Feminism has done a great job in teaching us girls that we can be whoever we want to be. It has taught us that we must break gender stereotypes, fight sexism and seek equality for women in every sphere of life. But sometimes, we forget that the same also goes for boys reeling from gender stereotypes.
Gender roles in society end up defining us, both girls and boys. They limit us all from reaching our true potential. Which is precisely why photographer Kirsten McGoey’s #ABoyCanToo photo series is so relevant today.
While it has become, or is becoming, fairly socially acceptable for girls to break gender defined roles, boys who wear dresses or play with dolls continue to face stigma, mostly thanks to toxic masculinity.
These photos show young boys doing gender-nonconforming things, like wearing dresses, dancing, playing with dolls, doing gymnastics, and putting on makeup.
McGoey says that her own son, who loves dancing, singing, and rainbows, inspired the series #ABoyCanToo.
"Not long after I decided to pursue my first personal photography project I knew it had to shed light on these amazing boys who in the face of strong societal gender norms are embracing a strong sense of self worth, self confidence and providing inspiration for other #ABoyCanToo boys all over the world," she says on her website.
McGoey's efforts to raise her 3 sons free from societal restrictions have found their way into her art. One photo shows one of her sons getting his toes done during a "spa day." The first in the series shows one with his hair in cute clips. "Boys love to do their hair, too!" she quips.
"As parents we try to provide all our three boys a place to choose the adventure they feel [fits] their own interests. So alongside LTDP Soccer practices we also attend dance open houses; soccer balls litter the back yard and we host dance parties in the living room," she adds.
This photo series is not only important but can be a source of encouragement for boys to find themselves. It can also be the first step towards normalising "feminine" behaviour in them.
Gender stereotypes and patriarchy discourage boys from showing emotions, stop them from exploring their interests, and limit their aspirations. How do we teach a man that it's okay to be emotive and sensitive and that hyper masculinity isn’t a pre-requisite for being a man?
By raising kids like McGoey is - by encouraging gender fluidity and defying gender norms without shame. Because let's face it, hyper masculinity is ruining the men in our lives.