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Like a girl

I grew up in a household that did not tend abide by gender stereotypes. Both of my parents pursued careers. But both of my parents also spent time at home as full-time caregivers. In some ways, I was aware that not all households were like this. That not all Dads took their girls outside to learn to throw a ball properly. And that not all Moms gave their girls Adventure People instead of Barbies. But in many ways, I was oblivious. I think the same could be said for how my husband was raised. I wouldn’t imagine that it was the norm for a country boy to know how to cook, clean and sew, and yet his mother taught all three of her sons these skills.

I can see now that what our parents gave us was a gift. Because in raising us in this manner, it is now possible that I, as mother, can teach both my daughter and son how to throw a ball properly. I’ve been armed not with just the desire to do so, but with the actual skill. (Sometimes I do still find myself ill-equipped, but in those instances, I fake it for the sake of my kids.)

Most days I really feel that the world has changed and that our generation is at the forefront of turning over any remaining gender stereotypes once and for all. Like when I heard a documentary about stay-at-home-fathers this morning on CBC radio.

But then there are other days. Days when I end up “crying like a girl.” I really hate those days.

What are the most common gender stereotypes that you run into? Are there common phrases that irk you, like “Oh, boys will be boys?” Do you ever find yourself acting out gender stereotypes (consciously or unconsciously)?

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  1. Ooo I shudder when I hear things like, “Oh, that’s because she’s a girl” or “He is such a boy.” But I realize that there are certain traits that are part of being a girl or boy (as described by scientific study) I guess that I’m weary about attributing certain things to gender. Mostly because we forget how much environment can influence certain things–environment meaning television.

  2. I know … I shudder too! And these kinds of sayings are so much a part of everyday speech, aren’t they?

  3. Interesting question! I have 2 girls so it isn’t immediately obvious to me, but I do often hear that boys are much busier than girls; that they don’t want to sit and do crafts for hours on end; that they don’t want to go back to school because it means sitting at desks in an orderly manner for much of the day. I have probably said this myself while watching kids playing around the neighbourhood. Is it wrong or bad to say this do you think? I’m honestly not sure.

    One more – my youngest daughter still wants everything to be pink, though my older daughter now loves everything black (she is 8 after all!)

  4. coffee with julie says:

    Finola – Most of the time these kids of gender based categorizations irk me because they can be limiting. And children who do not live up to the labels are somehow “not normal” – sissy or tomboy. And yet, like you point out, many of these generalizations are based on truth, just natural parental observations.
    As for your Q – is it wrong or bad … You didn’t actually expect ME to have the answer, did you? ;_

  5. I drive a motorcycle, learned to play hockey, can throw a football side-arm with the best of ’em and I work in IT. I didn’t set out to do any of these things to prove myself, to compete against men (or other women for that matter). I also sew, knit, bake, and scrapbook. I do these things because I enjoy them and they challenge me and it totally kicks butt that I’ve been supported by my family and employer every step of the way.

    You don’t want to know the rage I feel when I bring my motorcycle in to the shop and they start talking to my husband. Or the fun I experience (as a gear head) being ignored at car shows.

    As for gender stereotypes I fall into, I will joke with my co-workers (who most often fit the ‘nerd’ stereotype) that I don’t have to think or work because I have boobs…but that’s more to watch their discomfort I guess. And because I’m evil. *g*

  6. As a former babysitter and now as a teacher, there is no doubt in my mind that some ‘stereotypes’ are real. Boys ARE busier and girls DO whine more. But, like all stereotypes, there are exceptions and they are NEVER an excuse for bad behavior. IMHO. The only time I hate being a ‘single’ parent is garbage day. I can do the rest of it, but I really hate putting out the trash!!!

  7. My family was a bit different too, my husband like to say there are a lot of strong women who run the house in my family! My parents took turn working and I consider my mother the head of the household. Same goes for my grand-parents.

    I’m proud of the way we were raised… I can see it now with my little brother who is 18, he is a really nice kid and very respectful of women.

  8. Neeroc – yes, you bring up a really important point for me … that my children have the choice to do what they ENJOY doing. Whatever that happens to be.

    Stefanie – haha! I hate doing the trash too, even though there is no reason why I can’t do it! I also hate that I cry when I’m frustrated or angry. These two things are so stereotypically “girly.”

    Zhu – ah, a strong matriarch, eh? I agree that if kids are taught that everyone deserves respect — both men and women — as indidviduals, then we’ll all be better off.

  9. There are things that apply, but also as ways of describing. I often say my son is a such a boy or a real guys guy. Not to stereotype, but because everyone knows what I mean when I say it.

    Funny story I heard last night relating to this:

    My good friend was at work, and someone asked if her Dad forced her to like sports because he really wanted a boy… she’s the boss and owns the business! Her employee actually asked her this. She was relating this to me as we were complaining on the phone of the lack of a season the Winnipeg Blue Bombers are having. We do love our football!

  10. I find the biggest gender stereotypes I run into are still related to dress and looks in general. There are very specific things that are okay and other things that are “weird” when it comes to boys and girls. Oh and all the gendered toys bug me too.

    The other one that I run into all the time is the assumption that my kids must be in day care because I work full time. They are now both in school, but until two days ago, my husband spent 5 years as a stay at home dad.

  11. When my son was born, my sister kept telling me “just wait,” meaning that because he was a boy he’d be into lots of trouble, etc. Thankfully, all three of my kids turned our pretty darn responsible. I’ve only ever asked that they be good people, which they are. What more could a mother ask for?

  12. Judy – I do the same thing sometimes with my daughter. For lack of a better word, I will sometimes describe my daughter as a “tomboy.” But the word itself — some kind of abnormal version of a boy — bothers me. She’s just a girl who likes comfortable and practical clothing. Why wouldn’t everyone?

    Annie: Yes, I find dress and looks quite specific too. Especially with boys … lots of old and tired stereotypes there. And the gendered toys are especially bad in baby and toddler years I find — everything is either pink or blue. Like a pink ride-on toy or a blue ride-on toy; no other choices. And of course the pink one comes with some stupid purse with makeup or something. :p

  13. Laura: My youngest is a boy and I heard that same thing OVER and OVER again when I was pregnant. “You just wait, you’ll see … boys are so different.” It’s so nice to hear how proud you are of your grown children — that is my fondest hope in life too.

  14. Julie, thank you so much for posting the link for Fisher-Price Adventure People. My Mom bought me several sets when I was a kid, and they were my absolute favourite toys.

    I think I was definitely a “tomboy” growing up, and had the holes in the knees of my jeans to prove it. An invitation to go over to a friend’s house to play dolls for the afternoon was akin to torture; it meant I couldn’t be outside with the neighbourhood boys playing road hockey.

    I think that now I have a pretty good mix of female and male skills that make up my personality. I don’t give it much thought. Although there are things I simply cannot do (like apply make-up) that I attribute to “missing that day in girl school”!

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