For several weeks, an eighth-grade boy outside of Kansas City has been expressing his individuality by carrying a floral-print Vera Bradley purse. But yesterday, his assistant principal demanded he remove it. The boy refused, and he was immediately suspended from school.
This raises a question: Why is it a problem for a boy to carry a purse instead of a backpack if he wants to? By breaking gender stereotypes, he’s not hurting anyone. Instead, he’s showing the world that he has good self-esteem and self-confidence—that he is secure his identity.
Unfortunately, his school administrators’ actions show that they want to force a 13-year-old kid into stereotypical masculinity. Apparently, they value gender conformity over creativity and individuality.
We’ve been seeing fascinating glimpses of boys and young men overturning gender stereotypes in recent years, which often leave people scratching their heads.
There are the Bronies—the fans of the show My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic—that have been erroneously judged by some as deviant for enjoying a show intended for young girls.
There was the little boy who wore pink toenail polish in a J. Crew ad—sparking controversy and labeled by some as “propaganda.”
And there was the little boy whose Halloween costume—Daphne from Scooby Doo—resulted in nasty criticism and widespread judgment.
Check out Rebecca’s Lululemon Petition on Change.org.
It’s sad, really. When our society treats anything associated with femininity like a deadly pathogen that threatens masculinity, it tells us three things:
- that masculinity must be pretty fragile, to be threatened by something as innocuous as a little nail polish or a floral purse or a kids’ cartoon;
- that our culture is still struggling with a strong undercurrent of homophobia, despite much progress in recent years; and
- that our culture really has a deep-seated problem with women and girls, to consider anything associated with females repulsive and wrong and deviant when they’re near men. (There is no parallel sense of repulsion when girls enjoy boyish things, like cars or trucks or superheroes, because boys’ things aren’t regarded as inherently degrading.)
I hope that as a society, we very soon reach a point where kids can just be who they are without being squelched by the authority figures around them. Because honestly, I think that boy ROCKS that handbag!