Google+ Authentic Parenting: So very masculine – How to survive the gendered world (rerun)

Saturday, September 18, 2010

So very masculine – How to survive the gendered world (rerun)

In our modern day of ultrasounds and advanced medicine, gendering your child often starts before birth. Gender is a very prominent thing in parenting, ableit subconsious, a thing you cannot avoid. The way you dress your child, what type of toys you buy, the activities you organise... Many of these choices are gendered. Now it seems that there are different ways to handle this. Either you can deliberately break the genderisation patterns to any extent, buy the boy a doll and the girl a truck or you can blindly follow the paths made up before you, or even more obiously push the gendering upon your child.

I don't think you can break gendering patterns altogether, neither do I think you should. In my humble opnion, some thing really are a bridge too far, (Like say, putting strappy gold and pink flowery girl shoes on your boy - but that's just me) but you can also go to far out the other way. I think it's important to remember that much of the gendering we do in the early years has to do with our expectations as parents, not with the childs inner world. And no matter what your mindset is about this topic, as they grow older, you should really respect their wishes. Again, it all comes down to a question of respect. If you respect your child, you won't force your desires upon them. If you really respect your child, you'll fullfill his wishes (up to some extent) even if they are somewhat against your expectations.

In having a child, we better say farewell to our expectations alltogether, failed expectations lead to dissapointment and frustration, and sometimes even resentment... Our child is a unique person who should pick his own path. We can still expect our child to grow up to be a good person, but in the end, it is he who has to make the decisions. All we can do is point out the way and guide them if they so desire.
Something that really bothered me is that newborn clothes are already very much gendered. We decided not to find out the sex of our child and had a really hard time finding unisex clothes for a newborn. You can only wonder why. It can only be uncomfortable to put your newborn in a dress, right.
Couple1 I know is very crossgender with their little girl, to the point where they didn't want to buy her a doll and only had farms and trucks (until she got a doll for christmas from her grandma and is now inseperable with it). They did have to revise their attitude towards clothing and toys upon request. To their great dismay, their daughter really likes dolls and ruffled skirts.

And couple2 is going really all out the other way. And this is the main reason why I started this post. I constantly hear the mom saying: "Oh my seven month old is so girlish! Your daughter really already makes girl noises! My son is such a boy, he's so agressif!"

When he was playing with a stroller car at couple1's house, she said: "Well he's always playing with those bikes and cars, how very masculine." Me and Mom1 both pointed out that he pretty much likes playing with the kitchen set too (maybe even more so than with the truck and car - he seemed to just want it when my daughter was on it). Mom2 got rather upset.

Same thing happened the first time Couple2's son came over to play. I told her he really liked playing with my daughters' doll. She seemed annoyed and answered that's because he doesn't get to play with dolls at home. I told her to buy him a doll, to which she responded that that would just be weird and her boy was not to play with dolls.
Made me think... Where does this fear of genderbending come from? Why would we blatantly follow stereotypes. What makes mothers force dolls up their girls and trucks up the little boys? Is it fear? Fear that their boy or girl might turn out different?
My family is somewhat on a middleground. Most days you can see my kid's a girl, but she does wear blue, and pants. And we did conciously buy her a garage... I think genderisation of toys is quite stupid. We just get her what she likes, not what fits her gender. She plays with little cars and rocks and sticks as much as she plays with dolls... No scrap that, she never plays with dolls here because I forgot to bring the one she liked and she's mostly playing outside now.

I don't think it's healthy to only raise our girls as weak gentle creatures, neither do I think boys should be all tough and macho. In my humble opinion, it is important that both parents have a role to play in a family, and that we teach that to both our girls and our boys, for one by giving the right example and also by having them play the part... And what better toy to reenact family life than dolls?

I also think it is important for girls to know they are entitled to their own opinion, that they are as capable as boys are and that they are not 'just a girl'. So why not go out and buy them a toolbox? Or better, a set of cars, let's break the female driver stereotype while we are at it!

I truly believe undermining patriarchy starts at home and we can change society by raising our children right. One child at a time.

How about your family? How do you treat this issue? Is it a conscious thing? Do you think about it much? Please share your thoughts on the subject.
Read on:

A nice blog that discusses the gendering issue: Raising My Boychick
Real boys play with dolls



  1. Thanks for visiting my blog! :) Consider me your newest follower! You mentioned about getting a widget to work, can you tell me which one? and I will let you know! :)

    Happy Sunday!

  2. I have 2 boys. Both play with their babies and trucks equally. They both attend dancing classes each week and to my husbands horror even own pink tulle skirts for playing dress ups. Many mum's would say this is filling the void for me as I don't have a daughter. I say, HELL NO I am giving them the tools (play things) so that they can learn how to be caring, loving and happy men, husbands and Dads. We try very hard to respectfully break the gender stereotypes, not all can be broken but its worth trying.

    Actually I would love a blog about societies need for the pigeon pair!!!

  3. Chrissy, you have me a little confused... pigeon pair?? (maybe it's because English isn't my native language)
    I love the pink tule skirts! My girl has a garage, toy cars, an airplane and loves everything with an engine. Yet I do put her in pink and skirts.
    I think it is important to first see a human being and maybe then a gender.

  4. Pigeon pair is one of each gender a boy and a girl. In Australia it is looked upon as very important to have at least one child of each sex. Thus for me leading to comments even after my first son was born of "so you'll be trying for a girl next time!". After my 2nd son was born I was very upset when people hadn't even seen him yet and were already telling me how a girl child is so important for every family and that we should keep going until we got a girl.

    I believe that gender is irrelevant until children are around 3 years old. When they learn the difference of boys and girls. We as parents should respect them enough to disregard societies mold of gender stereotypes and let them explore their own preferences for clothes, toys and everything else that is important to them. Who are we to say that they can't play with certain things based on their sex!!! I couldn't agree more we are all human first.

  5. I assumed as much. In Belgium it's called a King's wish (but since you have no King ;) ). And you should actually have the boy first. Funny I was going to do a post on that any time now.
    For the rest of it, I so completely and utterly agree with you, my neck is hurting from the nodding while reading your comment :)

  6. I always thought it would be much easier to raise children of the same sex, so after my son was born, I wanted a family of boys (and then of course, I had two girls). With only one sex, you don't do unconscious discrimination. Now I have to watch myself all the time.

    The good thing with having children of both sexes is you can have all kind of toys, and my son now plays a lot with his sister's dolls too. His sister plays a lot with his cars. We did order a kitchen set to Santa Claus for my son, though, before I got pregnant with my daughter and it was (still is) one of the favourite toys of the house.

  7. The way I handle gender is this: if something is inherently, completely natural for my girls to do, they will do it! No need of any prompting from me. I have two girls and my oldest (4years old) has always been very independent and likes cars and trains. She doesn't really play with dolls. She also likes art and video games. My youngest, almost two, has always needed to be held more and mostly wants her mommy, her daddy, or her grandma. (Whereas my oldest I could drop her off with a stranger on the street and she wouldn't care). My youngest loves dolls and when she plays with them she hugs them and kisses them; she makes her dolls kiss each other. It's very relational.

    I do need to be more careful about how I talk about them with others. I have said, (and I need to stop) that my oldest is a tomboy and my youngest is really girly. I feel we should be careful about how we describe these preferences because I don't want my oldest to feel like she's somehow less of a girl just because she doesn't adhere to the strict stereotype. The truth is, they are both very girly. How could they not be? They're girls!


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