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Feminism: Sex & gender discussions

My DSD Is popular, clever, funny, happy and...

18 replies

ComradeJing · 14/01/2012 01:53

Pretending to be stupid.

She is 11 this month and a really wonderful girl. She is, as I said, smart, funny, popular, happy, clever and an all round great young woman. Not sure if it is relevant but she is also exceedingly pretty.

She really struggled with school to begin with and has only just got to grips with it in the past year with the help of a tutor and is now in the accelarated class. She's had a combination of a very clever brother, knowing she finds school hard and being put with the younger children in mixed year group classes as she was very behind.

She is now pretending to be stupid however. Ask her a simple question - anything about her day or reading or school or maths or what she saw at the cinema- and she will often say, "whaaa?" in a 'dim' tone of voice.

At first I ignored it and just repeated myself like she hadn't heard me but I honestly now think she is doing it to play down her own intelligence. When I finally asked why she was doing it she didn't know. I really love my DSD and think the world of her but Im inwardly roaring at her for downplaying her self.

Any feminist (step) parenting advice would be really welcome. Yes, it could just be that it's just a school thing and a phase but I'm worried that it teaches girls to downplay themselves, hide their intelligence and eventually make her think that she needs to make herself less to find a man.

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kittensmakemesqueee · 14/01/2012 04:06

My neice does this. I don't think it's a female thing. I think it's a horrible current state of affairs thing. Being a moron gets you on Tv, gets you in the papers.

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Himalaya · 14/01/2012 08:39

My much younger step sister went through a phase of doing this. She is now at 18 a confident and kick-ass young woman who doesn't suffer fools gladly. Hopefully it is just a phase.

I think general advice on grunting teenagers is not to ask them open questions (which put all the focus on their painfully self conscious selves) but try to engage them on dilemmas, movies, news stories, books etc... that get them into intellectual conversation by stealth.

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CogitoErgoSometimes · 14/01/2012 10:31

I (parent to an allegedly 'gifted and talented' DS) get the 'waahh?' response as well. Not because he's pretending to be thick but because his attention is usually elsewhere and the dizzy bugger hasn't a clue what I just said. :) If you really think she's downplaying her intelligence, reassurance that 'clever is cool' and finding ways to boost her self-confidence and be herself are probably going to help most. It's going to be other girls she's mostly trying to fit in with age 11. Unlikely to be trying to 'get a man'

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ComradeJing · 14/01/2012 11:43

Yes, of course at 11 she isn't worrying about boys or getting a man but I think it's the start of the slope that makes (some) women make themselves smaller in order to make men feel bigger. On the wellbeing thread before Christmas there was talk of apologizing for knowing something or not correcting incorrect information or asking someone to tell you more about a subject you know a lot about already. So yes it could be other girls she is modeling herself on but I think that's equally bad.

She really isn't doing it because she's being dizzy and hasn't heard. It really is an act she is putting on.

I'm hopeful it is just a phase but one that drives me bananas. I'm quite surfe it will be the last teenagery phase to do so... Right? :o

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perceptionreality · 14/01/2012 11:48

Surely it's just her age? If all the children at school do this then she probably feels the need to also do it to fit in. Never underestimate the effects of peer pressure. I would probably steer her away from it by encouraging her to recognise her individual unique talents that set her apart. If you refer directly to her manner of talking it may not help imo.

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perceptionreality · 14/01/2012 11:51

Well, I think children are no longer children for long enough. My 8 year old came home from school yesterday saying that the girls in her class were going on facebook to try to find boyfriends. Very odd!

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BigBoobiedBertha · 14/01/2012 12:11

I am not sure it is just a girl thing either. My 8 yr old boy sometimes does the same - he is also popular and bright. Intelligence isn't cool when you are a child. This thread reminded me of a conversation I had with my DS a couple of days ago where he was telling me about some goings on in the playground where the girls were chasing his best friends because they 'fancy' him. I asked why the girls chased his friend rather than him and he said it was because his friend is good at football (he has been talent scouted for a Championship/Premiership team to train at their youth academy) and all the girls want to be WAGS when they grow up. Sad

With regard to your DSD I think I would make observations about how the cool, but not so bright children at school aren't the ones who grow up to be the successful adults but tend to find they are stuck in the deadend jobs and never really have a life that any one would aspire to. It tends to be the uncool children at school, who do best in adulthood and then keep mentioning your DSD is more in the later group and how lucky she is. No lecturing but constant reinforcement that you would much rather have a DSD with all her talents and everything to look forward to than a child like the children she is apparently copying. Hopefully the message will eventually get through and the dumbing down is just a phase. I can imagine how annoying it is though - you have my sympathy!!

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LRDtheFeministDragon · 14/01/2012 12:18

I think that was probably me on the wellbeing thread, comrade. I did do that as a teenager and certainly later on girls do it more than boys (IMO). I'm really sad if at 11 she is already feeling a pressure on her as a girl to dim herself down - I hope it's just a 'teenager thing' like the others say.

Not in a position to give advice but I am sympathetic. I can see how having a clever brother could make you want to stick your head in the sand too.

I wonder if her teachers notice?

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vegetariandumpling · 14/01/2012 12:57

Well I'm not a parent but I agree that it's common for teenage boys AND girl's to do the pretending to be stupid thing. However I think a lot of boys (and I'm generalising wildly here) tend to go to the other extreme of acting as if they know everything, while girl's still continue with the 'I'm so stupid isn't it great' thing. Infact, a woman at my work does this. She's in her late twenties, and we were having a conversation about places in Asia, and she was talking about Japan for a long time as if it was a country (which obviously it is) but then suddenly said 'Oh, are Japan and Tokyo the same thing? Is Japan in China?' and I could tell she was just doing it to make herself seem stupid. So anyway, my point is, try and get her to stop doing it now or she might still be doing it when she's 27!

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CogitoErgoSometimes · 14/01/2012 13:07

"(some) women make themselves smaller "

It's true. You see it on MN all to often... 'I'm rubbish at maths!!!' they cheerfully announce, sometimes with an 'of course' in there as if it's something to be proud of or in any way typical. Fair enough to admit being less competent in a particular subject and seek to do something to correct it... totally mystifying why you'd want to play that as an asset.

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ComradeJing · 14/01/2012 13:26

Iirc I think we all stuck up our hands to doing it - or apologizing needlessly - on the thread LRD!

I suppose I'm also comparing her to my DSS who has confidence you could ping rocks off. He is, apparently, absolutely amazing at everything and if only we could all be like him :o

I'll keep talking to her and encouraging her. I've managed to slip in a fair amount of feminist thought/discussion to DSS but there is a looooooooong way to go with some really basic stuff like 'girls don't and can't like dinosaurs'

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ChickenLickn · 14/01/2012 22:32

yes, have noticed this is several couples. The woman pretends not to know anything and to be rubbish at math/etc (when actually they are very knowledgable), and the man makes up complete rubbish and everyone pretends he's right.

gah.

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ChickenLickn · 14/01/2012 22:37

The problem is that some men expect this, e.g. in a work situation, where the men expect people to be impressed by their bs and not to be challenged on it.

If women don't play this game, life is sometimes made very difficult for them.

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CailinDana · 15/01/2012 08:32

I remember my mum saying "stop saying 'I don't know!'" to me when I was a teenager. I didn't realise I was doing it. I was very academically able and I was sick of people constantly asking me questions and expecting me to know the answer. Every bloody one was trying to "encourage" me, sending me on initiatives and fuck knows what else I just wanted people to leave me alone. I think in some ways if you're a talented girl you can end up under more pressure than a talented boy and you feel like you can never just be normal. Perhaps give her some space for the time being and see how it goes. Don't forget that her intelligence is important but she will also be worried about how she looks - I always thought I was quite ugly as no one ever commented on my appearance, while they always complimented my sister (who wasn't very academically able). It turns out I was actually quite pretty. What I'm trying to say is, try to accept her as she is, social awkwardness and silliness and all. She'll grow out of it (hopefully).

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ElephantsAndMiasmas · 16/01/2012 15:06

Erm my possibly rather inappropriate idea would be to watch "Mean Girls" with her. Not sure what the rating is, but if she's at secondary school I don't think there's anything in it she hasn't heard before. The main character in that pretends to be thick in order to chat up the boy who sits in front of her, and although it sort of works, in the end she triumphs by doing the stuff she's really good at. Plus the teacher (brilliant Tina Fey) outright tells the character that it's sad to pretend to be stupid.


Could start a good chat?

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Hullygully · 17/01/2012 09:41

My (extraordinarily bright) dsis always did this, so much so she was tested for deafness (no one thoguht about the feminist angle then!). But in her case it was just her shutting off from everyone for peace and quiet.

My ds does it, but he is in space.

A lot of the time I think teenagers just cba to speak, especially to parentals.

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ComradeJing · 17/01/2012 13:53

Thanks for all of the advice.

Elephants Mean Girls is a great idea. I think she is just about ready for it!

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SlinkingOutsideInSocks · 19/01/2012 01:11

Oh God, I was a complete drip aged 11/12. I'm generally not now.

As an aside, here in NZ we have what is known as Intermediate School. All kids go to whole separate school for the ages 11-12. They leave primary school aged 10, turning 11. They spend two years at IS and then go off to high school.

It seems a bit ludicrous for the sake of two years, but it seems to work really, really well. And has done for generations now.

It's an incredibly transitional age, and when you think about it, moving over to high school at the tender age of 10/11, where there are also students aged 17/18 is really quite incongruous. Basically, they spend two quite formative, moving-into-adolescence years in an environment where everyone's in the same boat, and then head off to high school with a lot of the worst parts of that age (dumbing-down, cliquey-ness, bitching, excluding others, being boy/girl-crazy, the incredible suscpeptibility to peer pressure and needing to fit in, etc, etc) out of their systems.

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