Today's Times had a pretty good article about gender issues in little kids (as in, pre-school and early elementary school kids). It is, at times, heartbreaking - “It feels like a nightmare I’m a boy.” And certainly not a dilemma I would wish on any parent - are four year olds really aware enough to decide which gender they are? Is it more damaging to fight with your kid about gender identity or to risk your kid getting humiliated at school? I know Dr. B has covered some of this ground with PK (who likes to wear nail polish and keep his hair long). But it occurs to me that this is perhaps one of the few areas where women have actually made more progress than men. A large focus of the article was cross-dressing, since that's obviously the most outwardly public display of gender and the one that can set a kid up for bullying and other traumatic events at school. And yet, I can't think of any level of 'cross-dressing' for which a little girl would be really picked on. Girls can wear boots and pants and even ties and suspenders! They can wear their hair short or long. Oh sure, tomboy little girls are still sometimes mistaken for boys (I certainly was up until I was 12 or so) but I have a hard time seeing this as potentially resulting in the sort of violence that seems to crop up whenever a boy decides to put on a skirt or dress.
Sure, this isn't actually progress, since it just means that emulating the acceptable gender norm of male is good whereas choosing the 'weaker' female form is 'bad.' But still, it means little girls have more freedom to play with their identity before settling in to one.