When a little boy says he wants to be president, do you ever hear anyone try to talk him out of it? Or tell him he should focus on being handsome or being a daddy instead?
So when that happens to our girls, we need to recognize it for the everyday sexism that it is and redirect the comments being made to or in front of our children. When we know better, we can do better.
This story is from one of my favorite PPBB families:
When Sierra has medical appointments I always encourage her to pick out an outfit that will make her feel brave and strong. For her pre-op appointment she picked out her powder blue “Future President” shirt with sparkle pink flip flops. Sierra is a piece of work……she doesn’t have a shy bone in her body and regularly smiles at and talks to everyone she meets. I have nicknamed her “The Ambassador.” Despite her awesome personality, she often gets comments like “You are so cute!” and “Look how beautiful you are!”
What was interesting to me though, was that while she was wearing that “Future President” tee shirt, nearly half the people she spoke to thought she was a little boy! When she held the door open for an older woman, she commented to me that I am “raising quite the little gentleman.” Before I could respond, Sierra piped up that “I not a boy! I jus a weally nice girwl!”
Even her pre-op nurse, when she realized Sierra was a girl, said to her “Oh….you don’t really want to be president, do you?” To which she replied, “No….I jus pwetend to be pwesident. I weally am gonna be a surgeon!”
Kinda crazy to see the mindsets that still exist in 2013………
After the fact, I thought about answering, “You’re right…..she actually wants to be Secretary-General of the United Nations, but they don’t make that tee-shirt in a 4T!” but I honestly was caught totally off-guard in the moment. I did get my wits about me by the time she offered my daughter stickers, though. Sierra was given the choice of “Princesses or Dora”, neither of which she likes. I piped up saying, “Actually, her favorites are Spider Man and Angry Birds.” When the nurse told me all she had was Dora and Princesses I asked, “So I can assume the little boy across the hall is also going to be given the choices of Princesses or Dora, since those are the only stickers available, right?” Sierra happily went home with her new Thomas the Tank Engine sticker…..she does love her trains!” -PPBB Community Member Lindsay Kolk
It is so frustrating to have gender stereotypes forced upon your children. Last week two other PPBB Community Members shared stories with us about a pink baseball bat being forced on a little girl during team photos and a baby girl being told she has a sexy smile. I regularly hear stories about kids wanting their faces painted and the volunteer painter trying to talk them out of a design or color that doesn’t seem to match the preconceived notions of boy/girl. Someone else shared a story about her children witnessing a mother swoop down on a little boy playing with a pink toy, picking him up and spanking him, and scolding him saying he is not to play with girl toys. Seriously.
But on the other hand, we hear stories about boys getting compliments on having a strong sense of individuality for wearing kilts while out and about, and a grandpa at a park who had just met a little girl and telling her that she will grow up to be smart and strong just like her mommy. Or the six year old girl getting ready for her birthday party and refusing pigtails because her hair looked “wild like a hyena and hyenas don’t wear pigtails”. (By the way, her birthday party was a nature hike at a local park because she wants to raise money to preserve a nearby slug habitat. Girls will be girls!)
The thing about our kids is, gender is not the most salient part of their world. Being full of awesome is. It is adults, many but not all, who have it all backwards and we really need to get out of their way. We need to take a step back, remember that kids are learning and soaking up lessons from our world every minute. We should never limit or stereotype our kids. Childhood was never meant to be that boring.