Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Gender Gap

"Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind. " ~Dr. Seuss

When you found out you were going to be a parent, what was the first thing you really wanted to know? Boy or girl, right?  Whether you found out before the birth or at the birth, that's the one thing we are all dying to know. (I personally don't see any point in waiting - but that's for another post.)

Now imagine being so excited about your baby boy or girl, loving and nurturing that child for three or four years, then sending them to a school that refuses to identify your child by gender. Nobody - not the teachers, not the principal, not the other students, refers to him or her as "him" or "her." A preschool in Sweden is doing this. They're referring to the kids as a group, as "friends."

Sorry, friends, I just don't agree.

While I also don't agree with enforcing gender stereotypes, I can't support flat out ignoring gender. What about potty time? Will everyone have to stand to pee? Or sit for that matter?

My daughter is being raised in a house where her father does all of the cooking and most of the kitchen clean-up. Her mother pays the bills and is better at fixing most things. It's up to the parents to teach their children that it's ok for boys to cook and girls to assemble patio furniture.

At her school, there is a boy whose favorite color is pink. There's nothing wrong with that. There is another boy who loves dance class. I find nothing wrong with that, either. Nor is it wrong that I carried my baseball cards in a purse when I was a boy. You can read about that here. Those kids are busting the stereotypes, and I'm pretty sure they're doing it all by themselves.

Even the inflatable pool is princes themed
But sometimes, the stereotypes find the child. We tried to avoid the whole princess craze with our daughter. Didn't introduce her to them, buy her any toys or books or show her any movies with princesses. We weren't making a political statement. We just felt like they were a little cheesy and a lot cliche'. Well, guess who is fascinated by princesses anyway? We've got the nightgowns and the books and we watch the movies all of the time and when she plays dress-up daddy has to be the prince or the king.

Her choice. Naturally.

This past weekend, we were headed to a birthday party for one of her classmates. The boy had chosen a Spiderman theme for his party. As we drove there, my daughter volunteered, "Daddy, I hope there are girl superheroes at this party, like Wonder Woman."

My Feminist Superhero
Our little women's libber, perhaps? We probably won't know for a few more years. But she did get a pink Batman painted on her face at the party. Sorry... Batgirl.

These are her politics, not her parents'. Not that we disagree with them. During dinner one evening late in October of 2009, my wife and I were discussing the race for governor in New Jersey, and we asked our daughter, "Are you a Democrat or a Republican?"
Halloween 2009

"I'm a cupcake," she answered, because that's what she was dressing as for Halloween a week later.

A cupcake. A princess. Wonder Woman. Sweet, strong, independent. All words that describe my daughter. All things she chose. Based on gender? Probably. Based on nature or nurture? I think mostly nature, with a little bit of unintended nurture.

Because I knew she was going to be a princess the minute I found out we were having a girl.


  1. I love the last part about the cupcake... I know this was not a political post by any means but you can't help but think that somewhere along the way she is going to have to make those kind of decisions. Why can't we just stay cupcakes forever. BTW... when did it become wrong for a boy to be a boy and a girl to be a girl? Have we been doing something wrong for the past 2 million years?

  2. I have 1 boy and 2 girls and THEY ARE DIFFERENT. Beyond what's in their diapers, they are different! My boy is rough and even before he'd ever seen a western or Transformers, if you handed him a stick, he'd point one end at you and say BANG. My daughter loves baby dolls and anything shiny, much to Daddy's chagrin. She's also a great bull rider (imaginary bulls only so far!) and my boy is a great dancer. No made up pronouns are going to fix gender inequality. Pretending the sexes are the same isn't the answer. Admitting that we're different and THAT'S OKAY is what's going to do it.

  3. Interesting points! I love the bit about "I'm a cupcake."

    I can see both sides of this issue, but I'm definitely more in your camp. And gender identity is different than sex, so I think the bit about peeing is a moot point. But boys and girls will find their own interests. We don't have to push things on them. Life is confusing enough. Let's not make it worse.

  4. My point is this all sounds very 1984 to me. We're all different. And wearing the same clothes and not saying "him" or "her" just hides that. Makes it worse.

    Vote for my daughter on the cupcake ticket in 2044!

  5. To clarify my previous comment, I think of gender and sex somewhat differently. My sex is clear. I have all male reproductive organs; that makes me male. My gender is less clear. I'm heterosexual, but the way I identify myself as a man is not defined by male gender stereotypes.

    In other words, just because I don't watch sports doesn't mean I pee sitting down. Capice?

  6. Haha, my last comment was *not* intended to sound snarky. To explain further: Gender is not the same as sexual orientation, either. Sex, gender, and sexual orientation (in my mind) are related but separate. I like women, but I've been known to paint my nails (once as a kid, once as an adult). Is that something most people of the "male gender" would do (or admit to)? No.

  7. You didn't sound snarky...douchey maybe...but not snarky. LOL.


    I think you see gender as more gray and I see as more black and white, even if you're not fitting the 'stereotype.' But we basically agree...so there's that.

  8. The cupcake part had me totally cracking up.

    You make interesting points, though. I agree that forcing people into gender stereotypes is bad (i.e. you're a girl so the only thing you can do is cook and clean and have babies), but I think it's equally dangerous when we (or our children) are not allowed to celebrate who we are - gender and all.

    I, for one, am extremely proud to be a woman. And being a mother is the part of being a woman that I'm most proud of. Why should we ever be made to feel ashamed of our genders?


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