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how to explain... Long hair is for 'girls'

(44 Posts)
ValerieTheHorse Sun 14-Feb-16 11:04:22

Ds is 2 and has long hair (past shoulder length, with a fringe).

I love it but will probably cut it when it starts to be too long to be practical, or in the summer if he's getting very warm, or whatever.

He gets called a girl by strangers sometimes, which doesn't bother me. Sometimes I correct them, sometimes I don't bother.

But how do I respond to the following.. With a male friend.

Friend: his hairs getting really long
Me: lush, isn't it?
Friendsadpulls face) probably too long
Me: why? It doesn't tangle or get in his eyes
Me: you think he looks like a girl, don't you?
Friend:... Yes
Me:what's wrong with that? What's wrong with girls?
Friend:nothing's wrong with girls, it's just that... He's a boy
Me: so? Yes he's a boy, but plenty of boys have long hair and girls have short hair
Friend: yes, you have short hair
Me: yes, so what's wrong with a boy having long hair?
Friend: (pulls face again) he looks like a girl
Me: and that's a bad thing...?
Friend: it is a bad thing if he's a boy.

Am I right to think "because he looks like a girl" isn't really a good enough reason to cut it when you think about what it means, like appearing to be female is a bad thing or something? What was my friend trying to say and how can I better explain my feelings?

It's not just one friend, this has happened fairly regularly with different people and I'd like to be able to put my point across eloquently so they think about what they're implying a bit more.

Fwiw ds is about as stereotypically 'boyish' as you can get aged 2 and wears gender neutral or boyish clothes. I don't think he looks like a girl, but I can't see why it even matters at this age?

GreenTomatoJam Sun 14-Feb-16 11:27:57

DS is 5 and has more than one male friend with long hair (he has short, he doesn't like anything on his forehead) - I didn't think it was that unusual these days - certainly no-one's ever commented in my hearing.

Come to that, if DS2's hair wasn't so curly it would be perfectly possible to put it in a pony tail.

It doesn't matter.

When someone commented on DS2's pink dungarees making him look like a girl I'm afraid I went full on embarrassing mother - swept him up with a huge grin on my face and said that girls are awesome, mummy was a girl once. He couldn't care less, as like yours he's 2 and thinks pink is just about the best colour ever at the moment, as he charges around being his lovely 2 year old self (which, like most kids, is a complete mix of whatever things people think boys and girls should play with)

WhenSheWasBadSheWasHorrid Sun 14-Feb-16 11:35:38

Just show her this lovely picture.
Long hair is not just for girls / women.

mudandmayhem01 Sun 14-Feb-16 11:37:03

My ds is 10, has long surfer dude hair, someone tried to bully him saying he looked like a girl, he said what's wrong with that then and he hasn't heard anymore about it! Your answer is just right. I hate that anything female is considered lesser. There is football versus rugby meme on my facebook, implying footballers are girls/ fairies compared to rugby players. Really fucks me off ( despite preferring rugby to football!)

Felyne Sun 14-Feb-16 11:50:10

My DS has long hair too. I hope he keeps it, I love it. I hate the idea that the worst thing for a boy to be is 'like a girl' and attitudes like the one the OP mentions just feed into that. I like Green Tomato Jam's comment, in fact I've used a similar one myself.

bigmouthstrikesagain Sun 14-Feb-16 11:53:49

It might be more about people disliking ambiguity, when I was 3yo people would mistake me for a boy. My hair was allowed to grow but as it was very curly it looked short and I was regularly wearing dungarees. So I when mum explained they would sometimes say "well she looks like a boy in those clothes". Not because being a boy was bad but because they didn't like being 'caught out' and it is sometimes preferable to blame someone else than admit you're mistaken.

Looking like a boy when you are a girl and vice versa is commented on, but plenty of successful male role models in the public eye have long hair - I don't think it's just sexism but a conservatism about how people should present themselves... though sexism is part of it, it's not the whole story imo.

grimbletart Sun 14-Feb-16 14:24:42

I was watching the England South Africa ODI the other day. The SA team all in pink (special charity day). Men in pink look great - perhaps a picture to show boys who think pink is for girls!

The English women's cricket team wear blue by the way…..

moptopp Sun 14-Feb-16 20:34:19

I would ask your friend why it matters that he looks like a girl? Anyone who knows you/your child will know he's a boy, and anyone who doesn't know you/him will either think, oh there's a boy with long hair, or, there's a girl, and so what? You may have to correct the odd person if you interactive with them, but once you've told them, they'll know. It simply doesn't matter if the occasional stranger mistakes your boy for a girl, but some people seem to think it's terribly offensive.

And actually quite a few feel similarly about mistaking a girl for a boy - hence ridiculous 'hair' accessories for totally bald girl babies. People must be categorised, and some people get awfully uncomfortable if it's done incorrectly.

slightlyglitterbrained Sun 14-Feb-16 22:29:39

There are lots of long haired manly male archetypes - surfer dude, rocker, etc. If there are any that are likely to be easily recognised (ideally admired!) by your friend and the other people this comes up with, then a "so what about X?" might work at stopping them in their tracks & making them think again about what they're saying.

This is a complete guess though - DP has long hair, so anyone criticising DS's gorgeous curls would just get a "just like his dad". TBH, it hasn't come up - he gets about 50/50 boy/girl at the mo.

Themirrorcracked Mon 15-Feb-16 08:07:14

My nearly 2 year old boy has blond hair down to his shoulders (even longer when it's wet/ the curl has fallen out). Sometimes I put it in a bun or ponytail if it is getting in his eyes.

People ALWAYS think he is a girl, even though his clothes are 'boys' and his name is unambiguous 'boy'.

I don't bother, if people ask or comment on his hair I just say it suites him/ I think it's beautiful/ he would never sit still to have it cut/ I like long hair on boys/ his dad and grandad had long hair.

MrNoseybonk Mon 15-Feb-16 10:33:18

A man with long hair will generally look like a man due to other male features e.g. facial hair, big build, etc.
Boys don't have that and as a PP said, I think people don't like being 'caught out' by being wrong.
Anyway, these things go in and out of fashion. From time to time long hair on boys is very popular.
Oh and girls with short hair do get the 'she looks like a boy' comments. Does this mean they think boys are worse?
I think some people are just conformists and don't like their expectations being confounded.

scallopsrgreat Tue 16-Feb-16 13:18:29

He didn't just say he looks like a girl. He specifically said it was a bad thing to look like a girl because he was a boy.

Can you imagine his reaction if you put your DS in a dress?

It is a false equivalence to say that girls get the same comments. It is acceptable for girls to have short hair and to wear trousers, for example. Even at this early age children are being taught that (socially constructed) attributes of girls are lesser than boys.

MrNoseybonk Tue 16-Feb-16 13:31:06

"It is acceptable for girls to have short hair and to wear trousers, for example."

For trousers, yes.
For hair is that really true?
I'd say it's about as acceptable as boys to have long hair, in that some people accept it and some don't.
A girl at DS's school has always had short hair and I've lost count of the number of times I've heard people saying "why do they cut her hair like that, she looks like a boy, poor thing".
I know lots of people who think "little girls should have long hair"
Why would looking like a boy be bad if society sees them as better?

RaisingSteam Tue 16-Feb-16 13:31:52

I know a family who had long-haired boys at times. One kept it into adulthood, the others trimmed it by the time they got to junior school. I agree it doesn't really matter.

It is so ingrained in people to categorise, stereotype and judge, I despair. We might as well be in Victorian times. And you don't always want to get into a massive argument with people, you just want to be able to hold an alternative view.

yetanotherdeskmove Tue 16-Feb-16 13:47:13

My ds2 is 2 and has a beautiful very blond pageboy bob. He does often get referred to as a girl because of it and it doesn’t bother me in the slightest, being a girl should not be an insult. I do think it’s odd though that the hair is apparently all people can see, they clearly don’t look the fact that he wears very stereotypically “boys” clothes and likes stereotypically “boys” toys.

Even my DH said recently “he’ll have to get his hair cut at some point” to which I responded “why?” and he couldn’t’ really answer. I don’t understand why in this day and age it’s so odd to see a boy with longer hair, plenty of men have long hair. As far as I am concerned DS can get his hair cut when he wants to, and at the moment he likes his long hair. He is also very capable of firmly telling people he is a boy grin

I think if I were you and your friend raises it again I would have to say something, as clearly he does feel girls are somehow inferior as otherwise it wouldn’t matter that your son looks like a girl.

TinklyLittleLaugh Tue 16-Feb-16 14:03:38

My DS4 (9) has always had long, surfer dude blond hair. When he was little he was prettier and looked like a girl, nowadays he is quite tall and athletic and walks and moves like a boy, no one mistakes him for a girl. He does get teased (also because he is quite bright and geeky) but pretty much brushes it off. We have talked about the macho short haired boys who tease him and how they are generally not very imaginative people with limited, old fashioned thinking patterns.

I always ask DS if he wants his hair cut: he just likes to have it long. He is quite a robust, popular character though. He thinks the boys who try to tease him are a bit sad.

We seem to have acquired a headteacher who does not approve of long hair on boys and have had newsletters home about boys' hair not being longer than collar length. I have basically just ignored them, as have the three or four other long haired boy parents in the school.

thatwouldbeanecumenicalmatter Tue 16-Feb-16 14:13:20

We seem to have acquired a headteacher who does not approve of long hair on boys and have had newsletters home about boys' hair not being longer than collar length.

What the hell?!

I'm glad you 'rebel' by doing something that shouldn't even be an issue sigh Ffs it's just hair, I'd expect a HT to know better!

1fedupmama Tue 16-Feb-16 14:15:00

I had a very awkward experience in the park the other day, my son pinched a football from a group & this little person (about 5yr old maybe) came over to collect it, this buddy was wearing clothes that could be for either gender, name was also gender neutral (if heard it being shouted by the rest of the group) & they had long hair so I assumed girl..... Wrong!!
I said 'right cmon, that balls not urs give it back to the little girl please'
To which the little person pipes up 'actually I'm a boy, I know I have long hair but I like it & I don't want to cut it until I am atleast 18 as I want to donate it to people that haven't got any' I thought 'wow' I quickly apologised, said that his hair was lovely & he should be proud of his decision & He got his ball & wandered off. He didn't seem to bothered by mistake (I suppose he maybe gets it alot' & I was very surprised that someone so little could come back with an answer like that.
I also have a friend that has a little boy with beautiful bright blonde long curls & tbh is either of my boys had hair like that I wouldn't want it cut short either it is beautiful!!

1fedupmama Tue 16-Feb-16 14:17:37

Posted too soon! Haha
Hair should not be an issue atall.
I like my boys hairs short purely because it looks an absolute state if felt too long, but if one of them decided he wanted it long I would have no issue with this atall. Hair is hair hmm

pastmyduedate0208 Tue 16-Feb-16 14:38:42

What an inspiring little boy, mama!

3WiseWomen Tue 16-Feb-16 14:43:06

In my experience, people tend be worse re clothes/colour/hair with children then they are with adults.

So short hair on a woman = Ok
But short hair on a girl = Not OK, will be told she is a boy, how can you differenciate them etc etc Most girls, incl teenagers, have long straight hair around here. becuase that's how you are suppose to have your hair done.

Same the other way around with boys and long hair.

pastmyduedate0208 Tue 16-Feb-16 14:43:23

I felt as though I had to cut my lo's hair even though I didnt really want to. I was so proud that he was born with a full head of luscious locks, which were long btt he was 6 months old!

Talking to a best friend she actually said "Noo don't cut it he's so cute!"
But I did.

Social expectations isn't it.

I feel bad. He's such a well-haired angel.

pastmyduedate0208 Tue 16-Feb-16 14:45:37

3WiseWomen, I agree. Gendered expectations on children are so life-limiting too.

scallopsrgreat Tue 16-Feb-16 14:58:17

I know lots of people who think "little girls should have long hair". Yes it does seem to be a stereotype at the moment. When I look back at photos from when I was at school it was about half and half long:short hair. No way are the ratios the same now amongst school age girls.

"Why would looking like a boy be bad if society sees them as better?" Looking like a boy (or being like a boy - because it is all part of the same thing) isn't considered bad. Otherwise it wouldn't be acceptable for girls/women to dress in traditionally male clothing. It is more about keeping girls/women in their gender stereotypical boxes. Because if girls can pass as boys then where would that leave boys (and the gender hierarchy that society has constructed).

Or are you suggesting that boys/men aren't considered as 'better' by society? Because thread after thread on here would suggest otherwise. From when you hear people talking about "pink and glittery shit" to men's hobbies (being expensive, time-consuming, important) compared with traditional women's hobbies e.g. sewing.

babyboyHarrison Tue 16-Feb-16 14:59:19

Lovely picture here showing angelina jolie's daughter and gwen stefani's son. Parenting done right.

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