new home… I haven’t written about it yet because I still feel really sad, even though I know it’s the best thing for them and for us for now. I hear you about the mindless net searches–I scare my husband by researching things like pigs and ponies, and then looking at the ads on craigslist without any real intention of purchasing… I just like to window shop!

      I love how blogging and Facebook have allowed me to find my “tribe” online. It sounds like you’re my newest member. Thank you. And look me up on Facebook–there’s a link in the right column. 🙂

  8. Yes! Let’s start a movement! It is ridiculous how people attach all kinds of negativity to a color preference or toy choice. My son liked pink and at one point, it was his favorite color until, like you said, society continued to point out that is was for girls. It’s a beautiful color, vibrant, happy, spicy, lovely C-O-L-O-R! (I’m not yelling at you although it probably feels like it :)) This ramps me up, can you tell?

    • Heehee! Me too. I *almost* bought Everett some pink sneakers this week… and chickened out because he’ll be wearing them to kung fu and I couldn’t bear the thought that some kid might ask him why he was wearing pink shoes, and he might get a complex about it… so he’s wearing black sneakers. Booo…ooooring! Oh well. He does have a pink terry robe he wears around the house, and the pink flashlight he bought himself for Christmas, and so on. 🙂

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