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February 27th, 2009

That was from Free to Be You and Me, an album recorded in 1972 (a year before I was born) by Marlo Thomas (the inspiration for my name). Free to Be You and Me embodied the values that I was raised with in terms of gender roles. The songs speak of women being truck drivers and doctors, and boys being free to play with dolls and cry.

My mother taught me from a very early age that it was not my lot as a girl to be a secretary, but that I could be CEO of a company. I was never encouraged to wear dresses and play with dolls, unless I wanted to and it was perfectly acceptable for me to play hockey in a boy's league. I was not raised with Disney princess imagery and fantasies of being rescued by Mr. Right. My desire for children was inate as opposed to fostered.

One would think that our society would have evolved somewhat in 36 years.

Instead, folks regularly and repeatedly assume that my boy is a girl when he wears even a little bit of pink. The young girls in my family keep asking me why he wears a purple jacket. Apparantly, my response (because I like purple) does not suffice.

I feel sad that little girls are already so locked into gendered definitions of appropriate clothing. And I feel angry when I have to continuously cross into the "girls" section of the clothing stores to get some things that are colourful and vibrant for my boy. Even progressive friends of mine won't dress their boys in pink.

Who made up these magic rules about who can wear what? And why do people continue to blindly follow?

I want my boy to grow up knowing that he can be whoever he wants to be.

In the words of my favourite singer-songwriter, Harry Chapin, "There are so many colours in a flower, so let's use every one."

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