Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Princess and Rock Star

Gender roles are alive and well among the preschool set. Just listen to any four year-old, and s/he will tell you the interests of children are already clearly divided. Boys like superheroes and Star Wars. Girls like princesses, fairies and dolls. The lines have already been drawn, and few children cross back and forth across the gender barrier.

Well, Julia has figured out a creative way to navigate the already rigid gender expectations of the four year-old preschool world: create two separate personas. Julia has two fashions / personalities if you will - princess and rock star. She has explained it to me, as best a four year-old can.

Princess: hair has barrettes, ponytails or a head band
Clothing is dress or skirt, tights or leggings
Mary janes are princess shoes
Princess colors include pink, purple, white
Princesses also move very gracefully and calmly

Rock Star: Jeans are a must
Wild hair - i.e., nothing in the hair "Because rock stars have wild hair"
t-shirt, or long sleeved shirt with a t-shirt over it
Rock star colors include black (if the shirt has a guitar on it, it is AWESOME), blue, red, and green
Vans sneakers are required to complete the rock star look
Rock stars are wild, often using the furniture as a playground

I think this is a pretty creative solution to the increasingly inflexible gender expectations. While Julia moves back and forth between the boys and the girls, she doesn't always talk the talk, so to speak. One day she came home from school emphatically saying she LOVED superheroes. When I asked her who her favorite superhero was, she hesitated and said, "Ummm... Star Wars?" Clearly we need to brush up on some superhero terminology.

I think it is great to have kids who can move back and forth from group to group, particularly kids who can debunk gender stereotypes as they start to form in the minds of young kids. Julia was the only girl in her soccer class for the better part of a year, and she kept up with little boys, some of whom were far more aggressive than she. Her ballet class had one little boy in it for about 6 months. When they had their last recital in June, the teacher said she would see some of them in the summer and some in the fall. Sadly, the little boy raised his hand and said, "Ummmmm... I'm doing soccer." It's hard to be a pioneer. However, when you have a little girl in your soccer class or a little boy in your ballet class, it's much more difficult for kids to say, "Girls don't play soccer," or "Boys don't do ballet."

Yeah, Julia's a bit of a ground-breaker at school. She even came home the other day and said she had played "Superhero Princess" with a little boy on the playground. Now that's a compromise.


  1. I completely agree with the gender roles. This happens at my 4 (almost 5) year old's preschool as well. I think it is great Julia plays soccer. My Allison wants to play but I am not sure she understands she would have to be assertive...but we will give it a try!!

  2. So the real question is when Oliver puts on that princess dress.......

  3. We've already had those conversations... Julia asked Dave if he had ever worn a dress. "No." "Why not Daddy? They're REALLY pretty." hehe. My response:? "Yeah, honey, why not? They're really pretty..."

    But seriously, we have chatted about how some girls have short hair, some boys have long hair, and if Oliver wants to wear her Snow White dress, he sure can. ... now let's see if Oliver is a rock star and a princess too... If he is a princess, he'll always love his Mama and never leave her...

  4. Sounds like Julia takes after her mom in more than just looks and determination! I've heard the stories about you, your baby brother, and girls' clothes...