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!

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.

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.

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

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 21:37:50

>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.

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.

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.

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

The OP is asking about her daughter!

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

OP, the gendering is pervasive. I have a SAHH and even then at three my DD was into pink and dolls. I think she got it from television.

On the other hand, whenever she saw "mummy and baby" stuff, she always renamed them "daddy and baby" because mummies work. My DS has grown up thinking that hoovering is man's work.

I have friends whose DS wore Barbie and Disney branded girls clothes for several years. He openly played with dolls - even had a doll-themed birthday party. To my knowledge, no-one batted an eyelid over it. My own DS also went through a pink phase, albeit they were all boys' clothes.

A wee bit proud though because my DD has just signed up for a car mechanics course in school while DS is lobbying to get into dance. smile.

In answer to the OP, it may be a phase for your DD. Keep making alternatives available.

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"?

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?

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

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.

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.

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 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.

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).

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).

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

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