This Photo Series Shows Gender Roles Shouldn't Limit Kids

Girl blowing bubbles during sunset by lake
StockPlanets/E+/Getty Images

Feminism's done a good job teaching girls that they can be whoever they want, but we sometimes forget that the same also goes for boys. Gender roles limit us all, and Kirsten McGoey’s #ABoyCanToo photo series serves as a reminder that they shouldn't. While it's become fairly socially acceptable for girls to play sports and wear sneakers, boys who wear dresses or play with dolls face more stigma, and it's time for that to change.

The photos show boys doing gender-nonconforming things, like wearing dresses, dancing, holding dolls, doing gymnastics, and putting on makeup. McGoey wrote on the project's website that her own son, who loves dancing, singing, and rainbows, inspired it:

"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. Not long afterI 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."

McGoey's efforts to raise her kids 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 captioned it on Facebook.

Courtesy of Kirsten McGoey

Another stunning photo celebrates a boy's love of baking.

Courtesy of Kirsten McGoey

Some people have used the series as inspiration to share pictures of their own boys smashing stereotypes.

These photos are an important step toward normalizing "feminine" behavior in boys — which is important, because toxic masculinity isn't doing them any good. Gender norms can discourage boys from showing emotions, stop them from exploring their interests, and unnecessarily limit their relationships.

Fortunately, more people — and businesses — are recognizing that boys should be able to do anything that girls can. Children's stores are starting to eliminate gendered marketing and divisions of clothes and toys, and more companies are providing gender-neutral products. This is an encouraging sign that more parents are hoping to raise their kids like McGoey is — and more kids are defying gender norms without shame. Maybe one day, we won't even need to say that a boy can do the things in these pictures, because nobody will doubt it.

You can see more photos on the project's website and Facebook page.

Images: StockPlanets/E+/Getty Images; Courtesy of Kirsten McGoey