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What to say to little boys about feminism.

(15 Posts)
pinkbluegreenyellow Mon 17-Feb-14 17:27:30

New to these boards but very glad I found them.

I'm close to a couple of little boys, age 6 and 9, who are already of the mind that 'girls are losers, weak, annoying' and that men are cool and strong. I get that little boys can be like this at this age though that doesn't make it right.
I'd love to talk to them about this and turn their burgeoning views on their head. It doesn't come from their parents as they are both pretty cool.

Any suggestions of what to say that doesn't come across as intimidating or preachy? Would also love to give them some examples of strong women, can think of some examples but I am very tired and sleep deprived and my brain isn't working very well!

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Mon 17-Feb-14 22:01:47

Do they think that you are those things? Or that their mum is?

What TV programmes do they like?

What about the Winter Olympic medallists - both are women. Or the Olympians from 2012 - Jess Ennis etc?

UptoapointLordCopper Tue 18-Feb-14 10:27:44

I think the attitude that says "little boys can be like this at this age" is not helpful. They get like this because we (society) are like this. Little girls are full of gender prejudices too. In fact people are full of gender prejudices in general.

All prejudices must be challenged. I tend to ask "why do you say that" and take it from there...

whatdoesittake48 Tue 18-Feb-14 14:16:39

when boys say this stuff they don't actually think about their own mothers. Who they invariably love more than almost anything.

if you point out that their Mum might be upset to hear them say that about girls and women they might think again.

WaitingForMe Tue 18-Feb-14 14:26:27

I'm a stepmum to an 8 and a 5 year old and we chat about feminist issues quite a lot. DSS1 had the word "Tomboy" in last week's spelling which he'd never heard before.

I asked him for a definition and took things from there with me explaining that is was a way of describing a silly idea rather than a silly behaviour. We then brought DSS2 into the conversation and I said I expected them to rate toys and games by how cool they were or how much fun they were rather than whether they were for boys or girls. We talked about DS's toys and they agreed that his truck and his doll were both good toys because they make DS happy.

I try not to make a big deal of it but I refuse to let anti-feminist ideas go unquestioned.

LisaAYarrow Tue 18-Feb-14 14:27:24

I think at that age all you can do is avoid encouraging them to say things like 'throws like a girl', 'cries like a girl' etc. If you do hear them saying that just ask them what's so bad about being a girl? Then show them Fatima Whitbread at the Olympics, lol :D

LimeMiniPumpkin Tue 18-Feb-14 15:12:44

But it surely this does come from the parents? I don't know kids who, at 6 and 9, if they made racist statements and were told by parents that they absolutely were not to do so in serious terms, would continue to do so.

The parents must be allowing their kids to go around saying, 'girls are losers' or they wouldn't persist in doing so.

UptoapointLordCopper Tue 18-Feb-14 15:15:07

Lime At this age children get a lot of things from people other than their parents. TV, adverts, relatives and friends, school.

pinkbluegreenyellow Tue 18-Feb-14 17:03:33

It's definitely not their parents. The older one has a truly unpleasant friend who he gets a lot of these attitudes from and passes on.

LimeMiniPumpkin Tue 18-Feb-14 21:39:25

Copper, I disagree. At nine and six, my kids heard all manner of things from all manner of places, and they knew that some of them were wrong to say, you do not say them, and if you do say them there will be consequences. If they had said that kind of thing regularly, it would be because there are no consequences at home, which is down to the parents.

If a child is making blatantly racist, sexist, homophobic statements or similar, you don't engage them with discussions by saying, oh but Obama is black, or whatever. You tell them it is totally unacceptable to make remarks like that, and send them home, and tell their parents so that they can create some kind of sanctions to deal with the behaviour. You are the adult!

There is no way I would expect a family friend who was of any minority group to have my kids turn up and say gay people (or whoever) are losers. I would be absolutely mortified but I would want to know. If it is definitely not the parents and the kids are not allowed to do that at home, you need to let them know how their kids are behaving when the parents are not around so they can resolve it.

UptoapointLordCopper Tue 18-Feb-14 22:11:15

I would agree that this would be true of racist and homophobic comments - in fact I would expect the parents and other contacts such as the school, for example, to be very clear on this. However, when it comes to sexist comments, schools (and many people) leave something to be desired. In fact, just look around at tv programmes and adverts. None of them is obviously racist or homophobic. Can you say none of them is sexist? I am not saying it is acceptable. I am saying that it is everywhere and spouted by all and sundry and even those who are authority figures to children and therefore much more invidious and harder to eradicate.

UptoapointLordCopper Tue 18-Feb-14 22:14:56

Delusion of Gender talks about how much children are influenced by the wider "social norm" than just the parents. Parents can model an equal partnership till they are blue in the face but children will gauge how "normal" that is by information they get from the wider world and come to the conclusion that, for eg, "normal daddies" don't do the washing up or something such. That is why it is important for other people in their lives to contribute, like OP is doing.

UptoapointLordCopper Tue 18-Feb-14 22:16:07

"something such"? hmm some such.

LimeMiniPumpkin Tue 18-Feb-14 22:21:51

I think many people would disagree that tv is not obviously racist and certainly homophobic! I don't think my kids have attended any school where saying 'girls are losers' wouldn't get you in trouble.

None of that changes the fact that at six and nine parents set boundaries and rules with consequences (much more difficult of course with teenagers).

If a parent does not deal with sexist comments as seriously as they would with racist or homophobic remarks then the parents are sexist. If the parents can't stop a six year old from making sexist, homophobic and racist remarks, then they may be sexist or they may just be unable to have any control over their child's behaviour.

Either way, if the parents know about this and aren't dealing with it, then it is the parents who are responsible.

UptoapointLordCopper Wed 19-Feb-14 09:25:49

You're probably right about racism and homophobia on telly in general ... (Funny why I said that even though the ethnic group I belong to tend to be subjected to low level casual racism ... My apologies.)

However, for some reason, sexism is not challenged as much in school. For example, we constantly refer to children as boys and girls, we market toys to them as boys and girls. Imagine the uproar if you say "children of East Asian origin please queue up here", "children of this or that ethnic group are naughty", "Toys for children of this or that ethnic group" etc etc. Yet people casually say "boys are naughty" and you get teachers expressing relief that their reception class this year has more girls than boys. (These things were said to me ...) Studies show that if you constantly point out differences they become entrenched.

In addition most of us grow up in this environment and have internalised much of this. We may talk the talk but many of us will still subconsciously act out this sexism. Again, studies show that children pick up the implicit messages rather than what you tell them.

I'm not saying that parents should not call out sexism. I'm saying that it takes more than the parents.

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