A German father is showing support for his 5 year-old son who likes to wear dresses, by wearing skirts himself. Nils Pickert started wearing skirts in order to support his son, who was hesitant to wear dresses and skirts in public due to the threat of ridicule by peers and the overall community.
The story has drawn a lot of attention, and one commentator on the Huffington Post website felt that Pickert was completely in the wrong when allowing his son to wear women’s clothes: “If a boy (at the age of 3 or so) wants to wear girl clothes and act like a girl that means it’s time to explain to him that he is a BOY. There is NOTHING wrong with being a boy or a girl, but be who you are. Fashion and style do not make us who we are, but they do characterize us to a degree.”
We find this comment particularly peculiar since there is a distinction to be made between the sex and gender of a person, which the commentator completely ignores. If one believes in social construction, gender roles are socially constructed and not dependant on one’s sex. There is nothing about a person’s sex that makes it unfeasible for a man or a woman to wear a skirt or a dress, except for societal pressure and normative assumptions about gender. When the commentator states “be who you are,” she really means, “act according to stereotypical notions concerning gender.”
At the same time, do we need to point out the double standard of this thinking when the commentator says both “be who you are” and “fashion and style do not make us who we are”? Also, who is the commentator to say “be who you are” and then decide that the dad and son are wrong when attempting to be who they are and dress however they like?
In terms of fashion, the ancient Romans were known to wear tunics and togas, while some Scottish men wear kilts, and both women and men in many parts of the world wear sarongs. And it wasn’t until fairly recently in history that women started wearing pants. Not to mention that traditionally, men and boys in America were more likely to wear pink than girls and women–the now-common trend of girls wearing pink and boys wearing blue did not start until around the 1940s.
Nils Pickert is supporting his son’s clothing choices while letting him be who he is. We think this father’s compassion, love, and respect for his child is truly admirable in light of all the criticism, negative comments, and ridicule.