17 different women, 36 crazy children, 0 babies in utero
Adventures, Advice and Questions from a group of Mormon women who met in Queens, NY and have now scattered all over the place.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Pink Shoes for Boys?

As I was cleaning out my files before the big cross-country move, I came across an article from Parents Mag (May 1999) that my SIL sent me a long time ago. It’s called “Pink Shoes For Boys?”. I looked to see if maybe I could find it somewhere on the web for your perusal, but alas, I could not. So, here are the basics: Dad takes his 4 year old son to the shoe store to buy new shoes. Little boy wants hot-pink jellies. Dad tries to convince boy that he actually wants dark-blue canvas shoes. Little boy still wants hot-pink jellies. Dad wants to say, “No, Those are for girls” but instead has in internal dialogue about gender stereotyping.

Here is one quote from the article:
“We as parents of boys should also acknowledge the fact that no matter how liberated we may consider ourselves, most of us perpetuate the old gender roles in our own homes. We modern parents may praise our sons for playing house or stitching nearly on those little preschool sewing thingamajigs. But let’s face it: Most of us praise our sons a lot more if they bang away with a toy hammer, or slam a baseball out of the infield, or score on a slam dunk.”

I don’t have any sons…yet. But like the author (who bought his son a doll and a kitchen and was considering enrolling him ballet because of his dancing talent), I feel like I would be open to my sons exploring things that might in some small way combat sex stereotyping. But, just like the author, I realize there is a breaking point. Pink shirt. No prob. Pink shoes? I think I would have to say no.

So here is the question that reveals to what extent are we comfortable perpetuating “traditional” gender roles in our homes: What do you do when your son begs you for sparkly pink shoes?

Sidenote: My SIL originally sent the article to me because a few years previously (1996) I had worn pink sparkly jelly shoes to my wedding. I was completely obsessed with them and she wanted to know if I would ever be able to deny them to my future sons.


  • Hmmm...I think I'd be bothered more by the jelly shoes than the color pink, just because jelly shoes aren't exactly foot friendly, so I wouldn't buy a girl or boy that type of shoe. My son is my second child, and he does wear hand me down pink jammies, and I think if he really wanted pink shoes (non-jelly) I'd give them to him. But what if he wanted to wear girl shoes to church? Hmmm...maybe an appeal to fashion?

    øn good thing about having a girl first is that all those "girl toys" are already around for the boy to play with. My son loves the play food and snuggling with the baby dolls. But he also loves trucks and his BLAM! table.
    posted by Blogger mindy at 4/06/2006 01:29:00 PM  

  • I don't think I should have a son b/c I am not sure what I would do. I would definitely listen to instinct. The only instance I can remember with this is when someone from tales' son put on my daughters pink dress-up shoes and I had a gut reaction like NO. If that had been my son, I would have ripped them off his feet. But that image (of me ripping shoes of a boys feet) doesn't seem right either. So I am obviously not ready for a boy yet.
    posted by Blogger Kage at 4/06/2006 01:49:00 PM  

  • umm..I am still not ready for a boys and I have two. I am girl to the very core. I did not know how to catch a ball until I got married, watch only things with happy endings, and read at baseball games. At first I thougth it was a great joke that I had two boys, but now I realize that my boys have plenty to teach me and there is so much they can learn from me. I love it!

    Story: I worked at a very progressive preschool one year and there was a boy who came to school in dresses. The mom was a believer in not having any social mores impact daily choices, so this included dress. The sad thing all the other kids did not know what to do with the boy in the dress, so he was usually left to play alone. I would encourage kids to play with him and they would always ask-Is he a girl or a boy today? It broke my heart. I think ignoring gender can be detrimental.

    I have sent my boys over to friends houses only to pick them up in dora jammies and plastic pumps. My gut reaction was much like kages, but I also realized they are just playing.

    I think it comes down to raising children to become good people and not focusing on the "good girl" or "good boy" mold (whatever that is at the moment). With my boys I try to praise them not just for their actions, but for who they are.
    I buy toys that I think are fun and not just for a specific gender , but I do draw the line at buying weapons and video games. As for pink shoes I would have to say no, but much to the dismay of my husband my boys wore pink shirts for Valentines Day and they were so handsome (not sure if I would send them to middle school in pink shirts)! They play soccer, have adventures, help me cook, go shopping, play the piano...all things that boys and girls can enjoy....
    posted by Blogger Tri Mama at 4/06/2006 02:28:00 PM  

  • Great question, Carrie. Really great question.

    We've discussed this in my family. I wear pink shirts all the time, flowered Hawaiian shirts, and so forth. I'm not saying that guys have to wear "guy" stuff 24/7.

    That said, when Sullivan wanted to wear some girly stuff to school -- I don't recall what, I think it was a purple shirt or something -- Mardell and I had a quick meet-and-confer. And eventually didn't. The idea being, that if he wears girly things, he's going to be teased about it (particularly in elementary school).

    At some point, he'll know enough and have enough thought on it to go one way or the other. But we didn't want to let him inadvertently get himself into a bad social situation in third grade.

    I felt like such a bad feminist, too. It totally went against my intellectual ideals. But I don't always live up to my intellectual ideals. And I didn't want my little boy being teased at school. There will be a time and a place for him to grow into his own feminism (if any), and I don't want to force mine on him or cause him to suffer socially because of my intellectual ideas. So we vetoed the purple shirt.
    posted by Blogger Kaimi at 4/06/2006 02:35:00 PM  

  • The issue is all about fashion: we have to uphold some sense of good fashion with our children. Purchasing pink jellies for a boy is way out of the question.

    Secondarily, who says gender stereotypes are all bad? Okay, I know a lot of people "say" they're bad, but does this really mean they are bad? I tend to think a lot of stereotypes are true/good.
    posted by Blogger Wade at 4/06/2006 02:35:00 PM  

  • Wahoo!

    Wade, I am _so_ glad you just commented.

    One of my friends was just (not ten minutes ago) teasing me about being the only male who ever comments at Tales. So I went back and looked - and I _am_ the only male to comment in the past 8 posts!

    And just as I was starting to worry that I was the only guy to ever comment here, I saw your comment. So there you have it: Thanks for commenting!

    And yes, pink jellies are definitely out of the question. Myself, I only wear lavendar or orange jellies. (Watch for them next week in Trusts.)
    posted by Blogger Kaimi at 4/06/2006 02:48:00 PM  

  • I've got two boys. They have a play kitchen, baby dolls, and they love dress up. Admitedly, our dress up trunk is heavier on capes and crowns and things than beads and chiffon, but they are little boys- they like pretty things too. My 4 yo loves his silk cape, dyed like a rainbow. Big deal. The 2 yo loves his pink binkie- and a beaded bracelet he found at a cousins house- it's his favorite. Big deal.

    It won't be long before the world crashes in and they learn about teasing and gender roles, but for now, they are innocent and just having fun. I should say, the babies get "cooked" an awful lot in the kitchen, and even a peanut butter sandwich can be eaten into the shape of a gun... So so much for non-violent toys!

    Pink sandals? I would probably have said no- pink shirt? I could roll with that- but like Kaimi said, I don't want my kid to be teased or ostrasized at school, either. For better or worse, there are in fact gender rolls and stereotypes. Good or bad? Who's to say.
    posted by Blogger Tracy M at 4/06/2006 03:28:00 PM  

  • A girl in my nephew's school class looks JUST like a boy. Boy haircut, boy clothes, androgenous face. It confuses the other kids, so she doesn't get played with that much, either.

    I think it is okay to have some things be okay for home, but to explain that when we wear some things outside the house, we might be teased for them. I'd use that approach if my son wanted to wear particularly girly clothes out in public.

    I'd have no problem with a boy in pink dress up shoes. All kids love to try and walk in funny shoes, so that seems to be expected to me.
    posted by Blogger mindy at 4/06/2006 03:31:00 PM  

  • I guess to me it would depend on why he wanted to wear the shoes. I can see a boy wanting to wear girls clothes as a form of social experimentation or because he doesn't like what "being a boy" means in his mind. And I can also see a boy wanting to wear girl's clothes cause he thinks he'll look like a superhero(Flashy pink shoes aren't that far away from a bright spandex suit and cape.) Lastly I can see a boy wanting to wear girl's clothes just to get a reaction out of his parents, ("No! those are girl's clothes!") the sort of thing my brother liked to do. :)
    posted by Blogger Starfoxy at 4/06/2006 04:09:00 PM  

  • Kaimi:

    I'm glad I was able to save you from being "teased" or picked-on for blogging on a highly feminine blog.

    I triple-dog-dare you to wear the jellies to Trusts. :)
    posted by Blogger Wade at 4/06/2006 04:36:00 PM  

  • My grandmother never had a problem with insisting on dictating the entire contents of my wardrobe, of always dressing me in dresses (I didn't own a skirt till she died, and only wore pants at my mom's house.) My mother and grandmother dictated how I wore my hair, too. I'm not sure that I was damaged in any way by the lack of boyish stuff or blue jeans; I was able to fit into Army ROTC okay and I'm not sure how much more you can really go in opposition to frilly pink dresses (which, by the way, I adored by the time I was old enough to think about it -- along with my nice long French braids.)

    Kids look to grown-ups for guidance as much as anything else; I don't see why saying "let's wear a different color of shoes" is any different than "let's watch this TV show instead," or "let's not use that kind of language," or whatever. But I also don't think that gender roles are bad, and I don't think they're something that are really imposed on kids -- my dad and his wife tried everything they could to convince my brother to be more feminine and my sister to be more masculine, up to an including insisting that they both take karate and both take ballet, and banning both Barbie and GI Joe. That lasted till the kids were, oh, six years old? James loves martial arts and basketball, Mary loves ballet, there are Barbies and toy guns and swords and even GI Joes, because fighting against it got too hard. They couldn't convince my sister OR me to stop going to dance lessons out of concerns for our body image (neither of us being waif-like by any stretch of the imagination,) either.
    posted by Blogger Sarah at 4/06/2006 04:58:00 PM  

  • I would toally let my boy wear pink shoes (if i ever have one). If he got teased I would deal with it then. I would see the teasing as an opertunity to learn and deal with social expecations and pressures.
    posted by Blogger happy nanny at 4/06/2006 05:32:00 PM  

  • As the youngest of 7 kids (6 girls and me), I was pretty sensitive at an early age as to what things were 'for girls' and what things were 'for boys'. Though I do think that there's room for the idea that environment can effect how deeply kids identify with gender roles, I don't buy at all the notion that these roles are strictly 'nurture' based. If my son is anything like his father, I doubt I'll ever have to worry about pink jellies, but I would have something to say if he wanted them, or wanted to wear girls clothes to school (until he's 15 or so, then he can wear what he wants).

    I see nothing wrong with exposing kids to positive gender roles as well as explaining the difference between them. In fact, I think it would be irresponsible not to. That doesn't mean having to belittle either one, either. Having two strong parents allowed me to see and learn wonderful qualities that had nothing to do with gender, but it also afforded me a great role model for what it meant to 'be a man' as well as teaching me what qualities to look for in a wife and companion. Of course, I’m still working on the ‘real man’ part; I wish I were half the man my father was…

    I think the best thing any of us can do as parents (in this or any other circumstance) is prayerfully follow our instincts and do the best we can with the tools we have.
    posted by Anonymous gcarlston at 4/06/2006 05:34:00 PM  

  • I would love to be the kind of parent Happy Nanny will be, but in the case of pink jellies on one of my boys....I would calmly try to talk them out of it. If I truly thought they understood the potential social implications of their decision....I MIGHT give in.

    As a recovering tomboy who fought daily w. my mom about wearing dresses to school & playing sports through elementary school, I really want to avoid these types of conflicts with my kids and let them be who they are.... unfortunately, tomboys are better accepted than feminine boys...although I am often pleasantly surprised these days about how open and accepting young kids are to differences in other kids.
    posted by Blogger Jen at 4/06/2006 06:06:00 PM  

  • it depends on how cheap the shoes are!
    here we operate on just 1 pair per person, so it must be quality and practical. But if jellies were just a dollar or two, then it'd be like an acessory, and I absolutely let my preschool-age boy wear necklaces and barettes. That's the closest I can relate to for real life, because around here kids don't vote in their clothing or shoe purchases. If somebody were giving me hand-me-down pink jellies, he could totally wear them, though I might get squeemish about *where* he wears them.
    posted by Blogger cchrissyy at 4/06/2006 07:24:00 PM  

  • My parents let me wear yellow plastic Mr. Potato Head glasses around (I wanted to be like my sister, who had real glasses), which shocks me now--they seem so no-nonsense.

    I would let my kids play with whatever interested them, I don't think I would buy those shoes for a boy, though. I try to buy mostly unisex clothes so I can use them with everyone that comes along.
    posted by Blogger a spectator at 4/06/2006 08:57:00 PM  

  • Just like Jen, I wish I was more like happy nanny in this respect, but I'm just not. When I was getting Jacob's (20 months) pictures done for V-day, a friend (mom of 2 girls) suggested that I put Jacob in khaki pants and a pink shirt. I cringed. Big. We're way past the "is that baby a boy or girl" stage, I just couldn't do it.
    posted by Blogger Julie at 4/07/2006 08:42:00 AM  

  • i think its important to stretch the stereotypes, but also we are parents witht the charge to raise our kids to function well in the WORLD. and most of the time that means (unfortunatly) we have to go along with stereotypes.

    Coming from a relatively liberal marriage I was surprised when my DH protested at buying my son a doll. I tried to explain how it would teach him to be a good dad and finally realized i didnt care what he thought and bought it anyway. Its been fun to watch DS kiss, hug and put baby to bed. So fun for DH too, he acts like it was his idea!
    posted by Blogger ksl at 4/07/2006 09:41:00 AM  

  • I have picked Jacob up from playdates dressed in a boa and a wedding dress. He likes to pay Barbies sometimes (although he tends to smash them into each other when he does), and he also occasionally likes to play house and put his toys to bed.

    But I did draw the line on Barbie shoes. He wanted the pink Barbie shoes at Target like his friend Sarah, and I just said, "those are for girls." Terrible. But still, I just couldn't stomach the thought of him wearing Barbies.

    Now he sees pink shoes and says, "Those are for girls". Sadly, I think they are. I think the teasing factor would be huge if he showed up to school with princess stuff on his clothes.
    posted by Blogger Heather O. at 4/07/2006 09:44:00 AM  

  • Well, I draw the line at Barbie shoes for my GIRL, too. Yuck.
    posted by Blogger mindy at 4/07/2006 10:52:00 AM  

  • Sorry, no pink shoes or tutus for my son. He helps to pick out what his sister wears to church (she's 18 months) but no dresses for him. Whenever he's expressed an interest I tell him that dresses are for girls and let's go pick out a shirt for him. I'm doing redirecting at this point and when he's a little older I'll have more of a "gender differences" conversation with him. I think it's great that some people are more liberal and open to experimentation with their kids- I'm just not on this one.
    posted by Blogger chloe at 4/07/2006 02:00:00 PM  

  • Carrie, it's really funny that you posted this because just the night before this went up I was telling chloe about being in Target with Max and having him talk about "pink shoes" when we were in the kids shoe aisle - pointing to some of the girl shoes. I didn't stick around the aisle long enough to figure out if he was just pointing them out or asking for them - I figured why bring on that decision if I don't have to?

    As far as dress-up goes, I don't have any problem with Max in girl clothes. And if he REALLY wanted a pair of pink sneakers or pink snow boots, I'd probably buy them for him. But pink mary janes or even black mary janes for that matter, I would probably talk him out of. (IE say no - that would be the "talking out of" for a 2-year-old)

    As far as Barbie goes, mindy, I'm with you - I don't have a girl, but I'm really not big on "commercialized" clothing. I don't buy shirts or shoes with superheroes or cartoon characters on them for Max, and I try to do it with other products as well (ie not getting the "Buzz Lightyear" bubble blower that Max wouldn't stop talking about). But, on the other hand, I'm trying to be realistic - he's still at a point where I pick out all of his clothes and I know the time will come very soon that he'll start to have more opinions - not just about what color his shirt is, but who he wants on it. It might not be as easy then. I'd like to think that I'll continue to hold my line, but that may be one of those "oh I'll never do that!" kinds of statements that I'll soon regret!
    posted by Blogger marian at 4/07/2006 03:00:00 PM  

  • I find this whole thread interesting because everyone is so afraid of insulting the "liberal" half. Hey, sometimes I'm the liberal half, but comments like "unfortunately", "stereotypes", "bad feminist" and so forth made me stop and think:

    Why is it so wrong for a boy to be a boy and a girl to be a girl?

    I was a tomboy, too, and my brothers played dress-ups and dolls with my sister and I. My parents weren't into the whole "gender roles are forced" because they understood the eternal nature of gender.

    But hold on --I'm not trying to turn this into some gender affirming or gender "un" -affirming question. I guess my only beef is that as a society, espeically amongst the LDS, have we really become so afraid of those that will challenge us that we can't happily and confidently teach our children gender roles without feeling like bigots?
    posted by Blogger Cheryl at 4/13/2006 08:55:00 AM  

  • Cheryl,

    Honestly, boys wearing (or not wearing for that matter) pink jelly shoes has nothing to do with the eternal nature of their gender.

    And maybe you didn't see the underlying point in this post either: No matter how "liberated" you may think you are as a parent -- I bet you have a breaking point. I think this is actually a point that you could agree with and even use to prove your own point.


    "I guess my only beef is that as a society, espeically amongst the LDS, have we really become so afraid of those that will challenge us that we can't happily and confidently teach our children gender roles without feeling like bigots?"

    Wow, I think most people who encourage non-traditional gender activities for their children don't do it to escape the bigotry of the liberal half. Maybe I can only speak for myself, but gender stereotyping is something that I think a lot about because I am concerned about it personally. I don't do it because it is the "hip", "liberal" , "easy", "cool", "unbiggotted" or whatever you think, way to be.

    I want my daughters and sons to grow up to be well-balanced human beings who are able to explore all things that might interest them -- not just the things that are traditionally for their gender. And I definitely don't want my girls to gain their sense of worth from looking pretty and my boys to gain their worth from throwing a football well.

    You can take whatever stand you want to, but don't automatically assume that anyone who disagrees with you is trying to bring down the church.
    posted by Blogger TftCarrie at 4/14/2006 01:35:00 PM  

  • Whoa! Did I say Church? Hmmm...nope. Not Church. LDS society, maybe, but that's where I live. And I really didn't think that I was speaking for the Church. Not my job. Or that by being different I was somehow better, or more righteous. Hmmm...that wasn't in there either...

    I wasn't really referring to your original post --just people's comments to it. Everyone seemed afraid to say that they wouldn't let their boys wear pink jelly shoes because they are BOYS. And if they did, they apologized for it.

    What's there to apologize for?

    Yes, I agree with you. Boys wearing pink jelly shoes has nothing to do with the eternal nature of gender. That's why, as I stated, my parents never forced the issue. They didn't have to. They understood it all. Pink jelly shoes wasn't going to turn my brother into a girl. That was my point.
    posted by Blogger Cheryl at 4/14/2006 07:05:00 PM  

  • Cheryl,

    I will first apologize if I have misconstrued your point. I guess I was reading it keeping in mind the "you think I'm a bigot because I am less-liberal than you" attitude that you often have in your own posts and in your previous comments. I am still confused at whether you would or would not buy your son a pair of pink jellies and whether or not your parents would have bought pink jellies for their sons - which was the question.

    I also ran off at the mouth as a really long way of saying, I think that people who responded with "unfortunately", "stereotypes", "bad feminist" did not do so out of fear. I think they were coming to grips with the fact that maybe their perfect theories regarding how to handle gender stereotypes did not hold up in all real-life situations.

    If you do not feel the same, you do not have to use those words in your comment and you should not feel fearful in doing so. Just state it for yourself instead of including people who probably don't want to be included.

    We're still friends right? Because I think you are great and I love to banter with you!
    posted by Blogger TftCarrie at 4/18/2006 12:22:00 PM  

  • :)

    I actually thought this might have been a test --to see if I could respond without freaking out. Personally, I think I would rather it have been a test instead of real concern, but, oh, well. I know I have strong conservative opinions, and I know I'm not very good at expressing them. I've never been very good at intellectual conversation, and my views often come across as angry. Never intended!

    No, I would not buy my son pink jelly shoes. Neither would my parents. It wouldn't be because of fear that it would somehow turn him into a girl or confuse him gender-wise --it would be because he is a BOY. That's all. I know I'm confusing --I guess I confuse myself sometimes. :)

    Of course we're still friends! Can't wait to see you Saturday...
    posted by Blogger Cheryl at 4/19/2006 06:55:00 AM  

  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
    posted by Blogger Tri Mama at 4/19/2006 08:23:00 AM  

  • Since this has been post has been revisited I have to reply to Wades comment that "but does this really mean they are bad? I tend to think a lot of stereotypes are true/good." I wonder if he were a lds woman of color working for a big law firm if he would still think that stereotypes are "true/good."
    posted by Blogger Tri Mama at 4/19/2006 02:26:00 PM  

  • I think it would depend on the time and place. Obviously the pink shoes may be okay during play and dress up, but not for going out. I think that at toddler age it is important that children can explore their identity. But equally footwear needs to be functional, and practical. So I would be inclined to focuss on gender neutral styles and colours.

    Thuss when I went to a barbeque at a friend's house recently, I noticed her little boy of two and a half wore a pair of red leather t bar sandles. His mum explained that unlike trainers they are more versatile, and red is also his favourite colour. I also know that like me, my friend is liberal minded. While trying to bring her son up in a gender neutral environment, she acepts that she cannot shield her son from society. Thuss even if her son wanted pink jelly sandles, they would not be brought for him.
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 10/30/2007 12:10:00 PM  

  • shoes!!!i like the pink shoes....i have a pair of pink nike shoes...but this looks pretty good..
    posted by Blogger Fashion at 11/13/2007 10:01:00 AM  

  • Pink jelly shoes for boys? Not a bad idea. It is extremely practical for children and adults alike. Jelly shoes are made of rubber and have a small metal or plastic buckle.
    posted by Anonymous crocs at 1/27/2011 02:47:00 AM  

  • I suppose it is a similar issue to a little boy or girlwith shortish hair, of pre school age, wearing a pink t shirt with a picture of a hippo on the front. Would this be considered gender neutral.

    In addittion if one looks at toddler shoes from Start Rite, there are some cute little blue leather t bar shoes that also look gender neutral. In my opinion these would be ideal for a pre school child to wear.

    A number of Spanih and French shoe manufactures and suppliers, also have identical t bar shoes and sandles in white or blue/ red aimed at pre school little girls and boys. These can be worn for play and more formal settings.

    However I feel the pink sandles mentioned in the article should be kept for dress up.


    , TO .
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 5/28/2012 06:25:00 AM  

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