Friday, 6 October 2017

Why Are Flowers 'Just For Girls'?

"I saw a boy the other day," the woman said, "only I thought he was a girl because his parents had put him in a flowery top. I mean," she wrinkled her nose for effect, "flowers? On a boy?"

It's a few years now since I laughed awkwardly at that statement, and here I am with a son who happily wears his sister's cast offs - yes, even flowery things. And I ask myself, why are flowers seen as just a girl thing?

It doesn't make much sense to me. Switch on 'Gardener's World' or leaf through a gardening magazine and you're bound to come across male gardeners. Men can be passionate about plants, yes, even flowers. I used to work in the same department as landscape architects and there were a fair few men, who could probably tell you all you need to know about flowers and more. Even in terms of clothing, you see men wearing floral ties or shirts and nobody seems to bat an eyelid.

And yet as a child, flowers are seen as exclusively for girls. Well, they're pretty, aren't they? Decorative. Just as we perceive girls to be. Boys can't be pretty, they're not for decoration, they're for noise and action. Mud, yes. Flowers, no.

Increasingly, girls can cross over into 'boys' domains. Liking cars, dinosaurs, sport and so on is becoming more acceptable, although these girls can still be marginalised and labelled as 'tomboys'. But there is a sense that it's OK for a girl to be like a boy but not OK for a boy to be like a girl.

Madonna hit the nail on the head in the introduction to 'What It Feels Like For A Girl': "Girls can wear jeans and cut their hair short/ Wear shirts and boots 'cause it's OK to be a boy/ But for a boy to look like a girl is degrading/ 'Cause you think being a girl is degrading." Boys not being 'allowed' to wear flowers or pink or butterflies is part of patriarchal thinking - it's not OK to emulate girls because girls are seen as inferior. So if you're a boy who likes 'girl things' you're inferior. It's rubbish.

So I will still dress my son in his sister's old clothes from time to time. Until he's old enough to choose his own clothes, and even after if he still wants to. Because I want to show him and his sister that it's OK to like whatever colour you want, flowers and butterflies are cool (hello, pollination is kind of a big deal) and there are no clothes or interests that are just for girls or boys. I've no doubt it will get hard to continue with this message as they get older - it's already hard with my 5 year old - but hopefully they'll keep the message in the back of their minds through the tricky times of childhood and adolescence and grow up to be themselves.

Linking up with Day 6 of #Blogtober17 - Flowers.


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