I follow a lot of fellow parents on Instagram, and I’ve been noticing two hashtags that are popular amongst the parenting crowd. The hashtags are #GirlMom and #BoyMom, and I hate them both.
Log onto Instagram and search for the hashtag #BoyMom. What do you see? A boy with messy hands, a Ninja Turtle-themed bathroom, a pile of dinosaur toys, boys dressed like superheroes and firefighters.
Now search for the hashtag #GirlMom. What do you see there? A photo of a little girl draped in jewelry, a snapshot of “mommy and me” manicures, little girls in their mothers’ high heels, girls dressed like princesses. There’s nary a dinosaur or superhero in sight.
I’m sure some of you are rolling your eyes and saying, “So what? It’s just a hashtag. Let girls be girls and boys be boys! It’s just a way for moms to express pride in their children. It’s harmless.”
Here’s the thing: I don’t think it is harmless. For one thing, the phrases “let girls be girls” and “let boys be boys” are dumb. There aren’t “girl things” and “boy things,” and there aren’t “girl traits” and “boy traits.” It makes me insane when people proclaim that certain things are for boys and that other things are for girls.
That’s the mentality behind these hashtags, and it’s the root of why I have a huge problem with them. Why should our kids be forced to embody what we think boys and girls should be like? Why do we have to label their behaviors and interests with gender-stereotypical hashtags? Why must we limit our children to only like what they’re “supposed” to like based on their gender?
I am a mom-a mom whose child happens to be a girl. Here are just a few of the things she likes: Disney Princess Palace Pets, My Little Pony, makeovers and jewelry. So, according to the hashtag, I’m a #GirlMom. But wait-she also likes “Jurassic Park,” Ninja Turtles, superheroes, wild animals and “Guardians of the Galaxy.” Do those things make me a #BoyMom? I’m confused.
I know that a hashtag on the Internet does not make or break the universe-but it is part of a larger problem. The longer we use these hashtags, the longer we say things like “let girls be girls”-and the longer it’s going to take for people to finally realize that gender stereotypes are total b.s.
Here’s a radical thought: Let’s just stop using the hashtags. Stop labeling our daughters as “girlie girls” and declaring that our sons are “all boy!” Stop telling girls to smile; stop telling boys that they shouldn’t cry. Stop labeling an athletic girl a “tomboy” and quit calling a sensitive boy a “sissy.” If your girl wants to get a short haircut and your boy wants to wear a dress, let them.
Instead of being #GirlMoms and #BoyMoms, let’s just be #KidMoms. If your little boy has a natural propensity toward garbage trucks and idolizes Superman, congratulations-you’re a #KidMom. If your daughter loves dresses, kittens and Elsa, you are also a #KidMom. If your son steals your high heels and your daughter thinks armpit fart noises are hilarious (and let’s be honest-who doesn’t?), guess what? You are also a #KidMom.
It doesn’t matter if you have a son, daughter, transgender child, gender-fluid child or child who hasn’t figured all that out yet: You are a mom to a kid. A kid who can’t-and shouldn’t-be defined by labels or crammed into these narrow little gender boxes that we set up for them.
These archaic gender roles and stereotypes will continue unless we stop giving things like #GirlMom and #BoyMom power. Let’s stop using harmful labels on our kids and start embracing them for who they are. Change begins with us, parents. And it should begin right now.
Natalie Green is a Chicago girl living in Chattanooga with her husband and their 5-year-old daughter. When she’s not working full time outside of the home, she enjoys reading, writing, singing, zombies and running. From zombies. And also beer. You can stalk her blog, Mommy Boots, or follow her on Twitter @mommyboots; or you can email her directly at [email protected]. She also has an (Im)perfect Parenting Facebook page. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.