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What Came First: the Princess or the Girl?

It’s not just that my son loves Disney princesses. He loves the entire kit ‘n caboodle of what society would label (unfairly) “girly” stuff.
Purple lollipops. (Not just any lollipop.)
Sparkly tutus
Barbie pink dream cars
Cotton candy
Fancy Nancy
Glitter this
Sequined that

Pinkalicious
Pink everything
Purple everything

It comes as a package. Walking down the street, he’s got a focused attention to detail that’s both annoying and astounding. He loves all dogs, but seeing a King Charles Spaniel is all the cuter. (And it’s TRUE! King Charles Spaniels are cuter…than labs or regular spaniels or golden doodles.)

It’s a fascinating cliché. Listen, I don’t want to put anyone in boxes. And it drives me crazy when people make assumptions about any of my tastes (even if they’re right.) So I try to accept that a girl can be equally inspired by Lego’s as by Elena of Avalor. (Oh, you haven’t heard of Elena? You’re missing out on Disney’s cornering of the Latina market.) And I think boys could choose a red crayon just as easily as wanting to hog all the blue Legos.

But my wonderful son in all his gender non-conformity is 100% on the predictable path of all things “girl”.

So I wonder: does he like all things sparkly/princessy because he loves those things, or because he already knows they’re “girly” and that’s what he likes?

How can so many little princess girls (and boys) be so consistent along the lines of their consumer tastes? Is it a genetic attraction to sparkles and pink, or is it cultural programming at a young age?

What came first? Princess or girl? Is it nature or nurture?

I don’t think my son’s yet influenced by his surroundings or peers. He knows that some kids say “boys shouldn’t like princesses” but he shrugs and keeps loving princesses. I’m proud of that. (Disclaimer – I LOVE that my son knows what he likes. And when I show a little annoyance that he’s so princess all the time, he’s quick to smack me down. “Daddy! I like princess! Stop telling me what to like!” Good for him. Proud papa.)

Another disclaimer – I was exactly the same way, as a kid. I wanted to love all things “girl”. How did I know? Hell. I don’t think there was an explanation. The time my dad asked me, “Why do you have to like red? Can’t you like blue?” And I responded (in the sassy way I hear from my son ALL THE TIME, now), “Fine. I’ll just like pink, instead,” because I KNEW that would piss him off to no end.

But why did I like red? (And everything Strawberry Shortcake – the original, thankyouverymuch – and Princess Leia and Barbie, etc., although I hid this attraction by kindergarten. I was far less secure than my own kid. Yay, son!)

Nowadays, I’ll flip through Netflix “suggestions” and my son will choose anything with a pink fairy/cheerleader/girly icon, even when he has zero idea what it’s about. But does he want the sparkles? Or is it cuz it’s “girly”?

It seems to me there’s a universal attraction to sparkles/pink/twirly things. But some kids diversify their interests with pink and dragons and skateboards and Sofia the First.

But not my kid. He’s full-out. And it seems to me that the gender-non-conforming boys I’ve read about and known are all full-out.

So what causes that? Their deep attractions? Or that they know they’re bucking convention and that makes them go so full-out? The same goes for boys who are 100% driven to Legos/dinosaurs/star wars/breaking stuff. 

Is there a Kinsey scale of aesthetic taste?

What do you think? Why is it so often so full out?

 

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34 Comments

  1. I wonder about this all the time. Well this, and a lot of other things regarding my kids’ behavior, and how much I (or anyone else) actually influence it. Is it all just there, genetically (as I suspect)? Have those with obedient children actually made them that way, or is it dumb luck? Or are those who say that our parenting, or lack of parenting, and our programming of girls toward “girl” things and boys toward “boy” things has a huge impact?
    Seems to me that your son proves them entirely wrong. Go kid, BE HOW YOU ARE. Most important thing ever.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I feel society actually imposes all this on us as parents and then we impose this on our kids. Its very subtle but our parents did it to us etc.

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      • I think you’re exactly right. We can’t help it. But knowing that about ourselves helps us overome our own programming in small, important ways. THank you for reading and commenting!

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  2. First- i love your blog and have enjoyed reading your posts, especially in this difficult age of raising boys and having to worry whether i can just let him be a boy- should i try to raise him as a feminist (?), do i even have to introduce the idea of gender tgis early? do i really have to stop him from climbing up the slide at the park? Anyway, off topic. My 3 yr old loves trucks and has from an early age. Maybe we fostered this or maybe there was a lot of street construction going on when he was little. Either way he has not deviated from this love no matter what else i try to introduce, for the past 2 years. I think kids are just inherantly attracted to what they like. The child came first with their own ideas and interests and abilities and we either foster that and instill a sense of confidence and self respect or we squash it and cause confusion…i fear the latter happens all too often. Thanks for posting!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Amelia. Funny how we twist ourselves into knots over-thinking every side of every detail. That’s the crazy pleasure of parenting, no?

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Chris main says

    “Daddy! I like princess! Stop telling me what to like!”
    I don’t have any training in child development, and I don’t claim any special wisdom, but
    when a youngster says something like that……I’d be inclined to pay very close attention.
    I’m glad you are doing just that!!!!!!!! Go kid!!! Be who you are, not who the world wants
    you to be”……and be proud. And tell Daddy to back off 🙂 (even though I know he’s
    totally on your side….he just wants to protect you now and then)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I love your writing! I think you’re just in the sort of position where you have to sit back and watch and just let whatever is going to happen, happen. You will love him no matter what and he may be the most interesting adventure of your life, sounds like he already is 😜 he’s going to fabulous! Maybe he will grow out of it or maybe he won’t, but at least you know you’ve shown him love no matter what and he will be much more comfortable within himself to be who he is ☺️

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    • Thanks, very much, Shannon! I appreciate you reading and commenting. Yeah – I try my best to just sit back and enjoy the ride without getting too “in my head” about stupid things…like what society will say, etc.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Such an interesting question to pose, yet perhaps there’s a wide variety of answers and influences, just as there are children? I just stumbled across your blog, & love it already! Looking forward to Following from here in Australia, cheers Gabrielle 😊

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  6. Thanks for sharing I love your comments and questions. I actually think its very subtle but society programs us very subtly to fit in and we impose that on our kids. Nature and nurture is very complex and I think its never one or the other but a mixture depending on the child’s personality and where they come in the family. I think its great that you allow your son to explore girly things because lets face it sparkles and glitter ares so interesting to small children. My father encouraged me to like boy things when I was young which meant I love adventures and doing things and I am married with 4 kids and 10 grandkids.

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    • Thank you, so much, for reading and commenting! Agreed: nature and nurture are very closely tied together. And society is minutely influential, all the time. Luckily, he constantly reminds me “there’s no such thing as girl colors and boy colors!” Good for him. 🙂

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    • yep, Frozen was the beginning of our descent into complete princess domination. And now Disney has seized us by the throat. Sigh. Thanks for reading and commenting!

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  7. I love the way you write, and delighted to discover your site! I think that this idea that pink is a girl’s colour is just crazy nonsense. It’s a western notion – who came up with it? I struggle to find clothes for my girls that are NOT pink or purple, so I have the opposite problem. Also I think it’s very unfair on boys that it’s ok for girls to wear and play with what they like, being a tomboy is cool, but any boy who shows an interest in girl stuff is looked at askance by society. So many issues to wrestle with as we rear them, being a parent makes me question myself everyday.

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    • Thanks for reading and for the compliments. Yeah, we live in a society of unfair standards, don’t we? So glad you commented.

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  8. Great that you’re letting him explore colors and toys that he wants to. In our home, there are no girl colors or boys colors…or girl toys or boy toys! My little girl loves firemen and policemen way more than princesses, and I’m okay with that!

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    • Yep! We try to stay neutral and put no higher value on any one thing over another. Sadly, I don’t think society sees “girls” categories and “boys” categories equivocally. Therein lies the problem. Thanks for reading and commenting!

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  9. Clay Morton says

    From as young an age as I can remember, my 10 year old son has been all about things that are as stereotypically male as you can imagine. Being moderately crunchy and with it parents, we did our best to present him with an array of options, from pink dress up clothes to Tonka trucks and everything in between. No matter. Everything ended up being a gun. Stick? Obvious gun. Fairy wand? Gun. The only toys we didn’t get him? You guessed it, were guns. The only time he deviated was when we got his sister a doll house, which he played with for a while before veering back to all things war. We went to a yard sale the other day, and he actually bought an entire Time Life WW2 13 volume set of books, and read them all. With him, the hand of Nature was pretty obvious. His sister was also not steered in particular gender direction, and for awhile she was all about playing with everything, until she went to preschool. There she met her best friend in the whole wide world, and after their first play date, came back with a savage hunger for all things Princess. She even dressed as one for the “job” themed dress up day at school. With her it seems Nurture has the upper hand.

    Good for you for supporting and engaging your son in the things he finds interesting. I’m a stay at home Dad and definitely find it challenging to try and be as open as possible while still being a man in a man’s world.

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    • LOL – all of the above. Thanks for sharing. I went to school in Boulder, CO, and had a philosophy teacher who was uber-crunchy. During a discussion of society, she shared her extreme pacifism and that her boys were never allowed guns, but he would raid her utensil drawer, laying out egg beaters, spatulas and pie servers on the couch and it was his “gun store.” I mean…whaddyagonnado? Thanks for reading and commenting!

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  10. So my 5 year old boy is just so into the Disney princesses and whenever he wants a toy it’s always a doll or a tea set, or cutex etc…so happy to hear that he’s not the only one….. 🙂
    Please read my blog @burns32 on wordpress…..

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    • You aren’t alone, at ALL. If anything, writing this blog has let me know I’m far from alone and that we need to be loud and proud of the diversity in our kids’ interests and personalities. Thank you for reading and commenting. I’m checking yours out, right now!

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  11. Congrats… you are a superdaddy…
    I was thinkin what’s so wrong in boys liking those called girly things…
    When a girl likes toy cars or other ‘boy stuff’ she is regarded as cool.. but when a boy likes princess or pink lollipos, omg the sky is falling…
    Whta has our world become !!!!!

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    • Yeah, there’s such a double-standard that’s hard to explain or understand. I think it comes down to inherent misogyny in our culture – to be seen as “feminine” is inherently lesser-than or inferior. Therefor, why would a man want to be seen as “less than”? Not exactly sure why, but…
      Thanks for reading and commenting!

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    • Thanks so much for reading. It’s always an adventure with my two boys who are so very different but, thankfully, get along thick as thieves. Thank you for taking time to comment.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Miss 2 adores dinosaurs, robots, and playing with boys She likes tutu skirts and playing shop too but pink isn’t her favourite colour and she’d rather have pockets than sparkles. There’s no advertising in our home so I’m glad she’s not exposed to media driven gender constructs 🙂

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    • Yeah, we don’t watch “commercial” TV (but we have plenty of screen time…for better or worse…but my point is there are no commercials playing in our household.) But my son is naturally drawn to pink and princess stories. It’s crazy how complete is his obsession. Ah, well. I embrace it all! Gracias for commenting and reading.

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  13. We watched Enchanted recently, Miss 2 loved “the princess movie” 🙂 Miss 2 adores dinosaurs, robots, and playing with boys She likes tutu skirts and playing shop too but pink isn’t her favourite colour and she’d rather have pockets than sparkles.

    Liked by 1 person

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