Boy Wears Pink Zebra Shoes; Internet Freaks Out

Can’t we just let them be kids, without involving them in our adult handwringing over the implications of allowing them to do normal kid things?
Publish date:
December 17, 2012
parenting, kids, shoes, gender, pink, zebra print

Like that little boy with super long hair and the boy who likes to wear skirts before him, a preschool-age boy named Sam is now the subject of a heated Internet debate for wearing a pair of pink zebra-printed flats to school.

Someone identifying herself as Sam’s older sister posted the photo to Facebook Group Have a Gay Day, with the following:

“Yesterday, my mom posted a picture on Facebook of my 5-year-old brother Sam wearing a pair of shoes he picked out for his first day of preschool.

She explained to him in the store that they were really made for girls. Sam then told her that he didn’t care and that “ninjas can wear pink shoes, too.”

Sam went to preschool and got several compliments on his new shoes. Not one kid said anything negative toward him about it.

However, my mom received about 20 comments on the photo from various family members saying how “wrong” it is and how “things like this will affect him socially” and, put most eloquently by my great aunt, “That shit will turn him gay.”

My mom then deleted the photo and told Sam that he can wear whatever he wants to preschool, that it’s his decision. If he wants to wear pink shoes, he can wear pink shoes."

Now, I have to admit that my first thought upon seeing the photo of little Sam was that David Lee Roth totally wore this print in the 80s. In fact, I’m pretty sure some boys in my second grade class were also wearing zebra prints and hot pink, or "neon" pink, around that time, and no one thought a thing about it. THE 80s, MAN.

You know what else happened in the 80s? I wore a necktie to school and some little boy in my class made fun of me and got in big trouble with the teacher. I think it was a pretty cute look, but thank the universe that the Internet didn't exist back then -- who knows what kind of horrible stuff complete strangers would have said about my mom's consent in sending me to school like this, to be ridiculed by some kid who told me that only boys can wear ties:

But I get it, hot pink zebra print is maybe not fashionable for the discerning tastes of many people these days. What I do not get is the frothing at the mouth over a preschooler wearing an article of clothing that falls outside of our socially accepted ideas of what is “gender appropriate.”

I mean, do you know how many times my son, when he was in preschool, pretended to wrap something around his waist as a skirt, tried on my shoes or wrapped a towel around his head to pretend it was long hair? Or how many times I picked him up from daycare to find him, and some of the other boys in his class, wearing the dress-up princess clothes, complete with those plastic dress-up shoes and tiaras?

This is totally normal behavior for kids. Can’t we just let them be kids, without involving them in our adult handwringing over the implications of allowing them to do normal kid things?

A blogger over at The Stir wrote a piece on the Facebook post (which went viral by the way, with over 15,000 comments on the original post, and over 25,000 shares as of this writing) in which she worries that by allowing children to step out-of-genderbounds (I am making that a word, "genderbounds"), we are opening them up to bullying and ridicule.

While I see her point, I also don’t think that 5-year-olds really care all that much about whether their classmate is wearing pink zebra shoes. If anyone cares at all, it is the adults in the 5-year-old’s life. Let the kid wear his damn shoes.

I leave you with David Lee Roth and Eddie Van Halen in zebra prints:

Somer is on Twitter @somersherwood