What’s So Bad About a Girl Who Won’t Wear a Tutu?

I read an article in the New York Times Magazine on Sunday about “gender fluid” kids. The lengthy article focused on boys who liked to wear dresses and play with girlie toys and how this can affect their self-esteem because of how little acceptance there still is for kids who defy gender specific roles. There was no talk about girls who identify in masculine ways because according to the article, “Gender-nonconforming behavior of girls, however, is rarely studied, in part because departures from traditional femininity are so pervasive and accepted.”

Really? It’s so pervasive and accepted? I mean, sure, if your daughter plays with a truck once in awhile or refuses to wear dresses I could see how this might not turn heads but what about girls who will only wear boys’ clothes and play with boys’ toys? What about girls who don’t like anything that’s “for girls” and identify themselves as a “girl who only likes boy’s stuff”? What about girls like my daughter?

Maybe you remember this post I wrote a year ago when my 3-year-old Matilda was just starting to express herself in decidedly masculine ways. Well it hasn’t mellowed out a bit since then. Not a hair. If anything it’s just become more a part of her and a part of us. Lots of people wrote to me after that post to let me know they or someone they know went through a similar phase when they were young and it was no big deal.

Look. It’s not a huge deal, I agree. But it is a deal. Some sort of deal. And I wish it had been included in the article. Because I get that a boy sporting a backpack with a unicorn or Hello Kitty and wanting to wear a dress and play with make-up probably gets teased but so does a 4-year-old girl who dresses head-to-toe from the boy’s department, went as Spiderman last Halloween (Spiderman with the big muscles, yeah that Spiderman), cried two days ago because she mistakenly thought none of her boy bathing suits (board shorts with nylon tops) were clean and she couldn’t possibly wear something for girls to school. My daughter gets some weird looks too. That’s all I’m saying.

I’ve gotten used to it. When strangers think she’s a boy, which they always do, I don’t even correct them. Why? Mattie doesn’t care so what difference does it make? I grew up on Free To Be You and Me. I know all the words to “William Wants a Doll.” I’m down, you know what I’m saying? But not everyone is — especially not other little kids. Matilda gets teased in school which doesn’t make me happy, but doesn’t really surprise me either. Kids ask her if she’s a boy or a girl even when they know full well that she’s a girl. The other kids sense she’s different. So far this hasn’t seemed to affect her much or at least she doesn’t talk about it but her teacher has brought it to my attention as something to keep an eye on.

The bottom line is my husband and I will not let anyone kill her spirit. She is who she is. I don’t know if this is a passing phase; it doesn’t seem to be but who the hell knows? If it is or isn’t passing doesn’t matter right now because this is who she is today and it’s fine. But it still should have been included in the article. That’s all I’m saying.

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  • boys-rule-jammies 1 of 10
    boys-rule-jammies
    Her jammies say "Boys Rule" and have sports stuff all over the pants. She lives in them. Does she know they say Boys Rule? Yes. That's the point idiot.
  • In her Easter best 2 of 10
    In her Easter best
    So the other two kids girled it up in cute dresses and beads but Matilda wanted no part of that obviously. She did wear a shirt with a bunny in a tutu though but only because it was the only Easter themed shirt we could find.
  • Must have accessory? Cap. 3 of 10
    Must have accessory? Cap.
    She knows she looks good so she posing it out.
  • Keep on truckin’ 4 of 10
    Keep on truckin'
    She plays with cars, Superhero figurines, Toy Story anything.
  • Fireman 5 of 10
    Fireman
    Matilda has a few dress-up outfits: vet (animal not war), fire fighter and Spiderman. On her wish list? Green Lantern and Batman.
  • I’ll protect you 6 of 10
    I'll protect you
    I forgot about this costume. Captain America? i don't know.
  • The boy suit 7 of 10
    The boy suit
    She has three boy bathing suits. She wants more.
  • Nursing a sports injury 8 of 10
    Nursing a sports injury
    Does she really have an injury? Does it matter?
  • Superman 9 of 10
    Superman
    Bam.
  • Best present ever! 10 of 10
    Best present ever!
    For her birthday last February, Mattie was beside herself when she opened any present that was girly. I had to intercept the gifts and only give her the ones that people who knew her got for her (hot wheels, Diego coloring books etc.) and hide or return the others. Luckily I could give them to Sadie for Christmas.


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