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FFS, do we have to start with the gender stereotyping crap so early?!

(84 Posts)
TheBookofRuth Tue 28-Jan-14 10:18:49

Warning: this is more of a long, rambling rant than anything else.

DD has just turned two and we had a birthday party for her. A female relative - someone who I regard as a strong independent type and didn't expect this from - started talking afterwards about how lovely it was to see all the little boys getting stuck in and having a go at everything and showing no fear, and how different they were from the little girls.

I wondered if she'd been at the same party as me, because what I saw was just as many girls getting "stuck in" as boys, and the two shyest, most withdrawn guests were both boys. I mentioned them to her, and she waved it off with "oh yes, but on the whole..."

Similar conversation with MIL recently, who was talking about her little great nephew (only just over one) being "SUCH a boy, he just stomps about getting into everything." At the exact moment she's saying this, her two GDs (my DD and SIL's) are "stomping about getting into everything".

I don't restrict the toys DD has on grounds of gender, so she has dolls and cars and everything in between. Her favourites at the moment are trains and duplo and anything she can paint and draw with. At the party I mentioned something about her playing with a truck and another mum raised an eyebrow and said she was surprised I let her play with trucks. Why?! I'm fairly sure it won't make her grow testicles!

Another mother gave her a present of long haired winged unicorns in various shades of pink. Kind of her to give her a present at all of course, but it couldn't be girlier if I dipped it in glitter. I know people claim that all little girls go through a pink and girly stage regardless of what their parents do, but this kind of stuff can't help, surely?

And now I'm feeling annoyed at myself for being disparaging about "girliness", because I get annoyed IRL when people look down on traditionally female pursuits and occupations as somehow lesser. I'm a SAHM and get enough of that myself, with people demanding to know when I'm going to "get back to work" and "get a real job", as if there's no value at all in my simply being a mum to my DD.

But why, why do people do this? We have these amazing little people with their own incredible developing personalities which are all so different, and from birth we try to force into them into these pigeonholes and make them to conform to stereotypes of "girly girls" and "proper boys". It's so sad.

EEatingSoupForLunch Tue 28-Jan-14 20:28:47

I'm afraid I filter presents, at Christmas I got rid of a vile book about how princesses love high heels and shopping!! For DD2, who at Christmas was 10 months old!

DD1 is 4 soon and would love a Lego pirate ship, googling it now. She loves the Peter Pan book at the moment, though I have to amend some of the more sexist passage when I read it to her sad

(I realised how often I do this recently when my friend was reading Snow White to DD, and she told her off for missing out the bit where Snow White goes to university and becomes a mechanic grin

TheBookofRuth Tue 28-Jan-14 20:45:24

I had a book of fairy tales when I was little called "The Practical Princess and Other Liberating Tales", which was wonderful. Full of heroines who went on adventures and rescued themselves from scrapes rather than waiting for a prince - in fact sometimes they rescued the prince as well while they were at it. Must see if I can track down for DD when she's a bit older.

I mentioned to my mum earlier that I was going to disappear the vile little unicorns when DD lost interest in them and got told "aww, let her keep them, she likes them!" This from the same woman who wouldn't let me have a Barbie because they present an unrealistic and misogynistic image of the female form! She's gone soft on me!

wol1968 Tue 28-Jan-14 23:04:45

Boys are less bitchy than girls? Naaah....If women do backchat and smart remarks and social manipulation it's called bitching. If men do all these it's called politics. Watch BBC Parliament and you'll see what I mean.

RubyrooUK Tue 28-Jan-14 23:32:22

I know, Wol, it's just one of the common things people say. "Oh boys are a lot less bitchy than girls..." Load of codswallop.

JustALittleGreen Wed 29-Jan-14 12:16:34

I filter presents too. Disney princesses, Barbies and all of that ilk will not cross my threshold if I can bloody help it! Luckily my friends and family know how I feel but ex partner and his family would have her exclusively in pink, glittery frilly monstrosities and clutching a bratz doll if they had their way.

If women do backchat and smart remarks and social manipulation it's called bitching. If men do all these it's called politics. Watch BBC Parliament and you'll see what I mean.

I think it's that women aren't allowed to be outright aggressive and men are encouraged to be. Women have to be "Manipulative" and keep their aggression hidden because it's unladylike.

Really they're all on the same wanker spectrum though

Bunbaker Wed 29-Jan-14 12:37:03

"But why, why do people do this?"

I have several friends who have boys and girls and who have brought them up the same. All of them, without exception, say that their sons and daughters behave differently - boys more into things, more rough and tumble, girls more bitchy and cliquey etc.

Cocoaone Wed 29-Jan-14 13:24:37

I realised how often I do this recently when my friend was reading Snow White to DD, and she told her off for missing out the bit where Snow White goes to university and becomes a mechanic

I LOVE this! I wish I was quick witted enough to do this when I read to DD.

NotCitrus Wed 29-Jan-14 14:19:21

This gets on my wick so much - people just being blind to half of what's in front of them (the half where some kids do stuff associated with the other sex, while gleefully telling you all about the sex-stereotyped things they do).

Ds is a fairly sedate child, even when he was a toddler - liked sitting down and playing with pieces of things, watching ducks, would run and hide when other toddlers got noisy or rough. Basically he looks and acts exactly like me - you can't tell the difference between his and my baby photos except one has more 1970s furniture.

Dd is a total live wire, never still, into everything, climbs everything, wants to tip everything over, loves things with wheels and that make noise, happy to push to the front and shove others out of the way (she's not 2 yet so her behaviour is pretty normal!)

Anyone watching her will go "aw, she's playng with her doll" (that she's ripped the arms and legs off) but never go aw when she's playing with her digger or trucks, which she does so much more of the time.

And don't get me started on the mothers who spent a session going "oh, look at Boy hugging her, it's so sweet, oh she doesn't like it, never mind dd, it's so nice that he's hugging her" - encouraging non-consensual touch and expecting the girl to put up with it, much??

At least the blindness to non-stereotyped behaviour meant they said nothing at all when the second time the larger boy toddler grabbed her, dd turned round, punched the boy in the face and decked him.

MrsTerryPratchett Thu 30-Jan-14 05:17:19

I have several friends who have boys and girls and who have brought them up the same in the gender free commune they live in... hmm

I've brought DD up with whatever she feels like at the time. 90% of which is throwing biting kicking pushing running and climbing. Doesn't stop my FIL, preschool, the boy in Walmart that told her she couldn't play with cars, the neighbours, her friends' parents, the TV and random strangers. No child lives in a vacuum.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Thu 30-Jan-14 06:22:20

Bubble, that was one study and I don't think it was hugely conclusive (the language used was a bit suspect)

TheMildManneredMilitant Thu 30-Jan-14 06:51:47

I have a 3yo dd and 5yo ds and in someways it's my ds I feel sorrier for. He loves princess stories, is currently obsessed with dancing around to songs from Disney's Frozen, and would love to go to ballet classes. He doesn't fight, is very well behaved and emotionally intelligent. I'm hoping that be doesn't feel he needs to change to fit in with peers but I think it's only a matter of time before he learns that these things aren't 'typical' for little boys.
Dd on the other hand gets to play princesses and dolls but also play Star Wars and Spider-Man. I think it's more socially acceptable for her to do this than the other way round.
They both get bedtime stories about a kick ass fairy who wears big clumpy boots and can fly faster than any of the other fairies - great for chasing down dragons and giving them a kick up the bum grin

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Thu 30-Jan-14 07:16:45

Even giving "neutral" pressies is a statement - DS2 has a last minute girl's party this weekend - his birthday is next week so I'm redirecting one of his presents but I'll redirect the colouring pencils not the Spider-man stickers...

TheBookofRuth Thu 30-Jan-14 08:26:16

I know what you mean MildMannered - girls are tolerated as "tomboys" when they behave in a non-gender sterotypical manner and it's assumed they'll grow out of it. Boys though are thoughts of as "sissies" and "wimps" and told to "toughen up".

I want my children to be respected as individuals, not forced to conform to a stereotyped gender role.

Spiritedwolf Thu 30-Jan-14 12:59:32

I started thinking about this a lot during pregnancy when I didn't know my baby's sex. He's 18 months now. I am still dressing him in fairly colourful/neutral clothes that I will happily dress his future siblings of either sex in, likewise with toys (for practical as well as political reasons!).

I've tried to make sure that he has some pink in items which are generally colourful - like balls for a ball pit and will try to do the same when he gets duplo - get a mix of both colour selections to give him more colours to play with. But I don't tend to buy him the 'pink' versions of things... I wouldn't have done for a girl either, but it does make me feel a bit like my version of 'neutral' is a bit skewed towards boyishness, perhaps because I'm not a particularly girly girl myself. His doll for instance is a gender neutral IKEA doll, rather than one typically marked at girls.

I do buy him things from the 'girls' section of the clothing department, but not the most 'girly' things. Just things where girls have got the brighter colours of yellow, red, pink, light blue - vests, t-shirts, socks etc, when the boys have been relegated to navy, maroon, army green and grey. Or animals, because he likes cats as well as dogs. Its hard though, because girls clothing is often frilly and fussy, and I don't really like that.

The thing is, when I put him in a pink or purple vest, I feel a bit worried people will think I'm "making a statement" in a way I don't feel if I put him in a blue/white/grey/etc. But of course, dressing your child in overtly gendered clothing of the matching sex is also "making a statement" but because its normalised in the shops etc it doesn't seem like that.

I guess he'd be seen by others as a 'typical boy' because he likes to run around, make a lot of noise and play with cars and trains. But he also likes to 'read' books, draw and will give his teddy and doll a cuddle at bed time. I'd like to thin we'd encourage a daughter to do the same.

I don't think he knows he's a boy yet, or that there is anything different about girls. I mean, he knows he can get milk from me and not from daddy, but he isn't talking much yet and girls and boys aren't really differentiated in the baby/toddler things we've been going to so far. I guess that could change as he develops language and mixes with more children who have absorbed these ideas from older siblings/parents/nursery.

The problem I suppose is language, that they need to learn some basic gender differences so they can use him/her etc but are too young to understand that these things are generalisations not hard and fast rules (i.e. that its allowed for boys to have long hair and girls to have short hair for instance). We're so used to the gender divide in society that we don't notice how often we use it. Schools asking the boys to line up in one place and the girls in another etc. I can see its a handy way to have half the class do one thing and half another, but can you imagine if children were asked to line up by race, eye colour, parent's religion, etc... it is a bit weird to ask them to line up depending on their genitalia which is completely irrelevant to anything they are likely to be doing in a classroom or playground. By using gender all the time we are telling children its important.

I found the Gender Delusion book very illuminating. Its hard to know what to do about it though. Hopefully being aware and challenging it will help.

Spiritedwolf Thu 30-Jan-14 13:56:16

I totally agree about the colours of baby carriers and slings btw. We have a rainbow one which I used more in the summer, and a starry/dark one which I've use more in winter, partly because its warmer. I didn't really consider wolfcub's gender when making my choices. I did want something DH would be comfortable wearing, but he isn't terribly fussy so getting something we were both happy with wasn't difficult.

PenguinsDontEatKale Thu 30-Jan-14 14:06:15

spirited - That relates to one of my favourite quotations of all time. It's from the TV adaption of The Cement Garden (slightly more pithy than the original in the book IMHO):

" Girls can wear jeans and cut their hair short, wear shirts and boots, because it's OK to be a boy, but for a boy to look like a girl is degrading, because you think that being a girl is degrading."

It is something that I do struggle with. I dressed both my daughters in very 'boy' outfits if I happened to like them. But would I dress a boy in some of their frillier dresses? Of course not, because there is still something degrading about 'looking like a girl' in a way not true of the reverse. Also seen in the fact that there is no male equivalent of tomboy, except maybe sissy (and don't get me started on the existence of 'tomboy' in the first place).

DD1's class has a gender imbalance, which thankfully limits the boy/girl as a way to split the class in half! She has a friend who is obsessed with gender difference and regularly comes home (she's in reception) with "X says Y is for boys" or whatever. Then we have a little chat and deconstruct it. She already rolls her eyes at me a bit, but I do think she understands and sometimes she comes in on her own with comments about how X has got in a muddle and that isn't true.

ds has 2 lovely pink polo tops, like an adult man would wear.. So I don't have to feel like I am making a "point" but I also don't want him to get the idea that anything other people see as "girly" should be seen as something to be avoided.

It makes me angry pink is not included in the "normal sets" because boys won't want it.. I am sure.

Dc have mega bloks which come with yellow, light yellow. Blue light blue.. Red... oh and no light red (pink). SO I will have to buy a "girls"set with pink and purple so they can have all the colors mixed in. angry

I just miss bright colors, red, orange purple green pink.. Why does pink have to be glitterty and vom inducing, tell me retailers tell me!

WHy can't the childrens clothing just be childrens not boys/girls

KerryKatonasKhakis Thu 30-Jan-14 15:12:04

I only know that from the Madonna song Penguins grin It is spot on.

I have dressed DS in pink vests but they were then covered up by a tshirt etc. so it was my pathetic way of making a statement without anyone seeing hmm

It's so frustrating when people claim they brought their sons and daughters up the same but they are different.

For starters every child is different and secondly like a pp said, even if you brought them up equally, the wider world did not.

My mum and I battle about this constantly coz she reads the Mail and believe in hardwiring She says me and my brother were always treated the same in regards to our gender. This is bullshit and she either has a very selective memory or simply does not recognise the subtle stereotyping.

I do whole heartedly believe things are worse in terms of gender segregation than they were in my childhood.

I just don't know why it is so important a child's gender be obvious. Why do some people get so upset when their child is mistaken for or compared to the opposite sex? Why?

Finally, if enough girls 'act boyish' enough to generate the need for the label 'tomboy', then surely that is not girls acting like boys, that is just girls doing things. A boy cuddling a dolly is not 'a boy acting like a girl cuddling a dolly', a man crying is not a 'man being like a woman and crying' etc.

Not sure if I'm being clear, I just mean that people act like people (usually wink) and being suprised/confused/disgusted when children stray from their very narrow gender-stereotypes is just ridiculous when almost everyone will making them meaningless. Yet people cling on to them, very, very passionately confused Why?

BarbarianMum Thu 30-Jan-14 17:07:44

Can I join you in your rant. I hate, hate, hate it too.

A man once stopped me in the park to ask if 2 year old Ds1 'knew he was a boy' because he was pushing a toy pushchair. I silently indicated dh, then pushing ds2 along in similar fashion and he slunk off.

Ds2 is 6 and still likes pink. This is akin to a hate crime in South Yorkshire apparently. The flack that poor kid has to take - and it's largely from other mums, the kids are more tolerant. sad

Having boys was eye-opening though - based on my own experiences I'd assumed it was chiefly girls on the receiving end of all this crap.

KerryKatonasKhakis Thu 30-Jan-14 20:25:18

I find the comments where people are being nice and well-meaning the worse. It's easier to ignore/answerback someone being blatantly rude (ew, he looks like a girl etc.) than someone saying 'boys, eh!?' when DS is playing up or the young staff at nursery calling DS a 'typical boy' with a nudge and a smile.

You are forced to either put up and shut up and play the game or risk being cast as a statement-making trouble maker and risk alienating your children.

Actually I've answered my own question as 'why' most people go along with gender stereotyping grin

Bunbaker Thu 30-Jan-14 21:05:14

"Why do some people get so upset when their child is mistaken for or compared to the opposite sex? Why?"

I suppose in the same way that I wouldn't want anyone to think that I was a man. I used to be a little put out when people thought DD was a boy, and I remember talking to a woman about her little girl while waiting at the hospital outpatients. She told me in a huffy voice that "she" was a boy. I admit to feeling a little embarrassed.

I don't think there is anything wrong in being able to distinguish between the two sexes in terms of what sex a person is, as long as we get rid of the ridiculous stereotyping that continues.

DontNickMyMilk Thu 30-Jan-14 21:34:03

I hate this gender sterotyping, especially with toys. Why do Early Learning and the like feel the need to produce one item, e.g. a kitchen in perfectly adequate primary colours, then "have" to do a girly pink one? I think MIL thought I was mad, but when DD was little, I actively encouraged Bob the Builder, we always brought the "other" coloured item from ELC, not pink. Play balls were primary colours, not pink etc. etc.

In the past week, she's played with Lego (standard as well as Friends Lego), cars and Geomag as well as Hama beads and dolls. She's 6. Her favourite programme is Swashbuckle. As much as I hate the Barbies, at least she is choosing to play with a variety of toys, so our efforts are not entirely wasted. So far...

MIL insists one buying her those awful pink and girly magazines with fluffy dogs and shit on it. It makes me want to hurl. They are just full of "fluff and nonsense".

I have tried my best to resist the princess stuff (sorry, Disney) - I find it all a) too pink and b) prententious.

I'm with you on the rant, and with Barbarian - why do people have a problem with boys having pushchairs and dolls? Let's face it, at 2 years old, most of their experiences revolve around babies and pushchairs, either being cared for themselves, or seeing siblings/friends etc. so why wouldn't they copy? Its hardly surprising - most baby animals copy their parents; its how they survive!

Auntierosemary Thu 30-Jan-14 21:49:03

I agree with most of what people are saying on this thread, but isn't it interesting that all this gender stereotyping doesn't tend to hold girls back in terms of their intellectual development and academic achievement?
And in fact if anything, it seems to be the boys who are held back? Girls consistently out perform boys throughout school years. When I was eleven I had to do the eleven plus test. In those days (mid 1980s) girls had to score higher to get the same grade as boys because the assumption was that boys' learning accelerated in secondary school. It was subsequently established that in fact boys didn't ever catch up at secondary school and the gender based scoring system was scrapped.
It seems to be only after school that boys become more successful, at university and in the workplace.
Could it therefore be possible that nurturing "feminine" traits, such as sitting still, actually does girls a favour in the earlier years?
It'll still be a cold day in hell before I'll buy pink Lego for my daughters...

ErrolTheDragon Thu 30-Jan-14 22:08:20

'I hate this gender sterotyping, especially with toys'

Just checking all of you who feel likewise know about Let Toys be Toys - a campaign which grew out of an MN thread a bit over a year ago and is having some effect on retailers.

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