It’s hard to be three years old these days. You’re too young to read and good books, you’re too old to get to sleep all day or be carried around all of the time, and frankly it’s really about time those silly toddlers start acting like the men and women they are going to grow up to be some day.
And apparently, first we need to start with the clothes, especially if you are going to be in the public eye.
No one knows that better now that Shiloh Jolie-Pitt, daughter of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. Now that the terrible twos have come and gone, they youngster has been seen sporting a look that gossip mags are decrying and if she was the next coming of Brandon Teena.
Shiloh, 3, had just come from the hairdressers when magazine editors in the US decided she looked more like her brother, Knox.
Her superstar parents, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, have been slammed for dressing the tot like a boy for a while, according to ninemsn.com. They reportedly call her ‘John’.
One US publication ran the cover line ‘Why is Angelina turning Shiloh into a boy?’.
The same magazine in a story fielded ‘experts’ to explain the child’s short haircut. Alana Kelen, senior fashion stylist at VH1, said: ‘Shiloh is pushing the boundaries of a tomboy look and crossing over to cross-dresser territory.’
I’ve written before about my utter annoyance with the idea of “girl” clothing. Between sparkly todder clothes and pre-tweens being sold French Maid outfits that border on lingerie, the desire for marketers and media to make little girls extraordinarily feminine and extremely sexualized way too early continues to run rampant.
As Mary Elizabeth Williams points out on Salon, the frenzy over a girl in pants and short hair regardless of her age is puzzling (after all, did we all already forget the 70s?).
It’s easy to laugh at all the furor over one little girl’s hair — and believe me, I do, heartily — but the hand-wringing over Shiloh says a hell of a lot about how eager we are to narrowly define sex roles, and how easy it is to incite outrage when we transgress in the slightest. Shiloh, that poor girl, may not be the über fashionista that Suri Cruise is, but guess what? Go to a playground sometime, and see how well you fare identifying the gender of any little kid who isn’t in a fairy costume or a football jersey. Oh, to have a dollar for every parent who’s put a foot in the mouth over some cherub in a snowsuit.
Which leads to the question — who, by the way, decided that short hair and pants were the exclusive domain of boys? Keira Knightley, Natalie Portman, Halle Berry, Victoria Beckman and, uh, every other woman who’s ever cut her hair are going to be pissed when they hear about this. Likewise, say what you will about parents who force a gender-neutral identity on their kids, but it’s pretty ridiculous to go straight to j’accuse! town every time a tyke isn’t all decked out in extreme parodies of femininity — or, for that matter, masculinity. You think all the ink given to Shiloh is crazy? Ever seen what happens when a boy dares to flout convention and wear long hair? The outrage!
And, yes, pretty much every parent of a little girl will end up cutting off all of her hair at some point. It’s a rite of passage, especially if you have a toddler who refuses to stay still long enough to get a brush through it. And I’d much rather let her run around in a pair of sweats and her favorite Star Wars T-Shirt than try to dress her in clothes she doesn’t feel like wearing.
Being a toddler is about learning that you have an individual will, and pushing it as far as you can while you create your own identity. It’s sad when it has to be done in the public eye, and the media feels the need to critique the identity she is creating.