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Feminist but confused

(35 Posts)
Unsureif Tue 15-Nov-16 20:59:46


I am a feminist. Absolutely. I have a DS and DD and am very much in the gender neutral camp where possible, ie toys, colours, choice of adjectives.

However, I struggle with the fact that my DD has long hair and my DS doesn't and that they dress mostly as per their prescribed gender. Having said that, DD often wears DS's cast offs and DS thinks nothing of dressing up in a stereotypically girl's costume.

So, why do I feel conflicted? After all, I wear make up sometimes, wear women's clothes and have a feminine hair cut. I guess I'm struggling with telling my children they can do what they want to in life yet I'm falling into the binary of hair and clothes. And then I do it myself too?

Can anyone help me resolve my feelings about this?

VestalVirgin Tue 15-Nov-16 21:23:24

How old are your children? Was it your decision to keep your daughter's hair long? And what do you mean "dress mostly as per their prescribed gender"?
Do they dress that way, or do you buy their clothes that way?

I have long hair and shop in the women's section - considering that I approve of long hair on men and the clothes I buy are mostly jeans and t-shirts, I consider that in keeping with my feminist ideals. I cannot personally defy ever gender stereotype ever.

noblegiraffe Tue 15-Nov-16 21:32:32

It's not how you dress them but how you treat them that's important. Your DD is a girl and your DS is a boy, so I don't see any point in trying to hide that with identical bowl haircuts and grey overalls.

But, if you dress your DD in a dress do you then tell her she can't go on the climbing frame in case she gets it dirty? Do you tell your DD she looks pretty but not comment on your DS's appearance? If yes, you might need to reconsider. Otherwise it's fine.

LassWiTheDelicateAir Tue 15-Nov-16 21:36:32

Was it your decision to keep your daughter's hair long?

And your son's hair short. Why is it only the former which is problematic?

Unsureif Tue 15-Nov-16 21:44:55

Noble, No I don't. She's a climber and woe betide me forbid her to do anything haha!

I tell both of them they're beautiful equally.

Vestal, I have chosen to grow her hair long. DD is almost 3 and DS is 4.5. DD wears hand me downs from family so I very rarely choose clothes for her (I am a bit fussy about some of the hand me downs as in any silly pretty slogans would not be used but fortunately this is a rarity). I have chosen a few bits of her clothing and I do choose girls' clothes - if anything it's to vary it up from the hand me downs she wears of DS's.

So, to sum up, ds dresses as a boy, DD dresses as a girl but with the odd bit of DS's stuff thrown in!

Thanks for your posts.

Unsureif Tue 15-Nov-16 21:46:05

Lass, DS has had long hair (for a boy, I guess!) before. But not long enough to tie back. But he has a dodgy scalp and so I prefer it short so I can treat it.

IAmAmy Tue 15-Nov-16 22:06:33

This is something I think about in terms of myself and my brothers. We played with a lot of similar toys, I always loved toy cars, Lego, generally were brought up in a gender neutral way in that sense. But we do for the most part "conform" to how you'd expect children to look depending on being a girl or boy. I have long hair and dress often in what would be called a "feminine" way and my brothers have short hair. Growing up I always had quite long hair so not sure if it's always been a conscious decision or parents had input. Also though I feel I dress and appear in a way I'm entirely choosing, who knows how I would if we existed completely free from any gender stereotypes. The main thing I think is to empower all children with as much free choice as possible in these things and oppose a culture where children are pushed towards what's considered appropriate for them depending on their sex.

VestalVirgin Tue 15-Nov-16 22:44:46

Lass, because short hair is more practical, and toddlers tend to not care about their looks.

LassWiTheDelicateAir Tue 15-Nov-16 22:51:31

Amy, You have far more choice than your brothers in what you wear.

You could go shopping with them in say the Levi store , buy exactly the same jeans and sweatshirt, put them on and no one would care or notice. You could pop into Converse or Dr. Martins and buy exactly the same pair of shoes.

If you did the same in Top Shop and Russell & Bromley at best your brothers will get funny looks and at worst , well, a lot worse.

If you worked for me you would have to be smart in appearance. You could wear just about anything which isn't denim or sportswear or clubbing gear and it would be fine. Your male equivalent would wear a suit and a tie (which indeed you could too if you felt like it)

I'm not a fan of gender neutral. I often think it doesn't mean "gender neutral" but "stuff that boys can wear without getting stared" or as NobleGiraffe said "identical bowl haircuts and grey overalls".

LassWiTheDelicateAir Tue 15-Nov-16 22:57:16

Lass, because short hair is more practical, and toddlers tend to not care about their looks

That does not answer my question. At toddler age it's presumably the parents who are deciding how they want their children to look- why should OP have to question why her daughter's hair is long but not why her son's is short?

And having had long hair and had my son's hair fairly long too I'm not buying "more practical" argument.

Even if that were a factor why does " practical " trump everything else?

XinnaJane Tue 15-Nov-16 22:57:40

This is something I struggle with for myself and my DC. Basically I know that if I had a totally free choice, I would have a short, practical, man's haircut. I haven't done this because I am still tied by how people think about my looks. I don't want to look 'butch'. We are all products of our culture and actually there's a limit to how far you can break out of that.

IAmAmy Tue 15-Nov-16 22:58:59

That might be so but there are still formal settings where women and girls are expected to conform to what's determined "feminine" dress, settings in which say high heels are almost expected it seems (I was told they'd be the best bet for work experience and any interviews in future) and girls are judged for not dressing in ways considered feminine. At the same time I think the reason boys aren't as free to wear clothing "for girls" is because it's associated with being feminine, which is a negative/weak trait and one which boys would be laughed at for showing due to the link with women/girls. That's without going into how what clothes for girls and women are designed to do in terms of appearance.

In terms of work I think expecting a suit and tie for men is probably unfair. Though at the same time it's still not illegal as far as I know for employers to insist women wear make up and heels for example, the latter being far more damaging (there was a petition about that quite recently).

There is also the issue away from clothing but with toys and how they're gendered to push children into certain "boxes", generally ones of relative weakness and considered lesser for girls.

XinnaJane Tue 15-Nov-16 22:59:04

lass surely when you have a toddler practicality is everything! And short hair is absolutely more practical - think of the time saved in brushing alone

LassWiTheDelicateAir Tue 15-Nov-16 23:33:55

No , practicality is not everything and brushing hair is hardly difficult.

Amy I don't know who told you high heels are expected for interviews or work experience, or lord knows what sort of work experience they were thinking of or who would be doing the interviewing but that is utter tosh.

Does the person who told you that really think employers are so stupid as to use heel height as a recruiting factor? They/we really aren't. If your shoes and clothes are dirty and scruffy, fair enough, you will be judged but heel height? No.

IAmAmy Tue 15-Nov-16 23:41:53

Well I'm glad to hear that, I did realise when I actually went to work experience that they weren't expected but it's common advice given from what I've seen and heard.

Generally in terms of clothing women and girls are judged far more than boys or men. We're judged negatively if we don't conform to what's deemed "feminine" in terms of dress and appearance. It's seen as unacceptable for boys to appear what would be seen as "feminine" because of the connotations of that and how society views the status of women, in my opinion. And you should see how (some) boys talk about girls who don't dress or appear as they feel girls should.

OlennasWimple Wed 16-Nov-16 00:01:26

Oh OP, despite all my best endeavours we have two gender stereotyped DC in terms of toys, interests and appearances. They have a couple of overlaps (notably Lego) and occasionally DD will want to kick a ball around with DS or DS will play imagination games with DD, but these are rare and increasingly so.

Pizanfan Wed 16-Nov-16 00:49:31


I am hesitant to talk about this subject, because it is a minefield of epic proportions.

There are studied positives and negatives of gender neutral childhoods, however so little is known it's up to you to risk the psychological and social well being of your child.

I am not anti gender neutrality, however I think you have to consider all effects it will have on your children.

There are also biological evidence of children pre disposed to masculine and feminine toys, including use of primates etc...

Think carefully, as someone else said, let the child direct where they want to go, but most importantly don't do anything that will negatively impact the childs long term development.

Cisoff Wed 16-Nov-16 03:24:20

I'm less concerned with gender neutral appearances than I am with actual practice. My girls play a "girls" sport, because I want them to run around and be fit and experience sporting competitiveness with their peers without being taken out by someone biologically advantaged due to their sex.

They both wear their hair how they like it (stupidly long, and longish). I'm under no illusions that this is part of social conditioning. My son has short hair. He doesn't care about hair, and wants to spend as little time on it as possible. Of course society doesn't value him so much on his looks, so I'm under no illusions there, either.

I personally have short hair - quite short, actually. I like it short, I wear it short because I think it suits me. If I thought I'd look 'better' with long hair, I'd grow it. I dress for comfort, always. But that means selecting colours that 'suit' me. And in summer, it's usually roomy dresses because, comfort.

I'm constantly drumming into them that their sex doesn't matter when it comes to academia, future leadership positions, parental status etc. And I point out obvious discrimination when I see it. They know that Hillary Clinton would never have even run for president, for example, had she been had kids to 3 different men, and boasted about cock grabbing.

How they look or how they choose to look, or how I chose to present them when they were very little is secondary to all that.

"There are also biological evidence of children pre disposed to masculine and feminine toys, including use of primates etc" Is there? Where?

Unsureif Wed 16-Nov-16 06:43:09

Pizanfan, if you were to look at my children they are very obviously a boy and a girl. I'm not bringing them up absent of gender (as the cultural gender binary dictates). DD knows she is a girl and likewise ds knows he's a boy. I have read the book Pink brain blue brain and found it interesting. DD is definitely drawn to dolls and nurturing whereas DS is less so even though he has had a doll etc forever.

I have noticed the differing comments they receive from people- ds is clever and funny and DD is pretty with adorable hair. But I'm quick to point out that DD is the bravest kid I know and that ds is very sensitive or whatever is relevant.

libprog Wed 16-Nov-16 07:13:05

Not like you have much of a say anyway. If most girls your DD has contact with have long hair, what do you think the chances are she will also "want" to have long hair? My boss told me a story about a kid his kids know, their DS loved ballet, until he once wore his outfit (ballerina) outside of ballet class and got bullied for it. Now he doesn't do it anymore. There will always be outside influences that you can't control. So the best you can do, is as you are doing - not choose for them and offer critical thinking to the choices they do make.

FitnessFad Wed 16-Nov-16 07:26:22

What exactly is wrong with a girl dressing as a girl, and a boy as a boy? I don't understand - who exactly is it a problem for?

XinnaJane Wed 16-Nov-16 07:31:34

One of the problems I find fitness, going back to the hair issue, is that long 'girls' hair can actually be quite limiting. I see girls all the time in the playground who can't really climb properly because they have hair in their faces. their play having to be interrupted to put clips in etc. If you have short boys hair you are not having an artificial, aesthetic limit placed on you all the time.

FitnessFad Wed 16-Nov-16 07:44:10

But what little girl wants to look like a boy? Surely it's easy enough to tie it up.

Pizanfan Wed 16-Nov-16 07:52:39


I'd fear you are confusing your children a touch, telling both they can do anything, but ensuring DD only plays girls sports. Depending on the age of DD she may actually hold a physiological advantage, for example, tough rugby finds girls excel beyond boys up until the age of 12/13 (depending on individual), and when players transition into contact the genders are split. That said I know a few girls who have refused to quit, as there was no girls team, so they have played 2 years of contact before sourcing girls teams (as that when physiological advantage got too large in favour of boys).

Don't be afraid to allow your DD to compete with boys early on, chances are she'll excell.

With regards to the primate studies, I don't remember the names off the top of my head, but one is about 15 years old involving Rhesus monkeys, and the other more recent involving chimpanzees (longer term study).

Essentially they concluded male monkeys would be attracted to masculine toys, whereas female monkeys were attracted to male and female toys equally.

There are also biological studies that show masculine traits relation to Androgen level exposure, and other similar things.


There was no judgement intended in my comments, I just followed the 'Sasha' case for a while, and worry about the damage potentially done to the poor child, who has clearly been manipulated, as he plays out anti gender rhetoric on camera like a performaing seal.

ChocChocPorridge Wed 16-Nov-16 08:03:49

I understand this - I have two boys, 3 and 6 (one with standard short back and sides, one with longer hair - but the longer hair is curly so it stays close to his head - and provokes head rubs from about 30% of the people he meets!)

My older one has had trainers and trousers from the girls section (better colours, slimmer fit), the youngest adores pink, and rocks a pair of leggings - but I still recoil from most of the stuff in the girls section - too frilly or pleated or bedazzled - and I'm trying to figure out if it's my personal taste (I'd never wear any of that stuff either) or that I'm enforcing gender norms.

I try to just let them do what they want, and pick clothes that I would wear - because supporting them if they want to wear wellies and a tutu is part of being a parent, but so is suggesting that if they do that, people will think it's a bit odd - which is fine, but they should be prepared for that.

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