A 5 year old in Texas was sent to detention in his first week of kindergarten because of his choice of accessory.  Cayden, the 5 year old kindergartener, was wearing earrings to school, which according to the school’s dress code is not allowed for boys. However, the school dress code only bans earrings for boys not for girls. Cayden was given detention for wearing earrings to school, despite the fact that wearing them would not have any effect on his education.  But this instance represents more than just a case of gender discrimination.

It is good example of how society expects little boys and girls to fit into very neat stereotypes of what a boy and a girl should look like. A boy should play with trucks and superheroes and like cartoons about war and violence while girls should play with Barbie dolls and worry about looking pretty.

This case reminded me of the little kids I saw when I worked in a preschool as a counselor. In that preschool there were two sections to the play area: one with a kitchen and baby dolls in strollers and another with building blocks and superhero figures.  In particular there was one little boy who loved to play in the kitchen area, and he was always the only boy there “cooking”. The teacher would try to encourage him to play with the building blocks and trucks instead, because she thought that it would be beneficial for him to behave like his gender. The most surprising part of this to me was that the other kids did not treat him differently and did not see this behavior abnormal until they saw the adults’ reaction.

And I think in this case it would have been the same, it is the adults who define what is abnormal for little kids to do or wear. Just because the boy wanted to get earrings they punished him as opposed to a girl, because a girl wearing earrings is “normal”.



About Yulia G

hi, my name is Yulia. i'm a student at Hunter college in Sociology 217- Race & Ethnicity, section 001

8 responses

  1. From the very first day I started volunteering at a preschool as well, I noticed how children at such a young age are exposed to and conceptualizing what defines being a female and what defines being a male. One of the particular examples which I was witness to was when one of the boys fell down and began to cry. Automatically the male teacher Mr. Leroy went over to him and told him “get up, don’t cry your friends will think you’re a girl?” Referring to crying as a “girl” characteristic now makes me realize that even when so young a little boy must show his masculinity, show no signs of vulnerability or weakness. It was ironic how the teacher happen to be male which is predominately a female job. But he still wanted to instill in the student what is categorized as actions only a specific gender must do, in this case crying is only done by girls. When it was story time girls would have to sit on chairs with their legs crossed while boys would sit Indian chief style on the mat. Even though the students were still so young to even care about the differences there is amongst females and males, Mr. Leroy felt the need to expose the students to the different ways each gender should be presented; girls had to be “ladylike” and cross their legs.
    Society brings about these specific roles each gender must fulfill so I completely agree with your post. “Social norms” are created to label certain actions like cooking and cleaning as duties for women and building objects as duties for men. Sadly the separation between how a male and female must act is started at a young age, in this case Cayden was victim to this. When I initially started reading this post Cayden came off as being a female name. I started to think that maybe Caydens parents named their son Cayden which the purpose of allowing him to be neutral in respect to his gender. Maybe Im thinking way ahead of myself but possibly one day Cayden might physically be a male but as he gets older feel like a woman. Then what? Would Cayden have gotten in trouble for wearing earrings if he knew he felt like a female? Since the girls in his class didnt get in trouble? Sad how society places limitations on children because in the end they are just being kids not worrying about fulfilling gender roles.

    • Yulia G says:

      i completely agree, the kids have no idea that they are fulfilling gender roles or accepting them. (although you’d be surprised how aware of the difference between boys and girls some of them are, so they aren’t completely oblivious, they’re just not paying attention to it, unless we as a society tell them to).
      my co-workers said about the little boy “he’s probably going to be gay when he grows up” because he really like to play in the kitchen and hug people and he would cry easily. But i really doubt that these behaviors reflect their future identities. i think they are just exploring different things. (and if they aren’t suppressing them won’t change their identity, it will only suppress it).
      but i suppose if he later did identify as a female, the same people who see it as inappropriate now will probably see it as inappropriate to wear earrings at that point too. (unless they would see the adult decision as more conscious then when he is a child.)

    • @kimberlynarvaez Some of what you say is useful. For instance, it is quite unfair to punish a little fellow for wearing ear rings; and it is unwise and unfair to teach him that crying is unacceptable. On the other hand, there is nothing wrong in directing a child toward gender appropriate behavior. Certainly teaching five year old girls clothed in dresses to sit modestly with their legs crossed is a good and useful thing for them to learn. Childhood is for learning. What we need for parents and teachers are prudent people with the character and wisdom to teach with love and wisdom and respect. I would also say that I do not understand the drive we seem to have these days to make aberrant behavior the norm.

  2. Mary says:

    This is an amazing theme!!Lots of topics can come from this subject specially when talking about sociology.Is like the oldest (biological) children of Brad and Angelina,she dresses up as a ”boy” and everybody talks about it.I think it’s amazing how they don’t care and let her do whatever she wants.Dos that mean she will be lesbian?maybe,who knows?If so,the future lesbians are lucky because that girl is incredible beautiful hahaha.I don’t know if they do this consciously or they just let the children be free to wear what she wants,anyway I think is a very strong example,since they are the most famous couple in the midia.It would be so nice a world where people would be free to be whoever they want..well,we can dream right?Maybe that’s the future…I hope so.From established concepts of what is ”right” and ”natural” comes the prejudice.This only shows how much we need to evolve!PS: I bet that little boy will turn out to be an amazing chef!

  3. glendainunez says:

    This reminds me about the outrage over the J. Crew ad earlier this year. The ad is of a little boy with hot pink nail polish on his toes, to refresh your memory,
    The uproar over this ad was all over the media and lead to many debates. Children shouldn’t have to endure that much pressure to conform to social norms. We have bigger problems to focus on such as the wars in the Middle East, the various health epidemics, poverty, global warming, and many other social injustices on this planet than to focus on a child being a child.

  4. abezerra says:

    This clearly demonstrates the theme of gender socialization from an early age. What truly striked me was why they would put a 5-year old in detention, when they should have contacted the child’s parents instead? A 5-year old boy does not all of a sudden go “oh, I want to pierce my ears” and then go and do it. So why punish him for a decision that his parents made for him? I think it all comes down to the fact that if they contact the child’s parents, the parents may argue over the fact that no such ban exists for girls, and that their son will continue to wear earrings to school. But by punishing the innocent child, one conditions the child to conform to the gender standards. The child will associate the earrings with punishment and will tell the parents he no longer wishes to wear them.The methods used by adults to reinforce gender roles in children are so absurd!

  5. […] Earlier today a classmate’s post about a 5-year old receiving detention for wearing earrings to school caught my attention and […]

  6. […] today a classmate’s post about a 5-year old receiving detention for wearing earrings to school caught my attention and […]