Sexism From The Back Seat: What Women Want

At least no one said "thigh gap".

At least no one said “thigh gap”.

While driving with my children this morning we heard an obnoxious morning radio program ask a trivia question for listeners. “What do forty percent of women wish they had?”

 
My kids – my kids, who live in the epicenter of media literacy, critical thinking, and gender equality – began yelling out their guesses from the back seat.
 
“An engagement ring!”
“A husband!”
“A nice kid!”
“Coffee! Tequila, probably, if they have kids.”
 
Ummmm…..what? I wondered why these were their answers. Did they really think this is what women coveted, or did they think this is what women would probably answer? Would those have been their answers had the question been about men? Probably not, and I wanted them to think about that. 
 
Then the callers were put on air with their answers: husbands, bigger boobs, lose weight, shopping spree, better hair, etc.
 
“What total, sexist crap,” I said as I flicked the station.
 
So I shouted out my own answers:
 
“Diversified stock portfolio!”
“An executive position and house husband!”
“Equal pay for equal work!”
“Win IronWoman!”
“Sell off a successful business and travel the world!”
“An all-female government!”
“A Woman Card-toting sparkling UNICORN!”
 
My unamused ten-year-old said, “Okay, okay you’ve made your point.”
 
“Thank you, 1956. You had me worried there for a moment. Marriage and kids are nice, if that is what a woman chooses for herself, but these days women can dream about things beyond being a wife and mother,” I replied.
 
Gender stereotypes creep up everywhere, all the time. It is not unnormal for your child to repeat them, whether or not they are reinforced at home. They are influenced by society just like we are.
When you hear stereotypes, you need to redirect them. Even when your kids don’t readily agree with you, (hello, parents of four-year-olds) your comments will challenge their thinking and lay a foundation for them to question the gender binary and stereotypical boxes we place people in.
 

Melissa headshot 1 fb sizeMelissa Atkins Wardy is a speaker, media consultant, and the author ofRedefining Girly: How Parents Can Fight the Stereotyping and Sexualizing of Girlhood, from Birth to Tween”. She is the creator and owner of Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies, a company that has been offering empowering apparel and gifts to Full of Awesome kids since 2009 www.pigtailpals.com.

Find her at www.melissaatkinswardy.com. You can connect with her onFacebook (Pigtail Pals Ballcap Buddies) and Twitter (@PigtailPals) and Pinterest (Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies).

Pinks and Not Pinks

“Thought of you and Pigtail Pals Ballcap Buddies this morning when I made a quick trip to the local public library. I was refilling my water bottle when a 2 year old girl sat down at the kids computer with her Mom. The little girl asked her Mom if she could wear the boy’s headphones (blue/red) instead of the girls (paisley pink). The mother said that anyone could use either pair! When I agreed with the mother, she replied “it’s amazing what they learn by 2″.” -Susan G

I love the mom’s response! Yes!! Colors are for everyone.

Thanks to Susan for recognizing this moment and sharing it with us.

Gender Norm Brains

How early do children begin to exhibit an understanding of gender roles?

How early do children learn to limit themselves according to gender?

How does this impact childhood?

 

When our system of binary gender is ingrained by age 2 through socialization, can you see how children learn to:
1. Play along to get along, when it comes to gender roles. Girls do this and boys do that.
2. Limit themselves based on what is “for a boy” or “for a girl” through learned gendered coding of colors.

Using the example above, let’s play a game of what if’s:

1. What if *only* the blue/red head phones had been sitting out? Could the very little girl have thought computers are for boys because she didn’t see any pink tipping her off that computer time is also for girls?

2. If she’s learned this early that pink things are for girls and non-pink things are for boys, could the color coded toys of childhood today heavily influence her toy/play choices?
If yes, what toys are typically pink and what toys are typically not pink? What cognitive skills develop from different types of play? What cognitive skills are not developed when types of play are limited or avoided?

3. Finally, if the understanding of gender is influencing her activity choices from age 2, how would we ever know what her true interests are or could have been?

Childhood is a time for great exploration that should not be impeded by the pink or blue boxes we place our sons and daughters in, sometimes as early as that 20 week ultrasound.

We don’t let our children develop as unique and complex individuals, we let them grow up as members of one gender or the other. Their childhoods shaped by the expectations of the gender society limits them to.

 

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Melissa headshot 1 fb sizeMelissa Atkins Wardy is a speaker, media consultant, and the author of Redefining Girly: How Parents Can Fight the Stereotyping and Sexualizing of Girlhood, from Birth to Tween. She is the creator and owner of Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies, a company that has been offering empowering apparel and gifts to Full of Awesome kids since 2009 www.pigtailpals.com.

Find her at www.melissaatkinswardy.com. You can connect with her on Facebook (Pigtail Pals Ballcap Buddies) and Twitter (@PigtailPals) and Pinterest (Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies). 

That’s all he should have to be.

Sad boyBoys have feelings, too. This was the third morning in a row my first grade son has had strong emotions and anxiety about going to school. Each morning it has taken me thirty to sixty minutes to get him into his classroom. He is terrified of his Spring Sing concert next Thursday and for several weeks he has been in tears over this event. His teachers have been wonderful and understanding about it, and he and I are problem solving towards a solution that will help ease much of what he is feeling.

Yet I’m giving him the room he needs to have all the feels.

I’m not rushing him through it nor covering it up. I’m not apologizing to anyone for it. I’m not trying to mask it when we’re in the hallway and he is curled on my lap crying or buried into my chest begging to not have to go to school that day. I’m not asking him to ‘man up’, or telling him ‘boys don’t cry’. I’m not demanding he ‘toughen up’ or ‘act like a big boy’. I’m letting him be Ben. That’s all he can be. That’s all he should have to be.

I’m letting him feel fear.
I’m letting him feel uncertainty and doubt.
I’m letting him ask for help when he feels overwhelmed.
I’m asking him to tell me what he is feeling and experiencing.
I’m letting him cry, and cry in front of others.
I’m letting him set his limits that feel right for him.

I’m doing all this because, one, I’ve been through it with his big sister for years so I’m familiar with the terrain of anxiety. And two, because by giving my boy the space and the right to have feelings I am establishing a truth for him: He is a human being and he will have a range of feelings and emotions in life, and he has every right to them and to work through them.

If only all of our boys were given those same rights.

 

MAW Profile PicMelissa Atkins Wardy is a speaker, media consultant, and the author of Redefining Girly: How Parents Can Fight the Stereotyping and Sexualizing of Girlhood, from Birth to Tween. She is the creator and owner of Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies, a company that has been offering empowering apparel and gifts to Full of Awesome kids since 2009 www.pigtailpals.com.

Find her at www.melissaatkinswardy.com. You can connect with her on Facebook (Pigtail Pals Ballcap Buddies) and Twitter (@PigtailPals) and Pinterest (Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies). 

The Words We Choose Matter

Last night at my son’s basketball practice I was chatting with his best friend’s mom while we watched the boys play. My daughter sat in between us playing Minecraft. The other mom and I were commenting on how good one of the boys on the team is — I talking about a first grader hitting three point shots. His skills, follow through after a shot, all of it – he is crazy good. Either he watches a ton of pro ball and is adept at mimicking their moves (similar to how I learned to ride horses) or someone at home is teaching him.

I turned to the other mom and was about to say, “He must have an older brother at home who is a star player and practices with him a lot.” But I caught myself, and changed ‘brother’ to ‘sibling’. Maybe his big sister is the all-star player. Or his mom.

Because what a crummy message to send to my daughter, sandwiched between our conversation, who is too shy to play basketball right now. The words I choose matter. Why give my daughter one more message that the court is only for boys? The court is for people who play basketball.

Casual references to gender matter when our kids are listening to our every word.

Casual references to gender matter when our kids are listening to our every word.

 

Melissa Atkins Wardy owns and operates Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies, a small business in Wisconsin, where our shirts are printed and shipped with love. If you would like to order empowering apparel and gifts for girls and boys, please visit www.pigtailpals.com.

Find Melissa Atkins Wardy’s book “Redefining Girly: How Parents Can Fight the Stereotyping and Sexualizing of Girlhood, Birth to Tween” here, at your local bookseller or online.

Join the PPBB Community in conversation on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Why Does My Son Hate ‘Girl Stuff’ All Of A Sudden?

By kindergarten most children have learned and adopted cultural gender norms and roles.

By kindergarten most children have learned and adopted cultural gender norms and roles.

PPBB Community comment: “I wish I could control what my kids are learning in the classroom. My son comes home from kindergarten feeling like all he can play are superhero games. 
I’ve been telling both he and his sister from their day ones that all colors are for everybody, al
l characters are for everybody, princesses are for everybody and superheroes are for everybody. We live that way. 
But a few days in school and my boy yells “yuck” every time I ask him if he wants a pink heart sticker for crying out loud. 
It’s depressing, really.” -Kelly F

 

PPBB Reply: A lot of what your son is doing right now is totally age appropriate and common for kids who are in the phase of establishing gender permanence. Kids his age categorize everything and the world is very “this or that” for them right now. Good/bad, pretty/ugly, mean/nice, funny/scary. This is why the preschool/kinder age has such big emotions as the huge world they are learning so much about every day doesn’t line up with their boxes and they feel shifted and out of sorts. 

The categorization helps them feel a sense of control, because going out into the world every day without mom/dad right there can be scary and overwhelming so they compartmentalize everything and take their roles VERY seriously, which is why your son is overemphasizing that he is a B-O-Y right now and pink heart stickers make him wretch. 

It is completely frustrating and also a great indication he is learning and absorbing everything around him, including our culture’s definition of gender roles. Just be patient and keep emphasizing little gender equity mantras. It will stick with him as he matures.

Some PPBB gender equal and media literacy mantras you can use are:

Colors are for everyone.

All toys are for all kids.

There are many ways to be a girl.

There are many ways to be a boy.

Each person is Full of Awesome in their special way.

 

Images source.

 

Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies is a small business owned and operated by Melissa Atkins Wardy in Wisconsin, where our shirts are printed and shipped with love.
 If you would like to order empowering apparel and gifts for girls and boys, please visit www.pigtailpals.com.
 Find Melissa Atkins Wardy’s book “Redefining Girly: How Parents Can Fight the Stereotyping and Sexualizing of Girlhood, Birth to Tween” on Amazon.
Join the PPBB Community in conversation on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest