Why Imposing Gender Roles on Children Sucks for Everybody

I still have distinct memories of this one time when I took my Lord of the Rings action figures to school in fourth grade. I quickly found myself surrounded by a group of boys who weren't afraid to inform me that my toys were not dolls, they were action figures, and that dolls were for girls and action figures were for boys. Little did they know that I just thought Legolas and Aragorn were hot, and didn’t give two flying bags of shit whether they were dolls or action figures or what-have-you.

Maybe this experience from my youth is why I resonate so deeply with Grayson Bruce, a 9-year-old boy from North Carolina who was bullied for bringing his My Little Pony lunchbox to school. However, Grayson wasn’t only pushed around, called names, and punched by his classmates – he was also banned by the school administration from bringing any more My Little Pony paraphernalia to class.


In a statement, Grayson’s school said that the lunch bag “created a disruption in the classroom.” The school also noted that they were looking into the conduct of the bullies who tormented Grayson, but as of now have not taken public action. 

Grayson’s mother, Noreen, says that “saying a lunchbox is a trigger for bullying is like saying a short skirt is a trigger for rape. It’s flawed logic, it doesn’t make any sense.” Noreen is blatantly against the school’s verdict, and vocally campaigning for justice. Noreen is also my new favorite person.

It’s really obscenely obvious why telling kids they can’t like something based on their perceived gender isn’t cool, but stories like these keep cropping up.  Michael Morones, age 11, tried to commit suicide just last month after being relentlessly tormented at school for liking the same animated TV show, My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. The boy now suffers from what could be lifelong brain damage and currently relies on a breathing machine.

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The big problem with school administration telling kids like Grayson that they can’t show their appreciation for toys associated with the opposite gender is that it makes it alright for anyone to make the same judgment. If a school says it’s not cool for boys to like cartoons marketed to girls, then kids begin to think it’s acceptable to tell other kids the same thing with their fists. Telling any child they can’t like something because of their gender leads to judgmental and confused adults with inherited, antique notions of gender roles. Judging a child’s interests based on their genitalia is backwards, and I want to believe we’re moving away from such practices.

Over 15,000 people have joined the facebook group “Support for Grayson” which is meant to raise awareness and show Grayson that it’s cool to like whatever strikes his fancy... especially My Little Pony. Fans of the show have also raised $73,000 for Michael Morones and his hospital bills. Hopefully these kindred spirits can show kids like Grayson that social constructs should never restrict how you express yourself.  


Images courtesy of WSOL Screenshot, Family of Michael Morones, Facebook, and Hasbro Studios

Mary Rockcastle is a florist, illustrator, and craftswoman living in Rochester, New York. She’s the sole founder of Little Lamb Studios, and #1 biggest fan of all dogs.

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