A man thought it was OK to question her son's tutu. Was he ever wrong.

'I will not let angry strangers tell my son what he can or cannot wear.'

When people ask Jen Anderson Shattuck's 3-year-old son about the sparkly tutus he likes to wear, he says they make him feel beautiful and brave.

He wisely says there are no rules about what boys can wear or what girls can wear.

Jen says people are generally pretty accepting of the tutus ... except for people like the stranger Jen and her son met a few weeks ago. Check out Jen's Facebook post below about what the man said and how she responded:


My three-and-a-half-year-old son likes to play trucks. He likes to do jigsaw puzzles. He likes to eat plums. And he...

Posted by Jen Anderson Shattuck on Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Here's the full text:

My three-and-a-half-year-old son likes to play trucks. He likes to do jigsaw puzzles. He likes to eat plums. And he likes to wear sparkly tutus. If asked, he will say the tutus make him feel beautiful and brave. If asked, he will say there are no rules about what boys can wear or what girls can wear.

My son has worn tutus to church. He has worn tutus to the grocery store. He has worn tutus on the train and in the sandbox. It has been, in our part of the world, a non-issue. We have been asked some well-intentioned questions; we've answered them; it has been fine. It WAS fine, until yesterday.

Yesterday, on our walk to the park, my son and I were accosted by someone who demanded to know why my son was wearing a skirt. We didn't know him, but he appeared to have been watching us for some time.

"I'm just curious," the man said. "Why do you keep doing this to your son?"

He wasn't curious. He didn't want answers. He wanted to make sure we both knew that what my son was doing---what I was ALLOWING him to do---was wrong."She shouldn't keep doing this to you," he said. He spoke directly to my son. "You're a boy. She's a bad mommy. It's child abuse."

He took pictures of us, although I asked him not to; he threatened me. "Now everyone will know," he said. "You'll see."

I called the police. They came, they took their report, they complimented the skirt. Still, my son does not feel safe today. He wants to know: "Is the man coming back? The bad man? Is he going to shout more unkind things about my skirt? Is he going to take more pictures?"

I can't say for sure. But I can say this: I will not be intimidated. I will not be made to feel vulnerable or afraid. I will not let angry strangers tell my son what he can or cannot wear.

The world may not love my son for who he is, but I do. I was put on this earth to make sure he knows it.

I will shout my love from street corners.

I will defend, shouting, his right to walk down the street in peace, wearing whatever items of clothing he wants to wear.

I will show him, in whatever way I can, that I value the person he is, trust in his vision for himself, and support his choices---no matter what anybody else says, no matter who tries to stop him or how often.

Our family has a motto. The motto is this:

We are loving.

We are kind.

We are determined and persistent.

We are beautiful and brave.

We know who we are. Angry strangers will not change who we are. The world will not change who we are---we will change the world.

































Jen's Facebook post has been met with an outpouring of support since she posted her story.

It's been shared over 51,000 times, and the comments have been empowering and supportive overall. Sure, there will always be haters. And yes, tutus are frilly, sparkly garments often associated with girls and princesses, sugar and spice and everything nice. But is there a rule that says boys can't also love those things? Nope.

Jen's not alone in her open-minded approach to her kid's self-expression. Charlize Theron was recently criticized after her son was photographed dressed as Elsa from "Frozen," but she supported his choices just like Jen did.

Kudos to Jen (and other parents like her!) for encouraging this awesome display of self-expression. And kudos to her young son for not letting small-minded people get in the way of his desire to express himself!

More

Disney has come under fire for problematic portrayals of non-white and non-western cultures in many of its older movies. They aren't the only one, of course, but since their movies are an iconic part of most American kids' childhoods, Disney's messaging holds a lot of power.

Fortunately, that power can be used for good, and Disney can serve as an example to other companies if they learn from their mistakes, account for their misdeeds, and do the right thing going forward. Without getting too many hopes up, it appears that the entertainment giant may have actually done just that with the new Frozen II film.

According to NOW Toronto, the producers of Frozen II have entered into a contract with the Sámi people—the Indigenous people of the Scandinavian regions—to ensure that they portray the culture with respect.

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Though there was not a direct portrayal of the Sámi in the first Frozen movie, the choral chant that opens the film was inspired by an ancient Sámi vocal tradition. In addition, the clothing worn by Kristoff closely resembled what a Sámi reindeer herder would wear. The inclusion of these elements of Sámi culture with no context or acknowledgement sparked conversations about cultural appropriation and erasure on social media.

Frozen II features Indigenous culture much more directly, and even addressed the issue of Indigenous erasure. Filmmakers Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, along with producer Peter Del Vecho, consulted with experts on how to do that respectfully—the experts, of course, being the Sámi people themselves.

Sámi leaders met with Disney producer Peter Del Vecho in September 2019.Sámediggi Sametinget/Flickr

The Sámi parliaments of Norway, Sweden and Finland, and the non-governmental Saami Council reached out to the filmmakers when they found out their culture would be highlighted in the film. They formed a Sámi expert advisory group, called Verddet, to assist filmmakers in with how to accurately and respectfully portray Sámi culture, history, and society.

In a contract signed by Walt Disney Animation Studios and Sámi leaders, the Sámi stated their position that "their collective and individual culture, including aesthetic elements, music, language, stories, histories, and other traditional cultural expressions are property that belong to the Sámi," and "that to adequately respect the rights that the Sámi have to and in their culture, it is necessary to ensure sensitivity, allow for free, prior, and informed consent, and ensure that adequate benefit sharing is employed."

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Disney agreed to work with the advisory group, to produce a version of Frozen II in one Sámi language, as well as to "pursue cross-learning opportunities" and "arrange for contributions back to the Sámi society."

Anne Lájla Utsi, managing director at the International Sámi Film Institute, was part of the Verddet advisory group. She told NOW, "This is a good example of how a big, international company like Disney acknowledges the fact that we own our own culture and stories. It hasn't happened before."

"Disney's team really wanted to make it right," said Utsi. "They didn't want to make any mistakes or hurt anybody. We felt that they took it seriously. And the film shows that. We in Verddet are truly proud of this collaboration."

Sounds like you've done well this time, Disney. Let's hope such cultural sensitivity and collaboration continues, and that other filmmakers and production companies will follow suit.

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