Ok, show of hands, who thinks this is a cute picture of a little boy harmlessly play acting, ok and who thinks this is a cute picture of a little boy harmlessly play acting but they're glad it's not their son doing it? Don't worry I get it, I'm pretty sure seeing my five year old nephew playing Elsa would be an odd experience. Sure he's pretending to be a sorcerer with super cool snow powers but he's doing it in a dress and that can't be a good thing. Can it?
At this stage of our social evolution generally speaking when we see a boy pretending to be a female character we start to worry that people will think him strange or that he'll be bullied. I can only think of two occasions when a boy has come to a party in an outfit that wasn't a "proper" boys outfit. One was the only boy at a fairy party and it was treated like a joke, everyone had a big laugh and it was decided that he was young enough for it not to be a problem. The second was dressed as a Princess and was a bit older so treated with suspicion and his older brother and father looked a little bit embarrassed.
For girls though the story couldn't be more different.
We've been crying out for our girls to have better role models than passive pretty princesses and of course fairies and princesses will always be popular but from what I can see we're definitely moving away from that. I see a lot of variety in the party themes and costumes chosen by girls. Explorers, superheroes, villains, doctors, pirates, army. But never, not once, has a boy chosen a theme that wasn't stereotypical manly and brave. Last year a boy wanted a Frozen party but his mum 'managed' to talk him out of it.
Thing is I actually think giving the little guys more options when it comes to creative play and role models would be a huge step for us as a society. I'll often hear comments like boys don't draw. Boys don't like crafts. Boys don't dance. Boys don't sing. Boys don't like pink or sparkle. Boys can't sit still. Boys shouldn't be expected to behave. Boys just like to kick balls and fight.
When girls are being actively encouraged to be anything they want to be, break the mould, shoot for the stars, this list of limitations and expectations of what boys do or don't do seems a bit harsh, and I don't want to over play this but don't you think that if boys were encouraged to identify and role play as female characters they might find it easier to explore more emotional depth and would help our society nurture a more healthy respect for women in general.
Ok, maybe I've taken that thought too far but we're at a point in time where we are constantly questioning and challenging gender norms but the view through Susie Sparkles eyes is that the girls are definitely having a lot more fun and experiencing a great deal more freedom when it comes to imaginative and creative play. So I guess I'm back to my original thought.
When it comes to boys dressing up like their female heroes, is it time to let it go?