Dita Parker

Friday, May 22, 2009

What it feels like for a girl

I got into a debate over how little girls should be dressed. Gender neutral preferably, as a friend of mine wants. Her problem is that her second daughter is not the tomboy her big sister is. She is a princess in the making, loves all things pink and frilly and girlie. Her mother apologizes for her daughter's tastes. I said she really shouldn't. It makes dressing like a boy okay and being a girlie girl something to be ashamed of.

Girls can wear jeans and cut their hair short, wear shirts and boots, because it's OK to be a boy, but for a boy to look like a girl is degrading, because you think that being a girl is degrading. So says Julie in the film The Cement Garden. (Yes, it's Charlotte Gainsbourg's voice in character in that Madonna song.) In the original Ian McEwan novel, the passage equals girls dressing as boys to a promotion. It was written some thirty years ago. That was then, this is now, right?

I know mothers who have bought baby dolls to their sons to cultivate nurturing tendencies. I know fathers who have refused to do the same so their sons wouldn't develop gay tendencies. Bah, humbug, I say; nature takes its course and it won't ask us for directions. Boys will be boys, girls will be girls, up to a point and always to some extent. Why not let women be women and men be men, and I'm not rooting for any Mars-Venus division.

I'm rooting for variety and the little differences that make the battle between the sexes a win-win mock war at its best, a man look at a woman in appreciation then look again, a woman compliment a man and leave it at that. Or not. And I'm not going into a discussion about equality. We're not quite there yet, and we're not getting there unless we treat equal rights as a human rights issue. Some rules apply to everyone, and it has nothing to do with what you decide to wear to work. Or the playground.

No comments: