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sexism, gender stereotypes and adoption

(21 Posts)
trafficjam Sat 03-Jan-15 10:28:35

A part of the adoption approval process is obviously exploring adopters values and attitudes - and as part of that we discussed how we would encourage our child regardless of gender stereotypes and sexuality. Likewise, we demonstrated how we would ensure our child's cultural heritage was celebrated.
However, I feel that there is a fairly large double standard at play from our local authority. We had 2 profiles shown to us - one of each gender - and several others shown through the process to familiarise us with the type of information we might receive. These were always coded in very gender specific styles. For example, of the 2 profiles we received, the girl was described as wanting to be someone's little princess whereas our boy was described as wanting to be a little soldier. Both children were of the same age and had near identical backgrounds.
My son's sw also recently expressed surprise at seeing him in a sort of reddy/pink sleep gro thing. Not in a negative way, just in a , "oooh, he is in a pink sleepgro" comment - she has never once before commented on an outfit.

Is this something unique to my LA? Did others have "little soldiers" or "little princesses" described to them when actually a stable, drug free, violence free, supportive, nurturing family was more what my little man might have asked for...if he could have talked!

odyssey2001 Sat 03-Jan-15 11:21:51

Our LA avoided these trappings with the profiles we saw. I find this jarring and these the outdated notions of gender stereotypes are not the reality of children. Our son enjoys wearing his homemade Elsa tiara and dressed up in a fabulous frilly dress yesterday. Gender stereotypes are a social construct and not how children see the world. Happiness, security, a sense of self worth and self-generated identity are far more important than pink and blue. IMHO.

Italiangreyhound Sat 03-Jan-15 11:26:47

Ours did not have little soldiers or princesses, it sounds very silly and frankly a bit manipulative of potential adoptive parents, tugging on the hearts strings!

trafficjam Sat 03-Jan-15 11:37:31

Italian, that's exactly how I felt - like after all the realities of the training, research etc and then they make some cutesy comment to try and appeal to us. Just quite unnecessary.

blossom101001 Sat 03-Jan-15 12:20:58

I think those messages are awful. I agree with Italian it is manipulative. I think it would have turned me off as well.

Our LA do not do it. In fact, when we had our last review we were praised for letting our youngest (boy) 4 play with Barbies and explore 'girls' toys. He would rather read princess and fairy books. So we let him.

When they first came to live with us, his brother would snatch things away and say that is a girls toy, you are a boy, you can only play with boys' toys! We would then buy the toy for the youngest saying he can play with what interests him. Now the oldest accepts it and will sometimes play with the toys too but not always.

The youngest desperately wants a snow white costume. I have been unsure about it as I don't want him to be teased by others. After reading your post Odyssey I think we will get him the costume he really wants.

OccamsLadyshave Sat 03-Jan-15 15:49:25

I am a foster carer rather than an adopter but i experienced this at panel. I am a lp with one dd (then 12).

One of my panel questions was "How would I manage to look after a boy when I would only have girl's toys and books in the house"

I kept it polite but i did think it was an odd and old fashioned question. I replied that i would treat all children as individuals and offer a full range of activities to all children. The panel loved that answer. It's like they'd never thought of that before!

so far i have only fostered a girl, but she is football mad and also loves climbing trees. I was told before she came that she loved pink and princesses. Maybe when she was 5 but it's definitely not true now. I think it is just lazy social workers not taking time to get to know the children.

andnowforsomethingcompletely Sat 03-Jan-15 16:35:24

I didn't experience much in the way of gender stereotyping throughout the adoption process. Maybe because I explained quite early on that DSis is transsexual .. and therefore I am quite sensitive to these kind of things. I know how much DSis suffered from being treated 'as a boy', and that's despite our parents being very open-minded and gender-neutral about most things. So perhaps our SWs and panel were just treading particularly carefully with me? Or perhaps I was simply with a relatively enlightened agency.

I did encounter stereotyping from friends and acquaintances. The 'oh will you be choosing a boy so you can re-use your boy things, or will you be choosing a girl so you have one of each?' type of thing.

Over all I have found adoption people to be more aware and critical of gender stereotyping and associated problems, than everyday life people. In prep course we were asked to arrange various kinds of behaviour towards children according to how permissible/how abusive they were. The SWs put 'making a boy join a football club against his wishes/not allowing a girl to play football' very high up on the abuse scale - right up there with physical violence and serious neglect. Even despite my background I found that a bit OTT. Whereas DS who is school age is being unsettled daily by comments (from his peers) about pink, Frozen, etc. being 'silly and just for girls'. And we have been inundated with pink stuff for DD.

I think on the whole it depends on the individual people you have to deal with.

Jameme Sat 03-Jan-15 19:56:52

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Devora Sun 04-Jan-15 00:16:10

I wrote this on another thread recently, but one of the documents we received on our dd (is it a PAR? I can never remember) described her being dressed in 'gender appropriate clothing'. She was 6 months old. I have tried and tried to think of any circumstance in which 'appropriate clothing' wouldn't have covered all bases, but failed.

As lesbian adopters, we got the usual gentle probing about how we would not turn our children into gender-dysphoric misandrists.

Iliketheflowers Mon 05-Jan-15 23:26:11

I'm a foster carer and frequently buy clothes for our female foster child from the boys' section, as the clothes are often more practical and I prefer some of the darker colours. Just yesterday I bought a three pack of long sleeved T-shirts in navy blue, grey and turquoise. She'll look great in them. IIRC she was wearing boys denim dungarees last time the SW visited... it probably says in her paperwork now that she wears "gender inappropriate clothing"!!

On a related theme has anyone noticed how common it is now for stereotyped wording to be emblazoned across clothing for babies? Sometimes it's a struggle to find even vests and sleepsuits that aren't designed for "Mummy's little cupcake", "Awesome dude" "Daddy's Precious Princess" etc. I'm sure this has been on the increase since I first bought baby clothes for my children, who are teenagers.

Devora Tue 06-Jan-15 11:56:31

Tsk tsk, Iliketheflowers, you'll give her the gay.

And you are so right about it being on the increase. It staggers me how quickly people have come to believe that it's normal and inevitable to dress girls only in pink and mauve and boys only in blue or khaki - it wasn't like that when I was a child.

morethanpotatoprints Tue 06-Jan-15 12:00:31

Is it not what the children stated themselves, is it not what they told the sw when talking to them about future parents?

Devora Tue 06-Jan-15 12:23:54

Sorry morethan, what was that in reference to?

paulwellersjam Tue 06-Jan-15 12:41:23

This was definitely our experience. We saw examples of later life letters with Disney princesses all over them written in pink comic sans - urgh.

But IMHO most people are sexist with children without realising it. DS displays exactly the same adventurous brave toddler behaviour DD did, but apparently he is 'a typical boy'. Not sure what DD is... Christmas has been a fest of reinforcing stereotypes through gifts - cars, trucks, diggers, princess tiara making sets etc

Devora are your children still dressed gender appropriately? What does it look like when they're not???

trafficjam Tue 06-Jan-15 12:47:43

more than, the 2 childrens profiles I saw were both 6 months old - it was definitely the family finder or social workers that decided they wanted to be princesses or soldiers!
They were also written from the point of view of the child with some really horribly twee phrases as a result. It meant reading them was quite tough as you had to decipher the facts from the cutesy baby talk!

Devora Tue 06-Jan-15 12:53:22

grin paulwellersjam. With dd1, I got told off by a 'friend' for 'trying to make a feminist statement through her clothing - what's wrong with pink?'. Well, I look back at her baby photos and I can see a sea of pink - you'd have to work much harder than I'm prepared to to source non-pink clothing for little girls - but often mixed with grey, green etc. She has gone through phases of preferring different colours and I've gone with that. Now, at 9, she has her own sense of style and it's definitely rock chick - so no pink.

dd2, on the other hand, has always refused to wear anything but pink. At 5, she is obsessed with shoes and make-up, and won't wear jeans or leggings. She is rather fond of looking at herself in a mirror and saying, "Every day I am getting beautifuller and beautifuller". I go with this, too - I'm confident that she knows her options (the other 3 females in the house rarely wear pink) and I'm not in the business of banning colours.

Quite clearly, dd1 has been scarred by my feminist convictions and dd2 saved by her fc's gender appropriate choices grin

paulwellersjam Tue 06-Jan-15 13:00:22

smile DD is 4 - she's SO mad with me because I won't get her Frozen high heels (she has three Elsa dresses, an Anna dress, an Ariel dress, a Belle dress, I could go on).

Everyone I know thinks it's hilarious that she's like this despite me trying to steer her away from pink and princesses. Which, in itself, is deeply depressing...

Devora Tue 06-Jan-15 13:04:44

My theory is that if you let them indulge this uber-pinkosity they will eventually work it out of their systems, paulwellersjam.

I may be proved wrong.

I can cope with a 5yo dressing like something out of a cake shop. Will I cope so well when she's 25 and pretending to be Barbie, driving a pink car and squealing over her collection of soft toys? [shudder]

paulwellersjam Tue 06-Jan-15 13:15:30

I'm with you, and I'm letting her. But I do draw the line at high heels on a four year old smile

Yesterday she told me she no longer wants to be an astronaut vet but is going to be a ballet teacher instead. So she's pushing it...

Devora Tue 06-Jan-15 13:29:52

I have several lines in the sand: high heels, pierced ears before 11, bra tops, and 'cute' slogans on clothing. Oh, and make-up to school hmm. I thought I'd be having that battle at 15, not 5...

What a shame about the loss of your astronaut vet. dd2 did me proud when, at age 2, her pre-school yearbook had every single girl saying they wanted to be a princess or a fairy. Except for dd2, who wanted to be a horse grin. dd1 wanted for the longest time to own her own ice cream factory; sadly, she's now fixed on wanting to be Taylor Swift. But this was after being teased in the school playground for saying she wants to be a scientist angry. dd1 assures me that women can't be doctors, despite not actually knowing any doctors who AREN'T women angry angry

Jameme Tue 06-Jan-15 15:54:22

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

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