Thursday, May 30, 2013

Stop raising boys and girls, just raise kids!

Do you know what drives me crazy? I mean really, really crazy? Putting kids into boxes based on their gender and attribute their activities and interests to their sex rather than their social conditioning. I swear, if I see another "you know you have a girl/boy if" post I'm going to lose my mind. I'm sick of being bombarded with the idea that if my daughters like dolls it's because they are girls but if they like trucks it's because... I'm progressive? I wish we, as a society, could stop raising boys and girls and just raise kids.

In raising two girls, I see how often they are put into categories and defined by their sex. I also how the way their peers are raised impacts my kids. My oldest has come home from school and told me that "girls like princesses and boys like super heros" like it was some fact that could not change (she also tells me that boys dress "cool" and girls dress "pretty"). I've fought hard against these notions, but it's hard because I can't dispute her findings: in her class most of the girls prefer princesses and the boys super heros (since she likes super heros and princesses she has agreed that girls can like both) and I would bet hard cash that part of the reason is that many of their parents reinforce these interests by buying movies and toys only of the "right" type for their child's gender.

Its not just the shows we watch or toys we buy, but the activities we sign our kids up for. My girls just started T-ball last week. I'm not that into baseball/softball personally, but my brother and sister both did t-ball as kids, it seemed like a good basic sport for the summer time. My 3.5 year old's T-ball team has 2 girls and 5 boys. And in looking around at the other teams (there were 6 teams playing that night) they all were overwhelmingly filled with boys. I'm not even sure all the teams had girls. WTF? Where are the girls? Why didn't parents of girls sign them up for T-ball? Don't tell me it's a lack of interest on the girls' part, these are preschoolers, they don't know yet if they like T-ball! Most of the kids who were there didn't even know to run to first base after hitting the ball! (several chased after their own hits, it was so darn cute). Clearly they weren't clamoring to play a sport they obviously know nothing about.

In the reverse, there are activities that people just don't offer to boys like they do to girls. For example, why don't people play house with their boys? When my oldest was 2 she had a baby doll themed birthday party where kids were supposed to bring their own dolls and we had stations and activities, like feeding the babies or taking them to the doctor. But none of the boys who came had their own dolls! I was shocked because I knew they liked playing with dolls at school, there was overwhelming photographic evidence on the school website. So why won't their parents buy them dolls? Many of these little boys will grow up to be fathers, playing house as a kid might, you know, instill some good fatherly feelings in them. Would that be so bad?

I have a crazy hypothesis  I think that raising kids as equals across genders will help raise more equal adults (shocking, I know, don't fall off your chair). For our daughters, let's put the sugar and spice on the back shelf sometimes and hand our girls some snips and snails (whatever the hell a snip is). The opposite can be said for boys, heaven knows many boys could stand to be raised with a bit more "nice" in them.

30 comments:

  1. I saw the best thing ever last week, you'll love it: A father pushing a stroller down the sidewalk, followed by his sons (3 and 5, maybe?), who were each pushing doll strollers. Way to raise good fathers!!

    P.S. There are 2 girls in my son's karate class of about 15 kids.

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    1. That's AWESOME. I'd love to see more little boys and baby dolls AND dads modeling that fatherhood is a possitive part of a man's life.

      The gender disparity in sports is why I'm so glad my area offers girls hockey at young ages now, Kaylee will start this fall/winter and it'll be great to have her doing sports without feeling like the odd girl out. I'm a huge supporter of girls athletics.

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  2. You might be interested to know that that picture of the toy cars "put to bed" in the dollhouse with the caption about how "I gave my daughter cars to play with and this is what she did with them and hence this anecdotal evidence proves conclusively and for all time that ALL GIRLS ONLY LIKE DOLLS and ALL BOYS ONLY LIKE CARS" is a fake.

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    1. Whew. I thought it probably was. I see that on facebook so often and it makes me crazy.

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  3. I get aggravated at how bombarded our society is with the things that girls are supposed to like-princesses in particular. My daughter is crazy for all the princess crap. I refer to her as princess whatever we are calling her that day in my blog because that's her attitude. I don't really encourage it nor discourage it. My lord, the whole family bombards her with all of that stuff.

    So I'm delighted when she plays with action figures and legos and the like. She still prefers all her characters to be girls, and I'm ok with that. I'm down with her looking up to strong females. ;-)

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    1. That's about the same age my oldest started talking about what the kids at school say about stuff for boys vs stuff for girls. My girls do love to dress up as princesses, but then they'll often take out their lightsabers and blasters and fight the bad guys in their pretty dresses. lol.

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    2. my mind totally squished together your comment with Rebecca's... lol ignore the age bit...

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    3. I was a tomboy growing up and played with all boy toys. When I had two boys of my own, I was guilty of buying lots of boy toys. Cause they're way cooler. However, we have dolls, too and we play house. My oldest son likes to wear pink and his favorite color is purple. I've never rocked the "gender" appropriate anything. In fact, I'd be perfectly happy with gay boys too. I'd let them borrow my heels.

      -The Insomniacs Dream

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    4. I know a lot of boys who have purple as their favorite color, it's cool that it's more acceptable (also it's my second favorite color)

      I always thought playing cars was cooler than playing babies, but I love playing house. It's such a natural game for all kids!

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  4. My daughter has 3 older brothers and one younger brother, and was only passed down "boy toys" for the longest time. She can play Lego hero factory all day. But, she also gravitated towards dolls and My Little Pony once she turned about 4. It was like a switch went off. I don't know if it was the start of school or what. It was very interesting.

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    1. My son is a Brony! Well, he's only four, so I don't know if that title applies. But he does watch MLP.

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    2. MLP is pretty cool, and it's neat the boys and girls are getting into it.

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  5. I was really irritated with my mom when she bought me a hello kitty bright pink stuffed animal, and my brother a ninja turtle....Did she not know that a) I abhor the color pink, and b) I WAS THE NINJA TURTLE FAN. Not my brother. Good job on breaking the notions. I plan on attempting that with my unborn too.

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    1. I was lucky that my mom was a tom boy as a kid and didn't pidgenhole my sister and I. I ended up being a bit of a tombody to and my sister was more "girly". It's great to be ready to support either.

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  6. I found it interesting when I learned that pink used to be the decidedly masculine color, as it was a shade of red, and blue was feminine, because of the Virgin Mary. We've always tried to give our kids ample opportunity to like things typically created for the other gender. Despite my best efforts, my daughter loves all things girly, while my boys are stereotypical rough and tumble. They do like to paint their nails though, so I'm counting that as a win. :)

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    1. Yeah, I thought that was interesting too. I've always loved blue the most, I think it's because my first baby quilt my mom made for me was blue. My sister was pink, pink, pink. Now I've got kids who are both girls and one is more of a princess and the other is decidedly rough and tumble. But they both enjoy all sorts of things.

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  7. I wrote a post called boys and baby dolls (the link is on my home page if your interested). My son has a baby doll (that he picked out) the hubby didn't love (he says because all the dolls were pink and purple, he wanted something gender neutral). Anyway not to ruin the post, but once he saw his son playing "daddy" he loved it. It was really odd to me cuz he's all about a play kitchen and shopping carts, but the baby doll, there was a hesitation...

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    1. Interesting that they were all pink and purple because my kids' forst dolls were blue and yellow. I'll have to check out your post.

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  8. On the t-ball subject ... the league where The Kid plays ball gender segregates starting with t-ball. Last summer they only had enough girls for one team and only enough boys for one team.

    No, they did not do (what to me would be) the logical thing and mix them up and make there be TWO TBALL TEAMS. Instead, those kids never actually played a game against another team. Because there was only one team in each "league". Made me CRAZY.

    We try SO HARD to put the lie to all the gendered notions she comes home with and describe those sorts of behaviors/preferences/whatever in terms of individual preferences rather than gender norms. She and I just had a conversation yesterday about a friend of hers who is about as gender-deviant as a third-grader can be (XY; I have never ever seen this child wear "girl" clothes; she wears boys' underwear as well*) and how that friend is awesome to hang out with when you want to look at Pokemon cards and chat. Because that's what that friend likes and it has nothing to do with her being a "tomboy" (The Kid's term, not mine).

    *I am, of course, hellacurious about the adult this kid is going to turn out to be. As far as I know she doesn't self-identify as male and they're too young for any speculation about queerness.

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    1. That's interesting about the sex-segregated teams. I was kind of wishing for that because I think that being the odd-one-out made my kids seem more timid (also, I did not like playing sports with boys as a kid myself). But it would suck if that meant there weren't enough people to actually PLAY.

      I'm curious to see how my more "tomboy-ish" daughter ends up being once she hits the stage of discovering her sexual orientation. I have a strong feeling she's going to be either a lesbian or bi/queer (like her mama). But who knows!

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    2. I meant "XX" above. Stupid fingers. Genetically girl. Behaviorally... gender deviant. We all know what we're talking about here.

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  9. Pink is like kryptonite to my 9 yo daughter and God forbid a plain piece of clothing has a bow on it. But how ever she choses to express herself is fine with me. Thanks for hooking up to the Hump Day Hook Up

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    1. I like pink as a color, I just wish it weren't on EVERYTHING geared for girls.

      thanks for commenting.

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  10. Love this. I refused to put anything pink on my first daughter - insisted on blues - could be 'girly' but had to be blue or yellow or green. And since my first kid was a boy - she wore a lot of blue stuff anyways. I'm about as girly as mud but my kids are all different - I don't really treat them any different - boy is all boy - girl is tomboy (I hate that word) - girl is princess and girly - and littlest girl is a mix of all three. Oldest girl likes dresses and pretty things but loves to pick up and play with frogs and get dirty. Best of both worlds.

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    1. thanks. "best of both worlds" is exactly what I got with my two little girls. It's great.

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