Monday, October 29, 2012


Dear Spike:

Halloween is next week. You wanted to be a superhero princess.

I’m not a big fan of that second part, but that first part rocks the party, so I’m looking past the tiara. The mask and cape are awesome.

People say, sometimes, that girls are pre-programmed to like “girly” stuff, and same for boys. As evidence, your grandmother recounts a time, when I was a little boy, that I bit into a peanut butter sandwich, noticed the resulting L-shape resembled a gun, and began to pretend it was one. I didn’t have any gun toys and wasn’t allowed to watch violent cartoons of any sort, but there I was pow-powing away.

I don’t buy it.

From gender-separated toy stores (where dolls are “girls toys” and trucks are “boys toys”) to gender-specific colors and clothing styles to his and hers bathrooms, we’re told from the earliest of ages that boys and girls are different and should seek to group ourselves by sex.

There is no gene that makes boys intrinsically know what a gun looks like or does. I’d seen it somewhere. I’d seen it associated with other “boy stuff.” And I emulated what I thought boys should do with something that looks like a gun.

Likewise, there is no gene that makes girls intrinsically want to dress up as princesses and play with My Little Ponies. Your genetic map doesn’t include instructions on how to wear your hair or what to think when you see the color pink.

Look, if you want to be a princess for Halloween right now, fine. And if I had a son and he wanted to be a princess, that would be just as fine. It’s all pretend for now, anyway.

But a few years down the road it’s going to be become all too real. A recent study shows men and women coming out of college receive vastly different salaries, even when adjusting for work experience and job types. I’ve bucked at such analyses before, but the latest research is extremely compelling. And extremely sad.

And so I hope you’ll forgive me if I fight back, a bit, against make-up, high heels and gender-separated sports (you scored another awesome goal this week against a team stacked with boys, by the way.)   

I know I won’t win all of those battles, but I hope I’ll get you thinking, from an early age, about what it means to “be a girl.”

For my money, it should mean just one thing: Someday, should you so chose, you will have the right, the privilege and indeed the blessing of carrying a new life into this world.

And that’s it.

If introspection and self-determination draws you toward so-called girly things, so be it. But the choice is yours.