I have two kids, a boy and a girl. My son is a scabby-kneed thug with a head full of football who draws dinosaurs and spaceships. He also draws flowers. Aged 3 he had a pair of trousers with big yellow sunflowers on that he wore till they fell apart. He used to wear his big sister’s dresses all the time to nursery, and when I painted her toenails, I painted his too.
Here are some things that adults have said. Adults dropping off their own kids at nursery; adults at family barbecues with kids and grandkids running around.
- Why are you wearing a dress? You look like a girl.
- Aren’t those girls’ trousers?
- You don’t want to let him wear make up… [with knowing look, like he’s about to catch The Gay from exposure to nail polish]
They don’t say these things so much any more, of course, because he doesn’t do it any more. He’s five now and he’s learning. They taught him. They taught him when he was three years old, crying on my lap because his three-year-old friends had mocked him for wearing a dress. (Hmm, I wonder where they learned to do that.) They taught him that the doodle book he’s been happily using for the last 12 months must be rejected because now he can read ‘For Girls’ on the front.
Don’t start me on what they are teaching my daughter. Don’t even start.
‘Bastards,’ you cry. ‘Who are the jerks pushing this crap on our kids? Who are they?’
Well, they are us.
–KJ Charles on gender.
The “they” KJ is specifically talking about here are publishers and other bookfolk, but, let’s face it; it doesn’t have to be.
“They are us”, indeed.