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Challenging Gender Norms

Over the past couple weeks my daughter and I have come across a couple of books that really caught our attention. Mary Wears What She Wants is a beautiful book outlining the life of Mary Walker and her courage as she was one of the first women known to wear pants in a time when that was forbidden. People said women are supposed to wear dresses, that's just how it is. But logically, Mary said she should be allowed to wear whatever she wants, they aren't "boy" clothes, they are her clothes and she is more comfortable and can run faster in pants. It was when I heard my daughter say "That's silly, girls can wear pants or whatever they want" that I hesitated. I realized that to say that this concept was long forgotten once Mary Walker decided to wear pants would be an outright lie, because...let's take a look at the flip side.

Moving to a modern day book entitled "Felix's New Skirt" about a child who wants to wear a skirt to school. His parents are nervous for him to do so and his father encourages him to wear pants because people won't understand. This is today, and Felix would like to wear a skirt but showing up at school or walking around in public people say that it's "wrong" and largely frowned upon. So, how far have we come really?

 I attended a high school that said girls couldn't wear pants when they attended mass, they framed it as "we have to dress respectfully" but somehow girls in jean skirts and hoodies were more respectful than girls in a pair of black slacks and a nice blouse? Lycra material was banned from girls shirts because they made them too form fitting....did they have anything to say about the material in the boys clothing? None of it ever really added up. Still to do this day, it doesn't really add up. Rather then spending time making girls aware of their strengths, encouraging individuality, allowing boys to be open and expressive, our society is clinging tight to these pre-labeled boxes and when the person designed for the box you want to put them in doesn't match the label people are beside themselves.

Well, let's just step back and take a note from Mary. Pants are comfortable, she likes them, she wears them. I can only hope that in time, the modern day Mary Walkers and all the Felix's will put on their pants, dresses, skirts, jumpsuits, rompers, whatever they please and we can all just go about our lives and appreciate the culture of acceptance we have created. The world is a much more beautiful place when the judgement subsides and individuality can thrive.


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