To be surprised that foetal gender stereotyping is a thing?

(132 Posts)
MrsPickwick Tue 24-May-16 16:13:42

Or maybe I’m just naive. DH and I are expecting a baby boy in September. When we found out he was a boy, we thought a plus was that we wouldn’t have to be constantly combating all the lazy sexism we that is directed at girls from every angle. With boys, the stereotyping is still very much there of course, but we somehow thought of it as more benign and easier to bat away.

But it’s already starting to grate on us, and our baby hasn’t even seen the outside of my uterus yet. Example: my mother asked about his movements and I commented that he’s more active after I’ve eaten, to which she replied ‘he’s a typical boy – loves his food’. (So I suppose a female foetus would naturally demur from exhibiting biological responses to the stimulus of calories being transferred to her through her umbilical cord hmm). There have also been comments about how he 'can't wait to get on the football pitch' and so on, though maybe she’d say that about a girl too (though I doubt it). The in-laws are equally guilty of comments like this – boys are like this, girls are like that etc (I keep having to remind myself that they’re talking about foetuses and newborns).

Similarly, a friend of mine who has been having trouble breastfeeding her newborn was told by her health visitor that the reason she’s struggling is because her baby is a boy and therefore ‘lazy’. I’ve heard of cases where reduced foetal movement has been put down to the foetus being a ‘lazy boy’ too.

AIBU to find it irritating? I know the comments on their own are silly and harmless, but there’s a drip-drip effect going on. Already certain expectations of him are shifting into position.

WIBU to just direct my mother and in laws to Delusions of Gender and related material, or would that seem uppity / precious / hectoring? Both DH and I have called out these attitudes before, many times, but it never seems to get through.

Also, please share any examples of similar, it would help to know it’s not just us smile

WorraLiberty Tue 24-May-16 16:16:42

Just roll your eyes and change the subject.

It'll feel like the world's longest pregnancy otherwise.

curren Tue 24-May-16 16:20:01

With boys, the stereotyping is still very much there of course, but we somehow thought of it as more benign and easier to bat away.

Actually you are wrong here. I have a girl (12) and a boy (5). Stereo typing is just as damaging for boys as girls and not easy to bat away. And in some sections of society it's more acceptable and not challenged.

Personally I can't get my knickers in a twist about baby boys being describe as lazy or greedy. Probably because both of mine for the stereo types.

Personally I pick my battles. Everyone is stereotyped. Due to gender, age, weight, hair colour...pretty much everything.

Something are worth challenging. Such as my mil who doesn't believe my Dd should be a kick boxer but thinks it's ok for ds to do.

Somethings just need a 'yeah ok' and move on. Or you could spend you life challenging everyone.

Theydontknowweknowtheyknow Tue 24-May-16 16:23:24

Wait till he's born! If he so much as touches a remote control it'll be "ooh look at that. He's working out how it all works. He's gonna be an engineer!"

Pinkheart5915 Tue 24-May-16 16:25:16

It is irritating but it happens what ever gender baby you have.

I had a my first baby last year little ds ( now 8 months) and I got a lot and still get a lot of football comments etc but I don't care because my DS will decide his on hobbies when his old enough and he'll be allowed to wear whatever he likes regardless of colour and play with whatever toys he wants.

Last week DS i dressed in a pink pinstripe shirt and black trousers very similar to what DH was wearing to when we went out for a pizza with friends and one of them in the restaurant actually asked why my son was in pink shock

I am pregnant again at the moment with a DD and already people make remarks on things they assume happen because it's a girl. I don't have a very big bump this time and even that is because girls don't want to be get big/fat even in the womb apparently hmm

HelloWadeKinsella Tue 24-May-16 16:26:42

'WIBU to just direct my mother and in laws to Delusions of Gender and related material' shock

Yes, you would be unreasonable! They are just making harmless comments and I assume, trying to be nice and show an interest! People say things like this - when I was pregnant with DD my mum said she was going to be a little goalie as she was always kicking really hard.

I feel a bit sorry for them to be honest, it all sounds like normal chit chat from interested family members. Why don't you wait and see how they are once the baby is actually born before you get upset?

If it irritates you, just don't engage and I'm sure they'll back off. But honestly, you need to relax a bit otherwise you're going to be in for a long ride.

Buckinbronco Tue 24-May-16 16:29:54

I wonder if there is something in the lazy male foetus tbf? I was told during my labour (pregnancy with reduced movements) it was bound to be a boy because it was being difficult (was a girl) and DSis was told the same (was boy) obstetricians & midwives do see a hell of a lot of births after all

DontAskIDontKnow Tue 24-May-16 16:29:54

And yet, so many people (including supposed scientists and psychologists) swear that all the gender stereotype behaviours are due to a person's sex and have nothing to do with the constant barrage of this nonsense that everyone is subject to from the moment they exist.
/rant over.

StinkyMcgrinky Tue 24-May-16 16:31:32

I was told boys are lazier breastfeeders by the HV and a BF counsellor too. I'm not sure whether that is a gender stereotype or is actually one of those things that tends to be true hmm

DS1 is currently 15 months and only this weekend did my BiL gasp in horror when he started pushing around a pink pram that was at their house for a cousin. Especially when he picked up the doll to go inside it and carried on grin A few weeks ago I was trying to find a waterproof sheet type thing to put down on the floor during arts and craft and in mother care they had a normal stripy one for £6 but a pink and flowery one for £3, obviously I bought the pink and flowery one. MiL nearly had a fit when we got it out "oh stinkysDS you don't want that! Where are your dinosaurs?!"

I just roll my eyes and ignore it.

DontAskIDontKnow Tue 24-May-16 16:32:16

/new rant
It isn't harmless; it limits choices, behaviour and eventually ability.
/end of new rant

RaeSkywalker Tue 24-May-16 16:32:37

This is why I'm not finding out the sex, it gives me a few more months where DH and I don't have to deal with this stuff. I still get comments like "your DH must be desperate for a boy to play Lego with!" Unfortunately I think it's just part of life, people are trying to show an interest (even though the way they're showing it isn't great), and the important thing is how you respond (especially once your DS has arrived). I just say things like "well girls can play with Lego too", not in a confrontational way, just as part of the chat.

RiverTam Tue 24-May-16 16:33:47

It's not harmless. We know it's not. Gender stereotypes are outdated, negative and damaging. I would just calmly and quietly challenge it. They'll soon shut up about it!

GreenTomatoJam Tue 24-May-16 16:38:19

How can it be both a boy if it's lazy, and a boy if it's kicking and active though - it makes no sense at all.

I try challenging it with my mother who has 6 grand children, both boys and girls, and you could not pick which was which from a list of their characters and interests, and she's a teacher, yet still she trots out gender stereotypes about them. I point out counter examples among her own children and grandchildren, and she just doesn't hear them and carries on.

Why people can't just let kids be and have to shove them in pointless boxes I have no idea.

Luckily, I can't say that I've had any harsh judgements of mine (DS2 is going through a pink phase right now) - I must live in an accepting area where the most I've seen is a raised eyebrow and a bit of misgendering (since he's foggy on the difference between girls and boys he generally returns the favour on that one - randomly choosing if someone is a she/he/good boy/good girl)

Theydontknowweknowtheyknow Tue 24-May-16 16:39:06

"I don't care because my DS will decide his on hobbies when his old enough and he'll be allowed to wear whatever he likes regardless of colour and play with whatever toys he wants. "

I really do that's admirable but the problem is by the time he reaches that age he'll have internalised all the messages about which hobbies / colours are suitable for him.

MrsPickwick Tue 24-May-16 16:50:36

Yes curren that's what I'm now coming to realise.

Hello I'm not upset, just surprised and irritated. And I agree with DontAsk and River, on their own the comments seem harmless but taken together they're not - children pick up on these expectations and attitudes very quickly. To me, comments like this represent the thin end of a nasty little wedge, but I do get that to many other people it's just meaningless chit-chat.

General consensus so far seem to be to roll my eyes and move on, rather than whipping out the gender theory textbooks and turning to Chapter 5. My eyes are really being opened to just how much gender stereotypes seem to matter to people though.

Pinkheart - the comment on girls not wanting to get fat in the womb, just yuck shock

LurcioAgain Tue 24-May-16 16:54:51

Oh god, it's a nightmare and so dangerous. I've seen people dismissing language delay (no words at 2 years) by saying "but he's a boy, they're later talking" - the differences are negligible, and 2 years is so far into the tail of the distribution for either sex that you absolutely need to get it checked as a matter of urgency regardless of whether the child is a girl or a boy.

I've had teachers say (of DS's reluctant reading) "Oh just wait till he gets on to non fiction books" - I replied that he loved fiction, that he'd spent all Christmas holiday dictating his fictional stories to me and then illustrating them (yes, a boy who loves drawing...) - only to have the teacher act as though I hadn't actually spoken at all because, y'know, received wisdom, boys don't like imaginary stories, they only like facts.

MrsPickwick Tue 24-May-16 16:55:13

I really do that's admirable but the problem is by the time he reaches that age he'll have internalised all the messages about which hobbies / colours are suitable for him.

Precisely.

Why people can't just let kids be and have to shove them in pointless boxes I have no idea.

That's my question, really. Why do people have this need to do this, even when it's contradictory? Who benefits? What's the motivation?

dailymaillazyjournos Tue 24-May-16 16:59:15

YANBU. we have a LONG way to go. In some ways I think there's even more of this nonsense around then ever. I've heard a foetus referred to as a 'diva' ffs! The mum was feeling some kicks, apparently. If this baby had been a boy, no doubt he would have been a footballer in the making. And YY, once your DS is born you can be prepared for a barrage of ridiculous comments. I think if you had to challenge them all, you'd have your work cut out.

OohMavis Tue 24-May-16 17:00:00

You will be surprised by just how awful the stereotyping is for boys. It's not talked about much, or challenged much, because y'know they're just boys and they don't care much about anything, really, apart from football and breaking stuff and farting.

It gets irritating very quickly. In my experience it's far more socially acceptable to bat away stereotypes and assumptions about my daughter than it is for my son.

curren Tue 24-May-16 17:01:42

on their own the comments seem harmless but taken together they're not - children pick up on these expectations and attitudes very quickly.

Yes they do. But they all so understand its bullshit pretty quickly too. You seem like the sort of parent who will help their child see its bullshit.

Dd had a Ben 10 lunch box and was told by boys in her class she shouldn't have it, because it's for boys. I explained to Dd that, that's total rubbish. Some people think like that and they are wrong. I spoke to the school who in turn spoke to the whole class. They got where I was coming from.

Me and dh have brought the kids up to know the gender stereotypes are bullshit. Ds doesn't care that other boys don't kiss their mum when they go into school. He wants to kiss me and so does. He has told me boys have said that boys shouldn't do that, but he also told us he doesn't care.

My mums attitude to gender has changed by seeing me with my kids and dbro with his.

Parents are a huge influence on kids. I simply taught mine that gender stereotypes exist. But they don't have to stick by them. Mine and dhs relationship isn't stereotypical either. He does all the cooking and I am currently Fitting the new kitchen. We didn't plan it that way, but both work to our strengths.

My advice is to live your life. Be the influence. Show kids that gender doesn't come into it. Teach them that people will make assumptions, but that doesn't obligate them to anything.

notoTTIP Tue 24-May-16 17:47:33

I think avoiding gender stereotypes is harder now than it used to be, 20 years ago I bought a gender neutral ball for my daughter, it was green with geometric shapes on it. I went to ASDA to buy a ball for my Step grandson recently and the only choice was between a spiderman themed ball or a princess themed ball, i could'nt bring myself to buy either of them. so I bought a book instead and that was a fest of gender stereotyping as well. Clearly nearly all the books were aimed either boys or girls. I seem to remember that books were aimed at boys and girlstogether in my daughters time.

RiverTam Tue 24-May-16 18:19:17

Absolutely, and for some reason loads of grandparents, who wouldn't have had all this gendered shit around for their own DC, have bought into it lock, stock and barrel. Odd.

VestalVirgin Tue 24-May-16 18:30:05

I wouldn't tell anyone about the child's sex until birth ... and quite probably then keep it a secret until kindergarten.
Read an article once about parents doing that and I think it's a great idea. No one can really tell what sex a baby is, anyway. It shouldn't matter to random strangers, or to anyone who doesn't change the diapers.

WIBU to just direct my mother and in laws to Delusions of Gender and related material, or would that seem uppity / precious / hectoring? Both DH and I have called out these attitudes before, many times, but it never seems to get through.

I say, do it. Yes, they won't like it, I think that's guaranteed - but you don't like their stereotyping either, and they are inevitably going to do it once the child is there, and it will have an impact.

GreenTomatoJam Tue 24-May-16 19:49:48

Yes they do pick up quickly - my DS1 is quite narcissistic (literally - he can look at himself for ages in the mirror, posing - the child is 'Cat' from Red Dwarf made real) - but it has got through even his disinterested shell, and I've had a couple of conversations about whether he's allowed to like purple things or have sparkly trainers (of course, it's Daddy's favourite colour, and pick whichever ones you like)

I think that as long as you have secure (or possibly just stubborn) children, who know that you have their back, and you yourself are blazé about their choices (which can be tough - as you worry if you're pushing them into the Elsa football, or if they really want it, or if it's you now gender stereotyping them yourself), then actually it can all turn out OK - you are their primary source, who they trust the most.

anyname123 Tue 24-May-16 20:27:01

What do you plan on doing, policing every comment made to your son in order that he doesn't get stereotyped post birth? I think you are possibly setting yourself up for a lifetime of anguish worrying how throwaway comments will have a major impact on his lifelong well being and happiness, maybe this energy would be better focused elsewhere?

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now