Sunday, November 07, 2010

As you are not

Thanks to the wonders of Twitter, I caught the story about the little boy who dressed as Daphne before it made the headlines. When there were 20 comments on the blog, not 15,000. And they were all supportive.

My initial response was to be positive, too. If the kid wants to be Daphne - then what do I care? But then I thought, hey - wait a minute. The boy was having second thoughts and the mom was pushing him to go ahead and do it. She's thinking tolerance and "accept me as I am"- but part of a parent's job, too is helping children to traverse the minefield of cultural expectations. To know when it's worth going with the flow and when it's worth saying 'screw you'. Or whichever choice of vocabulary you want your five your old to use on such occasions.

And my next thoughts were since when does Daphne wear a pink dress? And pink boots? Eh? Since when? And since when is Daphne's hair the color of a traffic cone? Only through
the wonders of Google image search did I realise that this woman had dressed her child in the live action film version of Daphne, not the purple frocked, cuban heel wearing Daphne (sexy, yet deceptively practical). Tsk, tsk. What kind of message is that to give to a five year old? That old school Scooby is to be disregarded, passed over? Where is this woman's respect for the classics? I asked my boy whether that was a boy or a girl - and he instantly identified
the child in the picture as a boy - but though he's watched far, far, far too much Scooby for a middle class parent to admit comfortably - he did not recognise this as a Daphne costume. He said 'pumpkin hair' - when I asked what the boy was wearing.

But more disturbing than all of that is the sexualisation of the whole debate. A little boy wants to be Daphne and people are worried that he'll be gay or people are worried that people will be worried that he's gay. Hello, he's five. I don't care whether sexual preferences are innate, partly innate or partly acculturated or if you can turn gay by wearing a pink dress, five is too young to be even thinking about stuff like that. Why are we sexualising kids so young? My son sometimes wears my shoes and says "I'm mommy." It means nothing. At least nothing sexual anyway. And if it did, it's likely that he'd become a lesbian - as I wear nothing but flats and shoes with plenty of toe room. Comfort is everything.

Like the boy in the blog post, my boy also loves Scooby. Sometimes he pretends to be Scooby, sometimes Fred - and yes, sometimes Daphne. I don't make a big deal out of it. It's just pretend. But I have noted that he never pretends to be Velma or Shaggy, the two characters I've always closely identified with. Kids may not pick up on the sex thing, but they sure as heck can start picking out status stuff early. He's an Alpha type, I reckon. And the sweetest thing is that he doesn't realise yet what his mom and dad are really like. If my husband wants to be Shaggy or I want to be Velma as we play along with the boy - we're reassigned as Fred or Daphne. The well-groomed, well-dressed, popular types. We're gonna come a long way down in his eyes one day - and it may be soon.

But I also thought about my own son and his costume preferences. He likes being a pirate or a knight. Really anything that carries a weapon. Is this an indication of what he'll be when he grows up? Probably. He's clearly headed for a life of crime or maybe a brilliant career as a corporate raider.

Pirate's last stand
Stand and deliver...