Hair Did

The other day, the Today Show posted a picture of a little boy with lovely, long locks who had been teased (and eventually cut his hair for Locks for Love), and asked for folks opinions.

I usually make a point of not reading comments on polarizing stories like these, knowing all to well how I just end up with a horrific combination of head & heartache. This case was no different. While there were many people offering sympathy, empathy and general sweet words toward the boy and his family, many people admonished the family for allowing this child to be bullied.

Yeah.

Apparently, the child expressing his individuality in a non-harmful, non-threatening way was the one at fault here. Not the bullies who clearly weren’t taught tolerance and acceptance (or hell, even politeness). No. More folks than I cared to count lambasted the little boys parents for letting him grow his hair, and essentially forcing him to be bullied.

Other people had issues with the fact that this boy was blurring gender lines in a way that clearly made them uncomfortable.

Boys should be boys and shouldn’t look prettier than girls. Just play football, biking, boxing, etc. and leave the glamour part to girls.

just put a dress on him and call him Nancy!

Don’t like it, I have 3 boys and I think that the parents need to stop using him for their own personal gain. Cut the hair and return him back to looking like a little boy.

Yes, but I have to say—he looks like a little girl with all that long hair.

I don’t like this. I don’t care if his locks were donated to a charity. He’s a boy & what’s wrong with being a boy? Don’t f— the child up to satisfy your own liberal BS views! I feel sorry for the boy. Imagine the ridicule he received at school. It sickens me as a mother with a son of my own. I would never have done that to him! ADORABLE? I think not!!!

My heart cracks a bit every time I read comments like these. Maybe I take it personally because I have a son with long hair. I’ve written about it before – how he loves his long hair, and how society has perceived him as different or even mistakes him for a girl (and yes, at 5, he still gets that on occasion…)

And maybe I take it personally because I now have a 5 year old who…seemingly out of nowhere… has started becoming more concerned with what others think of him. When I wrote about my precious 3 year old and his curly locks, I noted that he liked his hair that way, and never made any indication otherwise. He never mentioned what others thought at all.

But now? Now he’s growing up and things are changing.

I hear doubt creeping into his voice when he makes certain choices, or when certain things happen. The other day we had gone on a bike ride and he tumbled. As he got up and dusted himself off, he pointed to a group of men on the street and asked me “Did they laugh at me when I fell?”

My heart stuttered and I immediately shook my head no. But his eyes kept sliding back to them, unsure of my response.

This past week we’ve been on vacation and have been pretty active. It’s been hot and I encouraged EZ to tie his hair back (like me. like dad.) so he didn’t get sweaty on his neck…after all, rain forests can get pretty steamy.

He turned to look at me once I piled his curls into an elastic. “Are people going to make fun of me for my ponytail?”

“No way, bud,” I reassured him, knowing in my heart I couldn’t exactly give him 100% on that promise, but hoping that I could count on humanity to, you know, prove itself for once.

Thankfully, all was well. Despite a few folks mistaking him for a girl (which, surprisingly [or not] doesn’t bother him in the slightest), nobody commented on his hair.

But what kills me is that my confident young son is taking cues from those around him (be it from school, the playground or just keen observation when walking around town) that you can be judged by others for even the slightest of differences. We teach him to be strong and comfortable with his choices, and to change them when they don’t suit him any more (trust me, when you have to deal with thickly dreaded curls on an almost daily basis will frequently find yourself offering hair cuts…only to be continuously rebuffed. So much for pushing my “liberal bs views”).

So when posts like the one from the Today Show pop up in my feed and I find myself reading the comments, I can’t help but grit my teeth and steel my heart, knowing that my son’s worries are pretty much justified, and wondering just what I can do beyond teaching him to be confident and proud of who he is.

About these ads

21 thoughts on “Hair Did

  1. Avital, my son Jake has has long hair since he was a toddler. It’s past his chin and he WILL NOT let me cut it short! My kid plays almost every sport- no one makes fun of him. He’s a boy with long hair. What’s the problem people? Never heard of Samson? Argh. PS -your son is adorable.

    • Thanks Haley! What’s interesting is that nobody has yet to actually ever say anything negative to him directly about his hair, yet he still somehow has absorbed that it could be an issue – that’s what pains me!

  2. I’m dealing with this now too. My almost 6 year old comes home from school saying other boys made fun of him for his long hair. It makes me want to cry. And my liberal bs I have a short haired boy and a long haired boy. They decide for themselves.

  3. I agree, your son is adorable! My 4 year old son also has long(ish), chin-length hair and is sometimes mistaken for a girl. He doesn’t seem to mind or even notice much. It’s his choice – he wants it long. I happen to think it looks adorable anyway. Thanks for this post. I had been thinking the same thing when I saw the kid on the Today Show.

  4. I love your little boys long hair! What is interesting to me is that African American boys can wear their hair long (although it is usually done up in corn rows etc.) without the same repercussions that Caucasian boys have. It is so sad that ignorant people can be so cruel to little boys who like their hair long. Let them be and let them express their individuality!

  5. When I taught in an all boys’ school I noticed there was much more tolerance for hair, habit or whatever, that was out of the ordinary. Some boys had longish hair, other boys walked about hand in hand during recess (they were about 7 years old), boys played instruments, played sports, played girls’ parts in the school play – after all, someone had to! I’m not saying that schools should be segregated – but it seems that society is eager to make children prove how girlish or boyish they are at a young age. Let them be children – they’ll be faced with society’s demands for so long. Why do parents feel they should burden them now? So wonderful that your son is happy with his hair – it’s lovely!

    • That’s really interesting, Jill and I always wonder about single-sex education (I don’t have a strong opinion one way or the other, I think there’s strong arguments for both single-sex and mixed gender schools). I do agree that society is eager in separating & distinguishing between the genders from a very young age (you only need to look at baby rattles to see that).

  6. I, too, have been continually frustrated with this issue. My son had very long blonde hair until after his 4th “King Arthur” birthday party, but he’d been called a girl one too many times and was really to cut it off for that reason alone. He loved having long hair when he was younger, as all the cool characters in books and movies had long hair, be it King Arthur or Lord of the Rings or Star Wars or Thor — they all have beautiful long hair and are some of the characters our sons are drawn to and want to emulate. Now he’s 7 and chose to grow it out long again. I’ve only been encouraging him to get it cut because he’s started chewing on it and he hates to have it brushed so it gets knotty. But, I don’t understand society’s obsession with boys having short hair. And, I really have never understood how people define a boy or girl simply by the length of their hair. It drives me crazy. And yes, kids at school and when we are out places say things to him all the time, even though there are many long-haired boys at school. I try to just help him come up with appropriate responses and to feel confident in his decision to wear his hair however he wants it. This is one of those things that I wonder how a person gets so uptight that they really care about another kid’s choice in a hair style!

  7. I’m on the flip-side of this coin. My 4 year-old girl is only interested in boys’ clothing. Her shoes, pants, t-shirts, pj’s… everything is from the boys departments because she likes the darker colors and the traditional “boys” characters (Buzz Lightyear, Cars, Spiderman, etc.). Nobody at her nursery school or in our lives gives it a second thought. Only strangers. It’s usually the busy-body ladies in the grocery store who say things like, “Why don’t you put her in a dress?” Of course, saying f-you to a stranger isn’t the best lesson to teach my kid! I could respond with, “Why don’t we put you in something more flattering?” But that would be rude. Operative word being rude, as in “it’s rude to impart your opinions on others.”

    Children need to explore everything around them, including clothing, dolls, hair… just let them be kids. What difference does it make in the grand scheme of things if hair is 2 inches long or 5 inches long, or if a girl wears a brown shirt with a car on it or a princessy tutu?

  8. I’m on the flip-side of this coin. My 4 year-old girl is only interested in boys’ clothing. Her shoes, pants, t-shirts, pj’s… everything is from the boys departments because she likes the darker colors and the traditional “boys” characters (Buzz Lightyear, Cars, Spiderman, etc.). Nobody at her nursery school or in our lives gives it a second thought. Only strangers. It’s usually the busy-body ladies in the grocery store who say things like, “Why don’t you put her in a dress?” Of course, saying f-you to a stranger isn’t the best lesson to teach my kid! I could respond with, “Why don’t we put you in something more flattering?” But that would be rude. Operative word being rude, as in “it’s rude to impart your opinions on others.”

    Children need to explore everything around them, including clothing, dolls, hair… just let them be kids. What difference does it make in the grand scheme of things if hair is 2 inches long or 5 inches long, or if a girl wears a brown shirt with a car on it or a princessy tutu?

  9. It drives me crazy when teaches children to act gender normative and confining the self-expression is seen as the solution to bullying. The research is clear that mental health problems, suicidality, and other problems functioning in gender variant kids are highly related to the family and community response. It is the RESPONSE to the gender variance which is causing these problems in the child, not that child’s gender variance.

  10. Pingback: Simply Shoes « The Mamafesto

  11. My son is 6years old and has long hair. He has never had a hair cut in his life I do not see nothing wong with a boy having long hair I have asked him many time if he would like to cut it and he has said”No mom I want it long it makes me deferent from everyone else. But just last week he finally said he was ready for a hair cut but that he want to give it to a sick child who doesnot have hair. So we will be donating it to Locks of Love

  12. Pingback: When Boys Wear Pink « The Mamafesto

  13. Pingback: Tots in Genderland | The Mamafesto

  14. Pingback: Sex vs. Gender | The Mamafesto

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s