Roo Shattuck is a 3-year-old boy who likes playing with trucks, putting together jigsaw puzzles and happens to enjoy wearing tutus.
Roo's choice of a sparkly tutu was apparently too much for a local man to bear when he recently accosted the boy and his mother, Jen Anderson Shattuck, 35, near their home in Plymouth, Massachusetts.
The man came up to them during a walk in the park and began speaking directly to Roo, saying, "You're a boy. She's a bad mommy. It's child abuse." He then took photos of the two of them.
Shattuck called the police to report the encounter, and then fired back at the stranger in a heartfelt Facebook post supporting her son.
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"I will not let angry strangers tell my son what he can or cannot wear,'' she wrote. "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."
The post has been shared more than 80,000 times and also spawned the hashtag #TutusForRoo, with men from all over the country sharing pictures of themselves in tutus, kilts and more in support of Roo.
"I think the support we've gotten from men around the hashtag shows that many of them see gender stereotypes as silly and harmful and are working to change the culture around them,'' Shattuck told TODAY.
Shattuck and and her wife, Audra, had to initially console Roo because he thought "the bad man" was going to come back for him after the encounter at the park. Now he has been strengthened by all the support from strangers.
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"Roo does know what's going on, but doesn't quite understand how many people the post has reached or touched,'' Shattuck said. "We told him after the incident that he was free to stop wearing dresses, tutus and skirts if he wanted to, but now he seems more determined than ever to dress in a way that feels right to him and to challenge the rules around what boys can wear."
Shattuck has also been gratified that her decision to speak out has helped other parents to overcome their own fears about letting their sons dress a certain way.
"I hope people feel empowered to support their children,'' Shattuck said. "I've gotten dozens of messages from people writing to say that they had been refusing to let their sons dress the way they wanted to because they — the parents — were afraid, but that, because of the post, they have now changed their minds. This is how we change the world - one family at a time."
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