vrijdag 7 december 2012

Lessons learned: Avoiding gender stereotypes

"That's very European", an Asian mother commented when I told her I was trying to avoid gender stereotypes around E.

It does sound a bit high minded when written down, but basically what it comes down to is not limiting the colour scheme to pink, picking generic lego sets over the flowery houses and enthusiastically imitating airplanes whizzing around shopping malls (go on, picture that, a towering eight months pregnant Caucasian woman running around with out-stretched arms making vroomvroom noises among quiet and reserved Asian shoppers).

At home, with us, this seems to work. E. loves drawing and puzzles and books. She'll build towers out of lego and has recently discovered the joy of building blocks. She tidies up behind herself (especially when reminded) and she always wants to help out with cooking. She loves all manner of bikes, from her own balance bike to huge Harley Davidson motorcycles. When doing the laundry she prefers S.'s clothes to mine, but shoe-wise she definitely goes for the heels. I try not to stifle her ideas and play to fit in with a pre-conceived notion of what she should like and do.

So here I am, trying to let my child be who she wants to be. When she told me that papa was a princess and mama was a knight, I didn't correct her. (She corrected herself: of course we weren't a princess and a knight, all three of us were horses!) We fib a bit to even things out in the examples we set her ourselves. Whenever I go off and leave her with S. we tell her that I go to work (which, in a very broad sense of the word, is true). Lately, S. has been picking up the slack that I leave in the wake of my whale-like body. He cooks, he tidies (I bite my tongue - well, sometimes anyway).

I'm actually not sure if she's completely aware that she's female and that other toddlers are male, and that there is this whole divide in humanity between men and women, as that isn't something that ever seems to come up in conversation (apart from the odd time when she sees either of us taking a shower). Last time I asked her if she was a boy or a girl, she got confused by the terminology.

But whenever we go out and I give her a choice of clothing, she'll pick something pink. Or frilly. Or white with a colourful pattern. Definitely a dress or a skirt. And always pink or flowery socks. And whenever we're at a playdate she'll make a beeline for the dolls and the toy kitchen and start cooking, bathing and changing diapers on the doll before putting it to bed. She loves to push prams, both real and fake ones. So, in the spirit of letting her be her, I am letting her be girly.

But it does feel like she's missing the point.

2 opmerkingen:

  1. I don't like gender stereotypes too!
    His room is painted blue way before he was born when we first moved in.
    We dress him up in red and pink too.
    We do "girly stuff" like encouraging kissing and hugging.

    So no, I don't think it's a European thing at all. That mother is a little narrow-minded, eh?

  2. Possibly! I had never thought about it as an European thing before either. Kissing and cuddling is what makes it all worth it! Though I don't know if I can get over myself enough to dress my boy (we're having a boy in January) in pink too. Although in fairness, S. has a lovely pink shirt, and I think purple really suits him. But then, I do love myself a bit of purple :)