Gender, Sex, and Raising Little Girls

Lots of my friends have been posting this opinion piece on FB, so I’m guessing lots of the blogosphere have run across it as well: For Strong Daughters, Stop with the Sex Stereotypes by David M. Perry.

David discusses the experience of his son’s and daughter’s preschool camp award ceremony, where prizes were given out to the children.  Boys received awards like best runner, best climber, best builder, while girls were awarded for best hair, best clothes, best friend, and best helper.  Girls are recognized for having a pleasing appearance or personality, while boys are recognized for their physical prowess.

And David asks: “Many decades after the feminist movement of the 1960s, why are we still stuck in this gender-norming rut?”

I don’t have the answer, but it scares me.  And it makes me sad.

Teddy & I had a gender reveal for our baby (post coming soon!), because I can’t stand gender normative clothing.  And I’ve seen what happens at baby showers where the baby’s sex is known to the guests.  I went to a shower for a little girl where everything given – onesies, booties, blankets, bottles – EVERYTHING was pink.  I went to a shower for a little boy where the mommy-to-be only registered for this that were blue and sports related.

I can’t.

We had a gender reveal so that we would receive gender-neutral gifts.  Baby’s nursery is done in yellows and greens and white.  The clothes we’ve received or purchased so far are yellow, purple, white, grey, and green.  The car seat we registered for is green and black.  No pink.  We have one set of baby legs that have pink on them, but the other colors are blue and white.

It is my hope that my daughter will not fall into the Disney Princess trap, that she will not believe that math and science and computers are for boys, that she will get dirty and roughhouse and have fun.  If she’s super-duper girly and loves pink and sparkles and fairies, that’s fine, but let it be because she finds that interest herself, not because Teddy & I shoved it down her throat and it’s all she knows.

And as her mom, it’s my job to protect her from those influences as much as I can, while not being so over-protective that I stifle her and don’t let her become the young woman she naturally wants to be.  I already know there will be battles.  My mother specifically told me she only wanted a granddaughter, not a grandson.  (And I could do a whole post about how screwed up that is and how hurtful it was to me, and maybe at some point I will.)

I don’t have any answers.  I don’t really know where I’m going with this post.  I just know it makes me so anxious that things are so screwed up when it comes to sex and gender in America.  Rape culture has gotten no better, and maybe has even gotten worse in some ways.  Social media creates this vicious cycle that feeds the problems (see: the recent Twitter hashtag #FBrape and related articles, like this one from Salon).  But at the same time, there are awesome people out there who are fighting back.  A Mighty Girl provides an amazing resource for finding girl-positive books, movies, toys, and other kid-friendly stuff, and I know it will be a resource we rely on.  And geeks have been pretty forward with destroying gender stereotypes (though arguments can also be made the other way, with the rise of the “sexy nerd girl.”)

So, like I said, no answers here.  But something to keep thinking about – I think about it constantly.

The Big Bad Wolf

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