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Opinion: Boys and pink bowling balls? So what!?

NEED TO KNOW
  • Rick Santorum recently discouraged a young boy from using a pink bowling ball
  • Author Sarah Manley asks, 'Why?'
Opinion: Boys and pink bowling balls? So what!?

Editor's Note: Sarah Manley's blog post, "My Son Is Gay," went viral in 2010. She is a full-time mom of three, living in Kansas City. She continues to blog at Nerdy Apple.

At a campaign event at a bowling alley in Wisconsin on Wednesday, Rick Santorum told a young man selecting a bowling ball, “You’re not gonna use the pink ball. We’re not gonna let you do that. Not on camera." A reporter then said, "Friends don't let friends..." and Santorum responded, "Friends don't let friends use pink balls." HLN has reached out to the Santorum campaign for comment, and is awaiting a response.

“Friends don’t let friends use pink balls.”

I’m almost embarrassed at that ludicrous quote. I am embarrassed someone, anyone, would say that to another person, especially a child. I am embarrassed the thought would even cross someone’s mind. It’s a bowling ball. Seriously: a bowling ball.

And yet, GOP presidential hopeful Rick Santorum did say that at a campaign stop to a boy just looking to knock down a few pins. He also said, “You’re not gonna use the pink ball. We're not gonna let you do that. Not on camera.”

It is 2012, folks. Color means nothing as far as someone’s future plans or gender or sexuality. It is a color. In the past, pink was a masculine color, but it’s morphed into a feminine one. Therein lies the problem.

Anything feminine is considered weak, inferior, delicate, less than. It may be good enough for your daughters, but it sure as hell isn’t for your sons.

I ask you to consider why? Do you love your daughters less? What about your mothers? Do you consider them to be insubstantial? Do you forget that women make up half of the population? Are you worried that they will take away your power? What is the root of the "pink ball" comment?

I propose it is misogyny, at its simplest form. Pink equals girly, and that is not okay for a boy or a man. But here’s the rub, it is. It is not just okay, but should be embraced and nurtured. Our sons should grow up to be strong and caring men. Our daughters should grow up to be strong and caring women. A gay man is not less of a man. A straight man that likes pink is not less of a man.

Why do you find it adorable when a girl does something considered masculine like wear "Star Wars" shirts or play sports, but cringe when a boy does something considered feminine like nurture a doll or choose a pink bowling ball?

I don’t. I love seeing kids who are well-rounded and have their own personalities. I don’t bat an eye when I see a boy playing house. At some point, he’ll need to know how to cook, clean, do laundry. All those things that used to be women’s work. Children don’t yet know of the hate and bigotry and gender "norms" that our culture -- and often their own parents -- will teach them.

This is not a time to marginalize and polarize even more, but to break down those barriers. My son is not less than because he doesn’t subscribe to outdated gender stereotypes. I want all of my kids, both genders, to be able to take care of themselves and be happy, healthy individuals. If that means one rolls a pink ball and another climbs trees, then good for them. Good for all of us.

Does Rick Santorum think my daughter is less worthy than my son? Does he think my son who likes pink is even less worthy?

We owe a lot more to our children and ourselves than making snide quips that hold much greater meaning. They learn from watching and listening to us. We need to start taking that a lot more seriously than we have been.

I hope that boy gets to pick whatever ball he wants to next time.

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