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!

ErrolTheDragon Tue 10-Sep-13 14:02:04

I'm not sure about the gendered toys being a new thing though - I'm 52 and while I did play with lego/scalectrix etc they were my brothers' - I was given dolls. Guess who got the chemistry set and who got the sewing kit? Who had the arty stuff and who had the soldering iron?

Conversely, my DD has everything.

ChunkyPickle Tue 10-Sep-13 14:29:59

There were gendered toys (I too got dolls from relatives - parents knew I'd prefer something more practical), but not everything was gendered (80s/90s for me).

My brother and I shared plenty of clothes - where as now even if they're not pink or purple, even a basic t-shirt will have frills or lace or pleats if it's for a girl, toys like building blocks and push-alongs were just in bright colours rather than a pink one for girls and a bright one for boys etc.

ErrolTheDragon Tue 10-Sep-13 17:55:30

Much of the 'boy' stuff (even clothes, below a certain age) can be treated as ungendered. While this is somewhat objectionable in the 'male is the norm, female is the other/inferior' sense, really the only solution often is to buy it (unless you like the 'pink' version). Its one of the reasons for wanting rid of the labels in shops.

MooncupGoddess Tue 10-Sep-13 18:01:05

I just wanted to add that gendering actually begins before birth - there are masses of old wives' tales linking the putative sex of the foetus with its behaviour in utero and the mother's symptoms during pregnancy.

Not to mention the vast amounts of projecting by future parents and their friends and families about how the baby will turn out ('oh you're having a girl, how lovely, you can go shopping together' etc).

Grrr.

HavantGuard Tue 10-Sep-13 18:10:09

I would try to accept her preference but correct the comments that are wrong. So, "yes DD, you can have pink shoes, but red is not a 'boy's colour' because colours belong to everyone." I agree Google is great for this. Tonnes of pictures of women wearing blue and men in pink (vetting the ones with the falling off clothes) info on women footballers etc

HavantGuard Tue 10-Sep-13 18:15:46

At her age older role models are a big deal too. Does she have any teenage girl cousins who like football or dress alternatively? Could you take her to watch women playing sport?

TeiTetua Tue 10-Sep-13 19:05:38

But would it ever be "yes DS, you can have pink shoes, and let's not worry about what a 'boy's colour' is because colours belong to everyone"?

WhentheRed Tue 10-Sep-13 19:20:28

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

HavantGuard Tue 10-Sep-13 21:03:42

The OP is asking about her daughter!

DancingLady Tue 10-Sep-13 21:29:14

She does have 12-yr-old girl cousins who are into computers and music and sci fi, yes.

I try to use examples of people we know when we're chatting & she says something like "that's girl hair, girls have long hair". I'll reply that auntie x is a girl and she has short hair, and your friend x from nursery is a boy and has long hair. That gives her pause.

I try to talk about my/her/female bodies in general in terms of their strength, what they can do etc... Praise her dancing, jumping, running etc. never denigrate myself in front of her, call myself fat, or mention weight.

Feels like a big task, in the face of outside influences, to raise a strong, confident girl who loves her body and is happy liking what she likes.

DancingLady Tue 10-Sep-13 21:34:51

Meant to add - very interesting reading others' experiences, and thank you for the book recommendations!

Recently discovered amightygirl.com - full of book, film recommendations and general kick-ass girl role models. Dd might be a bit young for it but think I'll still have a browse with her and see if it sparks an interesting chat.

ErrolTheDragon Tue 10-Sep-13 21:37:50

>But would it ever be "yes DS, you can have pink shoes, and let's not worry about what a 'boy's colour' is because colours belong to everyone"?

WhenTheRed has answered that... why not? But to be sure, its even harder for boys to go against the stereotypes because 'girls' stuff is seen as inferior or people may look askance in case they're being 'turned gay' hmm FGS its the 21st century. Good on Red and her friend! And as has been noted, pink used to be the boys colour. Its just a stupid convention and way of non-verbal labelling now.

I get so frustrated by all this. I have a 4yo DD who loves dinosaurs, Octonauts, Spiderman and pirates. I also have a 20mo DS (tbh he just likes whatever his sister does atm, it's full-on hero worship!).

But we have lots of relatives who insist on buying DD pink, princessy stuff and DS more "boyish" stuff. When the children are romping around my mum says nothing about DD but insists that DS "is such a typical boy". hmm

DD has just started school so I'm expecting to encounter peer pressure at some point. It makes me so sad that she will, inevitably, be told that her favourite things are the wrong ones. sad

ErrolTheDragon Tue 10-Sep-13 21:46:39

>Feels like a big task, in the face of outside influences, to raise a strong, confident girl who loves her body and is happy liking what she likes

Oh, it can be done. You're the biggest influence, especially while she's relatively young. You sound like a strong confident woman even though you had a non-feminist mum! smile

ErrolTheDragon Tue 10-Sep-13 22:16:19

Joyful - she'll probably be absolutely fine. My DD also liked pirates... so when there was a 'pirates and princesses' party, she solved the problem by going as a pirate princess. When she was given 'jewellery' it was happily accepted and added to her treasure chest.grin Its probably just as well to have a drawer full of barbies available but visiting friends may well prefer her alternatives. DD had a very 'girlie' friend who thoroughly enjoyed bug hunting or making model aircraft when she came here.

Spiritedwolf Wed 11-Sep-13 11:41:34

I think we have to be clear that being anti-everything-being-pink is not for the reason that conventionally raised boys/men are anti-pink i.e. because it is associated with little girls and that 'being a girl' is a terrible thing.

I have a little one year old DS. When I bought balls for his ball pit, I got one bag of reds,blues,greens and one of pinks etc and mixed them together. The more colours the better I reckon. I intend to eventually do the same with duplo etc. When I buy clothes for him I tend to buy bright colours, animals etc which could be used just as well for a future little sister, but I guess I have to be careful of falling into the neutral/default equalling male.

I'd welcome any other suggestions on raising a boy without limiting him to traditional gender roles and making sure he doesn't limit girls to them either.

He is of course given cuddles, especially when upset and we do not minimise his feelings. I do have both gender typical and gender untypical hobbies and interests, but am a SAHM, DH has more typically male hobbies and works but is supportive - he doesn't have a problem with DS wearing pink or being cuddly or upset etc.

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