Princess Leia

T, “Mommy? Is Princess Leia your favorite?”

Me with deadly seriousness that should have served as a warning, “Why would Princess Leia be my favorite?”

T blithely unaware that he was inserting a knife into my heart, “Because she’s a girl!” He twisted the knife, “And a princess!”

Jesus fucking christ, where, oh where did I go wrong with this child?

“No. Princess Leia is not my favorite. Listen, dude. I don’t like people because they are girls. That is ridiculous. Just like I hope you don’t like people because they are boys. You would be missing out on so much. I don’t even like princesses. I don’t want to be a princess. Honestly, Leia is really cool. But she isn’t cool because she is a girl. She is cool because she keeps a level head in really tough situations and she doesn’t need anyone to save her, she can save herself. Dude, she kills Jabba the Hutt.”


For several years T’s favorite color has been purple. Suddenly he doesn’t like purple anymore. I asked him why. “Purple is a beautiful color. I don’t like beautiful colors. I like cool colors. Like black.” Yes, black is his new favorite color.

He doesn’t play with the girls in his class. He and his friends tell the girls that they are not allowed to play with them outside.

The gender role shit is coming from our culture fast and furious and there are not enough episodes of Doc McStuffins in the universe to stem the tide.

I’m frustrated and pissed off and really sad. But I’m not going to give up. I am going to question him every time he wants me to be the only girl when he plays Jake and the Neverland Pirates. I am going to push back when he assumes that the token girl in any piece of pop culture is my favorite. I am going to teach him about the Bechdel test. Both Z and I will show him it is fine to show emotion, to cry, to be affectionate. Just like it is fine to be strong and rough and tumble. We will teach him that everyone has all of those qualities inside them. That those qualities are not gender specific.

And we will be loud about it. We will be constant and unrelenting. We will have to be in order to compete with the messages he will get from school, from friends, from advertising and the media and pop culture. We will be fighting to teach him that women don’t need to fight amongst themselves to fill the single role of token female or girlfriend availible in a movie. Forget about in a movie, real life–in a workplace or group of friends. That women can actually take up more than 50% of those roles being they are more than 50% of the population.

I know that his exploration of gender norms is completely normal. I know a lot of people consider it to not be a big deal at all. But you know what? It shouldn’t be normal. It is a big deal to me, and I believe it should be a big deal to everyone. And normal or not it isn’t going to fly in our family.

boy with curl

This fetching curl hung out below his eye during dinner tonight. Man, I would kill for hair like his.

quiet C

C has been having a rough couple of days in the behavior department. This is the calm between the tantrums.

gray and white



7 thoughts on “Princess Leia

  1. You have nothing to worry about! Your boys will understand that gender roles are not etched in stone because you and their father are incredible role models. I, like you, wanted to raise my son and daughter without these false constraints. I felt like is was easier with my younger son, than it was with my daughter. When my daughter was a preschooler, everything had to be pink! If I bought her a hot chocolate, it had to have pink, not blue straws, “because I am a girl” she would state. It drove me insane! She would tell me who she was going to marry when she got older! Yikes! I modeled and spoke about how unimportant gender is in regard to life choices.
    You will be happy to hear that my daughter is now a 21 year old independent woman. She will graduate this spring with a degree in journalism and mass communications. She has plans to travel, experience the world, and be a producer. This “pink only” five year old, is an independent human with her own goals and dreams.
    I think that developmentally, 4-10 year olds are wired to really differentiate between the genders. Your boys will witness you and your husband’s actions, they will hear your words, and when they come out the other end, they will no longer think of the world as “boy things/girl things”! I am positive!

    • What a lovely story about your daughter! Thanks for sharing it!

      The gender differentiation stuff is normal among children, I agree. My worry is making sure they move past it in a world where both girls and boys are subtlety told over and over that women are not equal. That is the real fight. I worry for my boys’ female contemporaries.

  2. C and I have this exact same conversation, and it’s so annoying! I don’t want to be Arcee, the only female Transformer! I don’t want to be the pixie dust girl! or the girl dog! What the hell? And his favorite show is Doc McStuffins, but I fear that’s about to be replaced by Animal Mechanicals or some garbage, just like his favorite color- pink- was just replaced with black! AAARGH! I say to him, “mommy can like things that are boy things, and things that are non-gender specific, and girl things. Aren’t there some girl things and non-gender specific things that you like? Aren’t there some boy things that you don’t like?” “No,” he replies.

  3. Well, I’m glad for Doc McStuffins, because in preschool (couch please) I was prevented from playing the doctor role in our pretend play on account of being a girl, even after I made an issue out of it with the teacher.

    On the other hand, Doc McStuffins? A nurturer? That’s the extent of our mould-breaking? A cartoon where a girl basically pretends to be the kind of mum-figure that can write prescriptions and command a salary. I… guess that’s a step in the right direction.

    In any case, we are facing similar things here, too. I guess we will just try to promote a more balanced model of society as best we can against the onslaught.

    • It is sad that I’m excited about Doc McStuffins in 2013. We still have so far to go. I want my boys to grow up understanding their male privilege is bullshit. Bullshit and arbitrary and manufactured. When they look at women I want them to see individuals rather than assuming a list of attributes based on sex.

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