When does the gendering start?

(41 Posts)
DancingLady Mon 09-Sep-13 11:35:31

OK, I know it starts at birth. I mean when do I stop having a choice in it? As a feminist, and a child of a non-feminist mum, I always knew I'd raise any DCs differently.

Feel like I'm fighting a losing battle against the people I know who say 'Oh girls just like pink, they all do, you can't help it.' As though it's a gender characteristic.

I have a 3-y-o DD, and all of a sudden (almost overnight after turning 3!) she's into pink, princesses, babies... She was always adamant that her fave colour was blue, she liked Lego, monsters etc.

I believe nurture is far more influential than nature in behaviour - girl children aren't born with a preference for pink and dolls. But me and DH never steered her in either direction.

We've raised her to just like what she likes. DH was aghast that she's into pink and princesses. We discussed this and are now in agreement that we don't want to shame her for liking what she likes.

Do you think that outside influences are a deciding factor on boy/girl stereotypes? My DD goes to nursery (friends with an equal number of boys and girls), but far more influential I think is her 6-y-o friend who lives nearby and we see most days. She is into pink, princesses etc etc. And now my DD is too.

So fine, she can be into whatever she's into. But what worries me is that she's talking about 'boy things' and 'girl things' eg, 'I don't like football, that's a boy thing', and 'I only like girl colours' (being light colours, esp pink and yellow).

Sorry for the long and disjointed post. I'm trying to sort out my feelings about this - and wondering if I'm overreacting too!

grimbletart Mon 09-Sep-13 11:49:31

Pinkification is very recent. It did not exist when I was a child, nor when my children were children. It is true that there was a tradition of pink for a girl baby and blue for a boy baby (as opposed to the opposite in Victorian times when it was blue for a girl and pink for a boy) but in general pink then simply took its place as just one colour among many.

Likewise, as a child in the 50s I and my friends played cricket, football in the park, had dinky toys, built dens, climbed trees etc.

It seems that as women have exploited all their new opportunities in adulthood the trend for girl children has been to try and put them back in their box.

But where, apart from cynical marketing, this backlash comes from really puzzles me. I would like to know what younger MN posters think as, to an oldie like me, we seem to be going backwards in many respects.

DancingLady Mon 09-Sep-13 11:55:39

I agree we're going backwards. I was a child in the 70s and looking at photos I never wore pink! Girls were dressed in bright colours (my mum would never have dressed me in black for example), same as boys were.

My mum wasn't a feminist and I was encouraged to be a little lady (that failed!) but there wasn't the princess obsession we have now, tho I did have dolls.

showtunesgirl Mon 09-Sep-13 12:02:19

I have a slight problem that my DH doesn't think that pinkification is all the prevalent but he did get my point when we went shopping yesterday to buy pyjamas for DD.

The girls' ones were all purple and pink and said things like: Pretty in Pink and My Carriage Awaits. <boak>

I promptly marched to the boys' section and bought her monster and dinosaur ones which were so much more fun. DD who is 21 months did her best monster roar in appreciation. grin

I have no idea. I am really fighting against the "girls' things" and "boys' things". I try and explain marketing but it is difficult to express it in terms a 3 year old will understand.

We avoid children's TV, and have extremely limited viewing. There is definitely no pinkification in the stuff we watch, and I avoid shops where the pinkness is extreme, but still it happens, and I have no idea where the influence comes from.

We had a huge discussion on boy bikes/girl bikes. I explained there were bikes that companies tried to sell to girls, but that bikes are just bikes. I actually took her to the bike shop so she could see for herself - the bike she wants is gender neutral, though possibly aimed more at boys because it is space/rocket themed.

nomorecrumbs Mon 09-Sep-13 12:05:11

I was a child in the 80s and quite happy in dungarees, similar tops to my brother, shorts etc.

We played so happily together with Lego and ball games and I would have hated to have been restricted to the pink plastic crap which is marketed towards girls now. Looking back at the Argos catalogue www.flickr.com/photos/38301877@N05/sets/72157619206330728/ from 1985 which was practically my Bible at the time, I don't see as much pink there as I do now - just Barbie and Care Bears. Not ALL toys for girls were pink. It's a bit crap that all the active, sport-orientated toys still have boys posing with them though.

In my more woo musings I do wonder if someone's putting the advertising agencies up to encouraging more 'feminine' girly advertising to encourage these girls to grow up with less ambition and less desire to be career-minded and more SAHM to raise the birth rate (to try and abate the pension crisis etc)...well my History teacher always said we'd start to see this kind of propaganda start in this decade so who knows.

DancingLady Mon 09-Sep-13 12:05:37

showtunes that's brilliant! Yes I usually buy DD stuff from the boys department as I hate all the slogan stuff for girls.

The only princess I want to read about is The Paper Bag Princess - do you know it? Feminist classic for small children. It's ace.

showtunesgirl Mon 09-Sep-13 12:09:01

I was disappointed though, they didn't have the comic strip Pow! Zap! ones in her size. They were soooooooooo cool!

Oh, these are in Sainbury's BTW.

It's funny how people get in a tizz about things though. I have been accused of dressing DD as a boy, like when she is in her Gruffalo coat. Er, the Gruffalo's Child is a girl!

kim147 Mon 09-Sep-13 12:14:29

I had an interesting chat with a gender psychiatrist grin about what "female clothes" were.

When does jeans and a t-shirt became male or female?

DancingLady Mon 09-Sep-13 13:13:53

world we do watch CBeebies, and I'm sure that contributes - some of it is pretty sexist and I do avoid the twee, super-girly programmes. Sarah and Duck is good though!

Children's books are guilty of gendering, esp ones with animal characters I find. All the animals will be male, unless they have uber-feminine characteristics like giant lashes, bow in hair etc... I'll often just switch 'he' to 'she' in these books. It seems petty but I don't want DD growing up seeing females as 'other'. That boys/men are the default and that girls/women are the other.

nomore Not sure I there's a specific 'someone' controlling the ad agencies, but I do see what you mean. I think it's part of a bigger backlash against feminism, but I don't know who benefits.

FloraFox Mon 09-Sep-13 18:39:33

I think this is driven by companies wanting to sell more products - it's harder to hand things down from boys to girls and vice versa if products are gendered. Everything from clothes to toys to furniture needs to be replaced if baby number two is the other sex.

ErrolTheDragon Mon 09-Sep-13 18:59:58

OP - and others - have you seen the Let Toys be Toys campaign? Started by a group of MNers before last Christmas, pissed off by the genderisation of toys. There's a petition you might like to sign.

I suspect you're right that outside influences are - well, influencing your DD. As she gets older she will develop her own character and find her own preferences. My DD liked pink and fairy costumes well enough at 3 ... by 6 she'd turned against them (not that girls necessarily should if that's what they still really like).

FreyaSnow Mon 09-Sep-13 19:02:28

My DD is, I suppose, of the pink generation. She is now a teenager and hates pink. She doesn't hate it from some kind of social perspective of what it may or may not represent. She simply cannot stand the colour because she was surrounded by it and given things that were constantly pink for a whole decade of her life; she is sick of looking at it. I suspect a lot of girls of her generation will not want pinkification for their own daughters.

DancingLady Mon 09-Sep-13 19:44:44

Errol I hadn't seen that, thanks for the link. I know the Pink Stinks campaign and support their message.

Freya it's interesting you say that - my Dneices (now 12) were dressed in head-to-toe pink from birth till they were about 8 or 9... both now hate it, one is tomboy/gamer, other is into vintage and more trendy stuff smile So I know that they do rebel eventually, or if not rebel then at least find their own likes and dislikes.

NiceTabard Mon 09-Sep-13 20:59:06

Ooh for books rosie's hat is lovely smile

I think around 3 they get a lot at nursery from the other children - peer pressure and exposure to lots of other adults many of whom do gender stereotyping without even realising it (it's so entrenched it's hard not to slip sometimes even when you are super aware of it).

I think you need to be careful as while the whole pink princess thing is grim, the last thing you want to do with a girl is give her the impression that "girl's stuff" is shite. Because that's just as bad/ worse. It's a bit of a catch 22 really.

The saddest thing for me was at the end of term last school year DD (then 5) said that she wanted to be a boy. When I asked why she said it was because she like boys things better than girls things so she wanted to be a boy. Also that someone at school had said she was a tomboy. I explained (obviously!) that girls and boys can both do whatever they please and that being a girl is great etc. BUT how can I compete against what is just all over society / the playground every day.

She also asked DH why boys have willies (!) and said that she thought it would be better if everybody had the same. I can understand her logic.

Overall she is happy and cheerful and so on BUT it just makes me sad that she is picking up on this stuff and obviously thinking about it and coming to god only knows what conclusions. (She is the sort of child who does think very carefully about everything).

All in all I'm sure it will be fine but these things just make me feel sad for a while and I wish that we were further along this whole feminist path, so that children could just be and get on with it and not have all this gender nonsense rammed down their throats.

learnasyougo Mon 09-Sep-13 21:38:14

I was just like your DD. I picked up on the message that girls are valued less than boys. I knew I could run as fast, climb as well, be as brave as any boy. I was better than any stupid, wimpish geerrrl!
My mum was concerned at my outright rejection of my gender (I was always pleased to be mistaken for a boy and I didn't have to wear skirts our dresses to school and my name is not obviously girly).
Mum started to tell me about all the ways girls are better than boys -speak sooner, potty train earlier, are better at cooperative games, concentrate for longer etc. that eventually I came around to the idea that I could be proud to be a girl. I was about 9 before I was able to make friends with girls, thanks to my,mum's intervention.

Primrose123 Mon 09-Sep-13 21:59:36

Nomorecrumbs Thank you for linking to the 1985 Argos catalogue. I've had a great time looking at the 'technology' and prices from my teenage years!

NiceTabard Mon 09-Sep-13 22:46:08

learnasyougo I am pleased that your mum was able to soften your ideas when you were little.

I suppose the thing for me, with that, is that I would feel really uncomfortable saying "girls are better than boys at X" or even with a qualifier "girls are usually better than boys at X" as it goes against the whole idea that the sexes are equal. But then if girl children are getting it from all sources that boys are better, then maybe it's OK to counteract that with girls are better, at some stuff. But what? Without buying into gender stereotypes? And how will that progress the situation - it won't. But then again it's my DD not a project. <sigh> I don't know. I don't think I could say that though - girls are better than boys at whatever it might be. it feels wrong to say that, to me.

OddBoots Mon 09-Sep-13 22:50:39

My mum used to dress my brother and me up in matching outfits - there wasn't any pink in sight.

BitBewildered Tue 10-Sep-13 12:28:00

Rosie's Hat is a good book, and I'm very fond of Zog for similar reasons. I like the apps by Toca Boca too, and Okido magazine.

I have a DD (4) and a DS (2.5), so don't want to tell either that they are better than the other. I have noticed other family members telling DD how pretty and good she is and telling DS how cheeky or naughty he looks hmm. He's been told he's a big jessie for wanting a cuddle while DD gets asked for a cuddle. I try, subtly, to reinforce and praise for things like kindness, remembering things, being funny or learning a new skill. On the other hand, I don't want DD to be the only kid in her class who doesn't know about poxy disney princesses, because I don't want her to feel left out. I feel less anxious about DS liking tractors.

grimbletart Tue 10-Sep-13 12:36:14

Two emotions when I read some of the posts above.

1) I am so thankful that I am not a child today or have a child in this era and come from an time when kids were, well, just kids.

2) Enormously sad that parents now have this pink shit and boys are better/girls are better shit to deal with sad

Remain utterly baffled at what has happened over the last 10/15 ??? years.

ErrolTheDragon Tue 10-Sep-13 12:37:34

NiceTabard - I think you're right to avoid the 'girls are better than boys at...' - because it reinforces the idea of gendered roles. Better to go along the lines of 'a girl can do anything she wants'. If you can think of examples so much the better - of individuals who've done x, y or z.

Football? well, I heard the british women's team did very well in the Olympics

Girls can't run/jump/throw/ ... Jessica Ennis

etc etc. Scientists, explorers, all sorts.

learnasyougo Tue 10-Sep-13 12:43:17

instead of trying to raise one gender above the other (dodgy ground, I agree) I think talking about great women in science, politics etc is a good start.

iirc, in 'child of our time' the only black child that showed no or less bias against black faces (as in did not choose the card of a white kid as a preferred playmate over a black one) was a child whose mother really worked hard to teach her son about great historical black figures, Martin Luther king, Malcolm x, Rosa parks, to give him a sense of pride. Even taking him to visit these places at age 6.

you can promote one gender without denigrating the other.

devilinside Tue 10-Sep-13 13:37:24

there was less pressure to dress in pink and play with gendered toys in the 70s/80s, but I still got the message boys were better than girls. In primary school only boys were allowed to carry chairs (we were too delicate), Boys would regularly use the term 'girl or 'woman' as a term of abuse. In fact until I was 20 or so, I assumed that a 'woman' was something negative.

Hopefully, things have moved on, but I can't help thinking gendered clothing/toys keeps girls in a box, where they can be viewed negatively by the world. They are damned if they do and damned if they don't (certainly the case for my 8 year old DD).

LurcioLovesFrankie Tue 10-Sep-13 13:46:45

DS (5) has been through a phase of this - and it limits their options so much (for instance he loves dancing round the house, and I think is naturally good at it, but won't countenance dance lessons).

Google can be your friend.

When DS says things like "Girls can't run countries", a quick google throws up lots of female prime ministers. "Girls can't be generals" - ditto.

Would the same help? "Girls can't play football" - youtube clips of Rachel Yankee.

Book choices - The worst princess - it's brilliant.

DS is showing signs of mellowing a bit - has decided his favourite colour is green (went from pink in the blissful pre-peer-pressure days to blue overnight) and has started to say things like "It's not fair to say girls can't play with X,Y,Z just because they're girls". (Yes, of course he's mimicking me - but instilling the values you think are right is part of being a parent. And if they have any gumption, come adolescence they'll rebel, then as an adult they'll re-assess and decide to keep the ones they think there are good arguments for and reject the others - so I'd better make sure I keep honing my arguments on the FWR boards grin).

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