This topic came up as it does every second day. “I wish I was a boy”, sighed my nine year old daughter. Every time I comb her hair and ask her if she’d like to wear clips to keep them from her eyes, or show her a dress I’d like to buy for her, she categorically refuses. She’s an out and out tom-boy, a skilled football player, a good runner and very athletic, and of course the love of my life.
With how parents look at every critical aspect of their children these days, many of you must be wondering why I don’t appear worried. Well, I remember & remind myself how I was a tomboy as a growing child. I loved the outdoors, loved to bicycle around, and play out in the ground – not football so much, but kabadi, running, swimming etc. I do not remember myself playing with the kitchen set or playing house -house. My clothes though were mostly frocks and skirts – in those days shorts for girls were not available or should I say not made at all 😉
But I wanted to dig deeper, and question why as a child I wanted or for that matter she wants to be a boy. Not that we stop her from doing anything that her brother can do or is allowed to. So I asked her again – to reflect and tell me why she felt so. She almost immediately said, “People say I should wear my hair long, but I like it short. They question why I never wear frocks or skirts, but I love shorts- they’re so much more comfortable. They say they get confused as to whether I’m boy or girl. Why should people be bothered with what I am? I am what I am”. I must mention here that I have a son who’s twelve and as all little siblings, my daughter looks up to Big brother.
After a pause, she continued, “Once, one of the aunties in school (helpers) directed me to the boys washroom & I had to tell her that I am a girl. She said, “Accha, no earrings, short hair so I couldn’t make out”.
I know, gender stereotyping isn’t a new topic and has reduced from earlier, but it still very much exists in daily life, and while as adults we feel more confident in questioning age old practices/perceptions and demanding our due, it’s not so with children. I realized that a lot of us make these comments to our own children and those around us. Maybe, we question/ rebuke out of a sense of superiority of doing the child a favour by directing her/ educating her on what she needs to be like/ dress like. We think its harmless, but it isn’t. For a growing child, it’s questioning her comfort with her body and all other associations with it. It undermines her confidence in many ways.
Would any of us like it, if someone came up everyday or people around regularly questioned or commented on the way we wear our hair or dress up in sarees or a salwar kameezes. These are inappropriate in the monsoons, aren’t they? Practically, monsoons call for short clothes and short hair. But we would hate it and after a point, we’d bluntly tell the person/s to get lost.
We harass children because they are easy targets & they allow us to get away. They are themselves unclear or have no answers. Because they cannot/do not retaliate. So stop it – uncles and aunties, stop commenting on what others (esp children) wear or do and start paying attention to your mind – that needs some questioning.
I speak for myself here as well. I’ve since I decided not to push her to buy dresses or ask her to keep her hair long. So go ahead my darling, be as you like, wear what you like, keep your hair as you like and play what you like playing. I love you just as you are!
Would love to hear your two bits on this as well. Feel free to comment and write in.