media officer and translator. a travelling enthusiast and book lover.
Published August 14th 2013
If a girl cries, we go and give her a hug. But if a boy does, we turn our back and call him a coward.
Boys are supposed to be powerful and girls soft. That's the gender stereotype we watch on TV, hear on radio and learn from our parents, every day.
The interesting thing is that many scholars have found that such gender bias has a negative influence on a child's development and yet still many writers continue to produce children's fiction promoting gender bias.
And I think that's partly the reason why The Boy in the Dress stands out among millions of children books, ranking top 10 in Nielson BookScan. I was so excited and entirely absorbed by the story the first time I read it. David Williams, the author of the extraordinary work, breaks the gender bias and shapes an unforgettable character who was endowed with the hard side of a boy and also, soft side of a girl.
The Boy in the Dress / HarperCollins
The story begins with Dennis looking at a photo of a joyful scene: Dennis and his elder brother, John, with Mum at beach. Mum wearing a lovely yellow dress with flowers on it. But this photo is charred and blackened around the edges as it was the only one that escaped the bonfire his father set – Dad wanted to burn every memory mum left after they get divorced.
One day, a similar dress on the cover of Vouge made Dennis fall in love with the fashion magazines, and the lack of warmness in his home made him crazy about talk shows, which usually focus on emotional issues. All of these hobbies are scolded by Dennis' dad, because they are apparently too 'girly'.
Did our brave little Dennis compromise? Of course not. Some more shocking things happen with the help of a gorgeous girl – Lisa, who was also a big fan of fashion magazines and dreamed of becoming a stylist when growing up. She dressed Dennis like a girl and fooled almost everyone in school until Dennis fell and his wig came off. Guess I'd better stop here; otherwise I'll ruin your pleasure in reading this book.
And also, don't get me wrong. I'm not here encouraging your boys to wear dresses or put on make up. Neither is this the intention of the author, I'm sure. My point is that we should stop instilling gender stereotypes into our kid's minds - give them more room for imagination, and encourage them to become whoever they want to be.
Don't put too much pressure on your boys. Let them cry when they want to. And don't only call your neighbour's girls 'pretty'. Ask them 'which book are you reading?'. I know it's a long way to go before we get there, but parents should take the lead.
So, start now by having your kids read this book. And trust me, it won't let you down.