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Of flowers, boys, and men - Zer Netmouse
April 14th, 2011
09:22 pm

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Of flowers, boys, and men
Almost no clothes for boys have flowers on them. Nor toys, nor accessories.

This has really struck me as I've shopped for and sorted through kid and baby clothes this past year, and presses on my mind, especially this week after Brian brought home some nice sunflowers to put in a vase.

We want guys to buy flowers, right? And to grow gardens and potted plants, and pick flowers from them to decorate the home, as my father has done all my life?

So why this complete lack of flowers for boys? What kind of message are we sending? That they can admire lovely things from a distance, but can't own them or take care of them? That girls can dress themselves in the most cheerful colors nature offers, but boys either can't or have to think of them differently. (as fruit colors, or better yet, colors for cars and trucks??)

It's considered an insult to call a guy a pansy, but there's a reason why Bloom County's "Dandelion break" struck all the right chords. Flowers help relax the mind and body, reduce stress, and generally make life more pleasant.

I mean, I can see why a pansy became the symbol for a complete lack of "manliness". The petals come off the stem with little pressure, are flimsy, and bruise easily. But what about Tulips? Roses? Sunflowers? Begonias? Bright flaming Indian paintbrush? Brave little crocuses? Warm friendly buttercups? Tasty clover?

Right now most "unisex" clothing is plain, striped, or has animals on it. Really cute animals. Which is all well and good, but I'd like to see Unisex clothing with flowers. Bright, bold daisies and sunflowers. And maybe some jungle flowers, to go with all those animals.

Because boys should be taught to walk with beauty, too.

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From:urban_exotic
Date:April 15th, 2011 02:31 am (UTC)
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Actually, pansies are extremely hardy. They are the flower of choice here in the southwest, because they can survive brutal heat and the occasional freezing cold snap. A well cared for pansy can flower almost perpetually, too.
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From:amanda_lodden
Date:April 15th, 2011 04:30 am (UTC)
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Sadly, the "both sexes are equal" fight that our mothers and grandmothers fought doesn't seem to have translated to both sexes being equal, and while it's now perfectly fine for girls to like boy things (no one would stop a little girl from playing with trucks), it's still not okay for boys to like girl things. There's been a bit of a furor over it lately, brought to a more national level thanks to J. Crew, which recently featured a thing with their CEO hanging out with her son... and painting his toenails. Bright pink. At his request.

The backlash will hurt both your head and your heart.
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From:nojay
Date:April 15th, 2011 09:35 am (UTC)
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There's an anime series just been shown in Japan, "Hourou Musuko" (Wandering Son) about a group of junior high-schoolers trying to cope with growing up. A couple of the girls are daring and brave and cool and come to school wearing boy's uniforms and then one of their group, a boy, comes to school wearing a girl's uniform. For some reason everybody's reaction to this is... different.
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From:minkrose
Date:April 16th, 2011 02:13 am (UTC)
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I've been pondering on this for years. Luckily, my husband loves wearing skirts (not just kilts), so I'm sure we'll find ways to be creative.
When he purchased a sarong from a street vendor lady who was foreign, she was so pleased that HE was going to wear it. She said that men did that where she came from, but not in America.

Eddie Izzard calls it "total clothing rights" for men. I view it as us still valuing "masculine" things, because it's okay for women to behave like men but it's not okay for men to behave like women. That means we haven't actually helped people value "womanly things" more, we've just made it okay for women to do whatever they like. It's not quite the same thing.

netmouse, I'm sure some of us could knit you some lovely floral-but-boy-friendly items. I'll be on the look out.
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From:mactavish
Date:April 15th, 2011 04:47 am (UTC)
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LGBabyT.com has some flowers, I think, but they're pricey. (Awesome, but pricey.)
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From:matt_arnold
Date:April 15th, 2011 04:50 am (UTC)
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What kind of message are we sending? That they can admire lovely things from a distance, but can't own them or take care of them?
Culturally, this is the message that boys shouldn't identify with them. This message has to do with boys reacting less from an expression of personality, and reacting more through activity. Unlike passive plants, the animals depicted on those boy clothes actively do things. Pursue, flee, etc. There is a cultural message there too. Perhaps crocuses feel brave, but they are not perceived to do a whole lot to drive the plot of their lives.
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From:netmouse
Date:April 16th, 2011 02:01 am (UTC)
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I think you have a point, but boy's clothes (and toys and room decorations) do have things in them that don't do anything - trees and other green plants, stars, planets. Stars don't travel through the universe any more than flowers do (one could even argue less) though they do have more gravitational attraction...

But yeah, other cultures have valued less active activities for men and boys, like contemplation, poetry, penmanship, caligraphy... But not so much American, especially not modern.
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From:supergee
Date:April 15th, 2011 10:00 am (UTC)
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There's this complete and absolute difference between the sexes that is so natural and hard-wired that we have to keep enforcing it and shaming those 5-year-old criminals who don't go along with it. Fox News's resident Evolutionary Psychologist did a show warning us against a little boy who likes to have his toenails painted pink. It might be a serious problem if that meant the kid was going to turn gay, which it doesn't, and there was something wrong with it, which there isn't.
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From:atothek
Date:April 15th, 2011 12:34 pm (UTC)
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I totally agree with you. Our boys end up wearing plenty of flowered things, because they wear Bryn's hand-me-downs. I often wonder how much of an issue this will become as they grow older. Here's hoping that raising them in Ann Arbor will mean that it won't.

xoxo
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From:dionysus1999
Date:April 15th, 2011 04:00 pm (UTC)
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Manliness! What about the boy's Manliness?

I've noticed that no matter how hard parents try to raise their children "gender neutral", the kids always pick up most of the cultural baggage.

Big cultural transmitters for kids seem to be school and TV.
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From:bryanalexander
Date:April 15th, 2011 04:01 pm (UTC)
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I've been amazed at how persistent strict gender coding is for kids. When my first was born (16 years ago!), we were living in Ann Arbor, and expected some kind of post-PC gender openness. Instead we got boy=blue, girl=pink, and have seen it *everywhere* ever since.

Flowers... still too weak, and too gay.

I suspect sports culture keeps this going, too.
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From:netmouse
Date:April 16th, 2011 02:55 pm (UTC)
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Yeah, and it's really weird, since there are so many other nice colors.

I was really pleased to find a yellow infant swim cover on the coolies website that is predominantly yellow and has octopi on it for Rosie, though it was in the boys section (and is now sold out, but we got the last one! yay!), and I was rather proud of them for having a couple styles with flowers on them listed under boys.

They are outdated styles, though. If you look at their current infant zip-ups for boys, they are all blue, brown, and black. They do still have a "navy hibiscus" style for older boys, but I think surfer styles get more leeway due to the association with hawaii, which is better about this than other states.
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From:bryanalexander
Date:April 18th, 2011 05:00 pm (UTC)
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Maybe that's the ticket for America, focusing on the non-normative parts of our cultures.
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From:dd_b
Date:April 15th, 2011 05:42 pm (UTC)
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That is interesting.

Growing flowers doesn't, to me, connect much to wearing flowers. In fact, fancy prints are usually show clothes rather than working clothes, so they anti-correlate for me.

I personally don't like loud clothing, which rules out most prints (subdued plaids are about as far as I go). But so far as I know, that's just my preferences.
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From:netmouse
Date:April 15th, 2011 08:41 pm (UTC)
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I'm not keen on most prints, myself, but lots of girls clothes have embroidered flowers as trim, like denim pants with flowers near the cuff or denim shirts or overals with a couple flowers on the chest. Sweatshirts or tshirts with a little print on the chest, that sort of thing. Perfectly good for gardening.
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From:apostle_of_eris
Date:April 16th, 2011 01:24 am (UTC)
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So long ago I didn't even know the word "Asperger", I marveled at how few guys seemed to know that giving flowers could sometimes trump even chocolate (no calories).
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