Sunday, October 26, 2008

When I was pregnant with Lula, after I'd had the ultrasound and knew she was a girl, I told anyone who asked that I was having neither a boy nor a girl but a tomboy. I did this because I was a tomboy when I was young and it was always something to be proud of. Being a tomboy, to me, meant being strong. It meant being tough and being able to walk around with your shirt off.

So, when I knew I had a little girl growing inside me, I hoped that she too would be a girl-boy, a special, personalized mix of the better and more interesting qualities of each gender, and when she was born and old enough to specify her choice of clothing it became clear that I got what I asked for.

Lula has displayed such a strong desire to be a boy, NOT a GIRL, that I've wondered, half seriously, if I jinxed myself. I say "jinxed" because it's such a constant part of her personality that it's caused extremely annoying problems on a daily basis (especially regarding the clothes she will and won't wear) and it's led me to worry about problems down the road.

Ultimately, I worry that Lula will grow up not fully appreciating herself. I worry that she's not getting positive reinforcement as a female--that all the kid's movies, with their quick-witted, daring, and tough-talking male leads, are making it very clear that this society is more interested in men, and if you want to be at the top, you'd better be able to hang with the boys. Or even better, you'd better be one of the boys.

I can't help wonder what the implications are for a society whose kids' clothing and toys are based so much on the supposed/exaggerated differences between boys and girls. As more children grow up believing the other sex is inherently different, what's it going to lead to? What, for that matter, has it already led to?

I remind Lula as often as I can that she's a girl: she's a strong, smart, funny, loving, girl; she's a loved girl. And, by playing dumb, I do my part to outsmart the system: "What do you mean, you see boy clothes down that aisle? I don't see any. Nope, no boy clothes--just some gray and brown clothes with trucks and lizards on them. Nothing particularly boyish, though, that I can see. Just clothes..."

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