Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Boys Don't Wear Dresses...Today

I had been asked to submit some photos along with a short editorial I wrote up for Bamboo Magazine's upcoming summer issue. The piece takes a look at young boys and gender expression. In addition to some general thoughts, I mixed in a few personal stories as well. The editors asked for some photos of EZ playing dress up, yet all of the candid shots I have didn't quite match the aesthetic of the magazine (i.e. you can see piles of unfolded laundry or dirty dishes in the background), so I decided it was time to whip out the camera and stage a little photo shoot.

I explained to EZ that I wrote an article and needed a few pictures to go with it. I asked if he'd mind playing with his kitchen while I snapped away. He had no problem and I was able to get a handful of cute pictures, yet none that stood out to either me or the editors.

Totally adorable, but not exactly what we were going for...

Then...it rained. And rained. And rained. For almost two weeks. And I was unable to get any good photos outdoors (because we just could not escape the unfolded laundry and dirty dishes indoors!).

Finally, this past weekend we were blessed with beautiful sun (and heat and humidity) and I took advantage of it. I reminded EZ about needing some more photos and asked if he'd be okay with playing dress up with his best friend.

They occasionally spend hours all dolled up in fancy dresses playing Princess, so I didn't think it would be that hard to have him don a dress for a few minutes while I snapped some photos. EZ had other ideas.

"Ima, dresses are for girls. I'm a boy. I'll wear a tie," he informed me as his friend eagerly put on her ruffled tutu.

I paused, weighing my options. There was no way I was going to force him into a costume, even for the sake of an article. The whole point to my parenting philosophy is to allow him to feel comfortable enough to express himself in whatever manner he chooses, and while some days that might be wearing a princess dress, other days it's a tie (and some days it's wearing nothing at all. sigh.).

And...he's 4. Some days he does play around with the idea of stereotypical gender norms like "boys wear ties and only girls wear dresses." So, we talk about it. While I'd never force him to wear something he didn't want to, I let him know that boys can wear ties and so can girls...that whoever wants to wear a dress may do so. I remind him that he's free to make his own choice.

I still had a photo to take, however.

Before I had time to figure out what to do, the kids decided for me.

"Butterfly!" they shouted at the same time.

EZ had spotted a pair of pink, sparkly butterfly wings and a purple silk scarf, asking me to tie it around him.

"I'm a dad butterfly," he explained, in case there was any confusion.

"Great!" I exclaimed, watching as he ran around, fingers atop his head for antennae.

I was able to snap a bunch of really wonderful pictures and can't wait to see which one the magazine ends up using. However, the experience reiterated for me the importance of offering choices and working with whatever comes up...even if that means that my child wants to wear a dress tie butterfly wings! 

My little butterfly

Friday, May 27, 2011

Link Love!

A little love straight from the chalk masterpieces we've been creating lately

Here's where I've been spending my time this week...

Somehow we jumped right into summer in the last day or so here in New England, and if the forecast has anything to say about it, we're looking at some more hot, humid, hazy days - perfect for jumping into the pool. Yup. Bathing suit season is officially upon us, and I can't wait. I've read a few interesting pieces re: bikinis and feeling fierce in whatever swimwear you choose, and wanted to pass them on. I fully intend to rock my bikinis and tankinis this summer (and am glad I've come to a place where I can feel that way)!

My friend Abbe both inspires and amazes me. She's crafty, creative, and just plain cool. You can read about her crafty adventures on her blog, Make.Do.See.Be. This summer she'll be offering sewing classes for young kids, so if you live in the area  - check her out!

If you're not following the Feminist Hulk on Twitter - you should be (and while you're at it, follow me too!).

This week's song that sings to me is a medley from the recent Billboard Music Awards. Cee-lo Green & his piano take performance to the next level.

* Raise your hand if you totally wanted to be Blossom in 1993. (I know I'm not the only one!) Now, beyond the amazing hats and flowing flowery dresses, actress Mayim Bialik has grown up and moved on to other awesome things... that still has me wanting to be Blossom. Check out this wonderful piece she wrote for Today on why women shouldn't fear home birth.

And, finally... Beyonce came out with a new song/music video [Run the World (Girls)] and everyone has something to say about it. This fierce, articulate woman pretty much says it all for me.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Genderless From Birth

It's no secret that I'm all for pushing the boundaries of antiquated gender norms. My son wears pink, has long hair and frequently paints his nails. We do our best to encourage play of all kinds, from T-Ball to art/music to imaginative play (like "family" or "princess" - 2 current top favs). I strive to check my own language and behavior, doing my best to show that it's not about gender, but rather about who you are that matters.

I write articles about this topic. I tweet about it. I speak about it at length with fellow parents, friends, family and the occasional stranger on the street.

I feel that it's important to have a dialogue about the social construct of gender and what it means in the larger scale of society. However, I also feel that while it's important to discuss, process and unpack issues surrounding gender, it's also possible to go too far.

Recently, this article about two Canadian parents who are raising their 3rd child, Storm, "genderless," popped up in my Facebook and Twitter feed, sending everyone a flutter. The comments on the article range from "Good for you!" to "Oh! The horror! You will screw up your child!"

I tend to fall somewhere in between.

Boy? Girl? Does it really matter. Look at the cuteness. Okay, I'm probably biased.
(EZ at 3 months old)

First, this is nothing unique. I briefly wrote about a Swedish couple who kept their child's gender a secret back in 2009.

Second, while I don't think there's anything "wrong" about attempting to raise your child genderless from birth, I feel that it might be a lot of effort for relatively little output. While it takes time and effort to train yourself to speak without pronouns, etc... a newborn baby is unaware of the concept of gender anyway (and will remain blissfully unaware of the concept until 2-3 years old). This begs the question then, who is this all for?

Rather than keep the baby's sex a secret in hopes that it will help change how we view gender, wouldn't it be more beneficial to actually disclose the baby's gender and explain how it's not such an identifying factor if you don't want it to be? To shroud it in secrecy seems to place more emphasis and importance on it rather than taking away the power, like the parents hope to achieve. In stripping their child of gender, they're making it into more of a "thing."

Going by the descriptions and photos of their two older sons, it seems they have been successful in raising two boys who are comfortable enough with their own gender to wear braided pigtails, whatever clothes they feel comfortable in (even if it means a pink dress), and involve themselves in whatever activity interests them. With seemingly well-adjusted children already, going this step further feels like a social experiment more than anything else.

And of course, the mama in me is amazed that two young boys have been able to keep their infant sibling's gender a secret as well. But of course, this is coming from the mom who's son shares pretty much every single detail of every single thing with every.single.person.

It will be interesting to see what comes of all of this. How will Pop (the Swedish child) and Storm turn out and what lessons will we eventually learn from these attempts at squashing gender right from birth? I just hope that while these children grow up presumably genderless, they don't lose a part of themselves in the process.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Link Love!

Love in knit form. Found this reminder on a steel banister in town.
Knitting & random acts of awesomeness courtesy of Riot Prrl

My friend Ed started a new blog! There's a whole lot of pretty to look at. So... go look!

Roseanne Barr is not only a hilarious comedienne, sitcom pioneer, and feminist, but she's also a damn good writer. She recently wrote an editorial for New York Magazine, and it's an interesting and detailed read about her struggles in Hollywood and more. Oh, and apparently she's a macadamia nut farmer now as well.

Gender Across Borders has a post up this week that just set my mama heart a-fluttering. Please take the time to read this wonderfully written piece on The Misappropriation of Breastfeeding & the Shaming of Girls.

1. I was very surprised that there was such a thing as the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media. Super cool. 2. Not very surprised at their latest findings, however. 

I have a random obsession with mental hygiene videos from the '40s, '50s & '60s that were shown to high school age kids in school. These videos usually were on anything from manners to drug use to dating/social norms. That might give you some insight as to why I'm fascinated with this clip of the documentary "Growing Up Female" from 1971 that's currently making the rounds online.

This week's song that sings to me is one that we've been singing around the house lately, thanks to EZ. I happen to prefer this John Denver/Muppet version, myself.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


*Not* where I spend my mornings

I spend one morning every week tutoring teen mothers who are working towards their GEDs. They're only fifteen minutes down the road, but some days, it feels like a world away.

It's not because they all got pregnant before they turned 18 or dropped out of high school to raise their babies. Neither of those really seem to matter when we're sitting there debating various amendments for an essay or learning math together (because, despite my high school and college educations, math was -and will never be- my strong suit).


It's because some days, in between reading passages and answering multiple choice questions, they'll say stuff like, "Yeah...you can not wear flats to the club. That is just so wrong and nobody will talk to you."

It's probably no big surprise that my life isn't clubs or fashion, and in fact has never really been those things, even pre-getting hitched and having a kid. That just wasn't my scene. But...that doesn't mean it doesn't interest me. I sat back and listened as the girls discussed the absolute tragedy that occurs if you wear flat shoes to the club.

While some of these girls are 19 or 20, some are younger, so it was interesting to hear their thoughts about clubs. Since they don't have legit IDs, one of them explained "All you need to do is be pretty," to get into the clubs.

I itched to get into a discussion about women and the power they hold with their looks and how that was being utilized/possibly exploited in these situations, but before I even got a chance, they were already on to another topic - flat shoes.

Perhaps it's important to note that while I'm almost 100% certain that I do own a pair of heels, I'm not all that certain where they actually are. My daily shoes range from flats to flip flops to sneakers to boots to going barefoot all together. Which apparently wouldn't bode well for my clubbing career.

"The boys will tell you. They'll get all up on the loud speaker if they have to. If you have flats on, they will let you know that you are not a woman or a diva."


Now. I have absolutely no delusions that I'm a diva, my requests for room temperature water with a slice of lemon in them be damned. But, I am more than certain that the shoes I wear do not dictate my gender.

I'm also pretty sure that these club boys have no idea what they're talking about.

Raja looks better in heels anyway!

Again, I was biting my tongue, holding off the rant that was building inside of me. Then, one of the girls who I've spent the most time with piped up. She shared, in no uncertain terms, that what she wears (or doesn't wear) has no connection to whether or not she was a girl. For her, it was as simple as that. There was no mention (and really, mostly likely no knowledge) of feminist theory or railing against patriarchal systems or antiquated gender norms. This was just a girl telling it like it is.

She continued on to say that it was their loss if they wanted to act like idiots, and she wasn't at the clubs for them anyway. With conviction and a touch of sass to her voice, she said she would go to the club in her jeans, tennis shoes and hoodie if it meant having a night out with her friends, and that boys wouldn't be telling her what to do or wear.

The rest of the girls nodded in agreement and then moved on, giggling about something or another. It was a reminder to me that despite the fact that they're mothers (some of more than one), they're still teenagers, and they crave experiences beyond that of motherhood.

I'm just glad that they're not losing themselves in either process.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Toddlers, Tiaras & T-Ball


While I've never thought that there's anything wrong with a little healthy competition (see: heated games of Candy Land, Checkers & Sorry that have recently been played in our house), the last few weeks have reminded me that it can sometimes go too far.

A couple of weeks ago we started T-Ball.

EZ running the bases
I'll admit up front that despite my legacy as JV Girl's Soccer Captain in high school, I'm not much for sports. Beyond the X-Games or the Olympics, I don't really watch sports on television, and will only be dragged to an actual sporting event if somebody I know is playing and demands I attend. However, we thought that T-Ball could be a fun activity for an energetic kid like EZ, and when his bff decided she wanted to play as well, we signed them up.

Now I spend my Saturday mornings watching a bunch of 4 and 5 year olds running around haphazardly,  tossing balls and having fun. We've seemed to luck out since the other kids and parents on his team (he's an Angel) as well as his coach, share the same easy going, relaxed, "let the kids have fun" mentality.

I think they're supposed to be practicing tossing the ball here... 

EZ & his teammates hopping around the field

However, that's not the case for everyone. As EZ runs around (or sits next to me, not in the mood to play), I'm usually checking everyone else out. What I see makes my stomach roll at times: Other team's coaches being a bit too loud and forceful as a four year old stares off into space, unwittingly allowing a ball to fly by... A parent decked out in full Red Sox regalia, standing right behind her son on the field, dictating his every move and getting visibly flustered when he fails to follow directions... A little boy crying because he's just not having fun, yet is still forced to play.

It's that sort of icky behavior and competition that I can't get on board with. Perhaps that means I'm just not fit to be a "sports mom," and that EZ won't go on to bat in the national league. Or...maybe it means he will, because instead of feeling forced, he enjoyed the game. Who knows. (I'm secretly hoping he enjoys it for what it is now and leaves it at that, because otherwise I'll end up being the worst mom in the world who doesn't want to go visit her son at "work.")

There's grumbling and grimacing on my part, none too happy with the fact that some parents were taking T-Ball just a bit too far in my eyes. I realized that this was probably also only the tip of the competitive iceberg as far as kids and sports go. Then, I came home, caught up online, and thanked my lucky stars that I'm only dealing with T-Ball stuff and not Botox and virgin waxes.



Beyond the world of competitive T-Ball, there are other arenas where children battle it out to emerge victorious, and one of them involves fancy dresses, fake tans, and tiaras. Despite my penchant for crappy reality TV, even I can't bring myself to watch as little girls are exploited in the name of pageantry. While I've mostly turned a blind eye to it, the latest news from the pageant circuit made me more than uncomfortable.

When 8 year old girls are getting Botox and "virgin waxes," and others are celebrating and promoting that? Something ain't right.

There is competition and then there is injecting your child with botulism to erase wrinkles. At 8 years old. If there was a line crossed, it happened so long ago that it's a blur in the distance at this point. I won't even get into the messages that are being sent when an 8 year old girl feels like she needs Botox, waxes and who knows what else to feel "pretty." What's going to happen at 10 or 12 or 16 when those aren't enough?

Perhaps it is too simplistic to remember the whole "let kids be kids" sentiment, but in an age where somebody in the medical field is providing Botox for pageant kids, I think I'm okay with simple.

Whether it's T-Ball or tiaras, the push for such fierce competition at such a young age unnerves me. While I'm beyond relieved that I will most likely not have to deal with such things as Botox and virgin waxes, I'm also not so sure what else is simmering beneath the T-Ball surface. This first foray into sports will certainly be an interesting one...

Friday, May 13, 2011

Link Love!

Love in the form of cake this week.
Vanilla cake w/strawberry butter cream frosting & strawberry filling = birthday cake for my dad!
If you want the recipe for the cake above, check it out here - it's Martha, natch. I dolled it up with a homemade strawberry filling and strawberry buttercream frosting.

* Gender Across Borders ran a wonderful series this week on feminism and agriculture. While all of the posts were interesting, this photo essay of women and their farms in the US really pulled me in. Maybe it's  because I have secret dreams of becoming a farmer and I could live vicariously through these pictures for a bit.

* This past weekend I finally got to try some cereal milk ice cream in the form of a milkshake from Momofuku Milk Bar. It was divine, and I'm currently plotting ways to make my own at home...

* My friend and old co-worker Jessica has a blog that's always good for a chuckle. Calling herself The Poopie Queen, Jess writes about life with twin girls and a baby boy and...poop. There's so much more, however, and you'll find yourself laughing along and nodding your head in agreement reading her thoughts and observations.

I love books. I love to laugh. This website provides the best of both worlds.

If I was 15 again, I would so go to Girl's Rock Camp and sing off key and be all bad ass.

The weather this week has been the kind where all you want to do is roll down your windows while you drive and belt out something fun, regardless of who stares. This week's song that sings to me is just that kind of song. So, roll down those windows and sing along with the Carolina Chocolate Drops!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Sort of Sucky

Halloween 2008: I should have known where this was headed...

"Ima. Even if you were a vampire, you wouldn't eat me...right?"

"Vampires don't eat people, EZ. They just suck their blood, remember?"

"Oh. Okay. So, if you were a vampire, you wouldn't suck my blood...right?"

"Of course not, unless you were very, very, very tasty."

The conversation usually devolves into crazy tickles or utter silliness at this point. This conversation has also been occurring every couple of days lately, and sure...it might not seem like your typical conversation with a 4.5 year old, but lately...

It all started month or so ago when EZ came up to me with a book in hand, demanding to know what the picture on the cover was supposed to be. I flipped it over, checked it out, and...


I hemmed and hawed as I silently considered my options. I could: A. Lie about it and say the girl on the cover had cut her lip. or B. Tell the truth.

And so began the obsession with vampires in our house.

To be fair, I might have been slightly obsessed with them before EZ even had an inkling as to what they were. And by obsessed, I mean I found myself devouring the more recent versions of vampires geared more towards the young adult set.

These are not your typical vampires, but rather a sanitized version provided for mindless entertainment. I mean, some of these vamps sparkle and pout for goodness sake. When describing them to friends, I liken them to eating Doritos - I know it's not good for me overall, but it's just so damn delicious. (Granted, there are a whole host of other issues with these various books, but we can get to that another day, perhaps)

So here we are...with EZ knowing the basics of vampires and also zombies.


Yeah. You can thank my husband's latest iPad app for that one.

But to be honest? I'm actually okay with it.

For some reason, I am way more comfortable watching my son run around all slack-jawed, shouting "braiiiiiiiiiins," than I am watching him run around shooting things with a gun built out of Legos.

I'm just not quite sure what that says about me.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Link Love!

Link Love straight from my own garden

It's Friday, which means time for some more link love...Here's where I've been frittering away my time this week:

* More word clouds! This one focuses on words associated with animated male/female characters found in television shows that are aimed at kids.

My friend Sarah posted a thoughtful and inspiring piece over at HuffPo discussing assumptions, the reality of her family and the decision to talk about them (or not!) with strangers.

If you're into conscious family living, check out Bamboo Magazine which launches this month! I've really loved what I've seen so far, and the aesthetic appeal of their visuals is super dreamy.

Because you can never get enough cookies...

This weekend I'll be in NYC rocking out to the band, 100 Monkeys. So...this week's song that sings to me is one of my favorites, 38 Special.

* Lastly, in honor of Mother's Day, I would be remiss if I didn't pass along this gem. It is a video of mothers and children set to the beautiful song, Your House Is Strong, from local band (and mamas!), The Nields. It's also sponsored by the fabulous organization, MotherWoman. Check out both the video and MotherWoman, especially if you are a mama or know anyone who is!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


A lot is done via storytelling in our house. If we don't have an actual book open in front of us, it's  not too far fetched to find us making up stories to amuse ourselves or remind us of memories past.

One of EZ's frequent requests is, "tell me about when I was a baby," where I'll regale him with a story from his infancy and he'll laugh and then nod. "Oh yeah," he'll say with a huge smile. "I remember."

We also use storytelling as a way to process our day and usually, beneath the covers before bedtime, we'll sit and share favorite moments from the day or talk through some not-so-fabulous ones that are easier to discuss once some time (or heated emotion) has passed.

The other night, EZ decided to add a new component to our storytelling: artwork.

Granted, this artwork took place in the bathroom and his medium was steam on glass, but his message certainly wasn't lost.

"That's me," he explained. "See? I have curly hair."

I thought he was just drawing a picture of himself, but then he went on to describe the reason he was smiling. He reminded me of how we worked together in the kitchen, making smoothies and then later some fresh pesto for dinner that night. He let me know how happy cooking together makes him.

I may have smiled, giving myself a mental pat on the back for clearly being a rockin' mom in the eyes of my 4.5 year old.

He continued to play around in the shower while I sat in the bathroom, attempting to come up with some serious kick-ass words for a heated Words With Friends game on my phone.

"Now look," EZ said, drawing my attention back to the steamy glass.

I placed my phone down and looked up to see that he had drawn another picture of himself, but this time, he was frowning.

I wracked my brain, trying to figure out what had caused the little frowny face that just looked so damn sad. I didn't have to wonder long, because of course, he had an explanation.

"It was because you made me sad."

What? I made my child sad!?

"Remember? When I wanted to take daddy's nails and hammer them into the wall? You took them away and that made me sad."

Ah. Yes. That.

It wasn't that hard to recollect. I had gone upstairs to find EZ standing in front of a wall in his bedroom, hammer held high and a pack of nails at his feet. Thankfully, I stumbled across this little home improvement scene seconds before any damage (er, uh...improvement) could have occurred. And we had what I thought was a teaching moment.

I let him know that "tools aren't toys," and suggested a handful of (less destructive) alternatives if he still wanted to do some work on the walls. There was some pouting and some grumbling, but it passed. I had no idea he had been harboring such upset feelings about it.

I mean - did you see that steamy, pouty face?

So, we talked about it, and finally...begrudgingly...he accepted the "tools aren't toys" mantra. And while I wasn't glad that he was upset over it, I was thankful that he found his own way to work it through.

Between the happy self-portrait, the frowny one and the vast amount of cuddly snuggles I got later that evening when I put him to bed, I'd like to think I came out a smidge on top that day...

However, you can be sure that as I went to bed, I certainly replayed the evening's storytime, complete with shower art, over in my head before I finally fell asleep.

Monday, May 2, 2011

You'll See.

Our neighbors had a young girl, "C," (age 8) visiting this past weekend and EZ quickly befriended her. They played with some remote control cars, and once the batteries died on those, found other ways to amuse themselves. At one point, I had gone back inside the house, yet could still hear them through the open windows. They seemed to be getting along great, so I was only partially listening until their conversation took a slight turn and grabbed my attention.

C had brought along her bike, which was heavily decorated in a Disney princess theme, and was riding it back and forth on the sidewalk. They began discussing her bike, since EZ was interested in it. He was explaining to her how he liked the princesses on her two-wheeler, and she was attempting to explain how that just couldn't be.

C: "Girls like pretty things like fairies and princesses."

EZ: "I like pretty things!!" (I could totally visualize the indignant expression on his face at this point)

C: "Boys like monsters and tattoos and stuff. You'll understand when you're older."

EZ continued to sputter in disbelief, while C continued to explain, despite being obviously exasperated, that boys just don't like princesses, a fact that EZ will only grasp when he's older. You know, like eight years old.

At some point, my husband, who had been doing some yard work, interjected his two cents. I listened as he explained how we had a book about a boy who likes to dress as a princesse, and how it is possible for boys to like different things. I loved that teaching moment, and was poised to run out there, My Princess Boy in hand, to have a little story time.

It didn't happen, though.

By that point, EZ had moved on and was digging in the garden for worms and C was ready to head back home. Before she left, however, she imparted a few more words of wisdom that only an eight year old could share. She directed them at my husband before peddling off on her bike.

"Somebody he'll have his first tattoo. You'll see."

And who knows...maybe he will. But not until he's much older...at least 10!

In other princess news, we picked the winner of the My Princess Boy give-a-way yesterday. Congrats to Becky (and her kids Maya & Isaac)!