Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Unintentional Propagation of Gender Bias

It all started with pink shoes - sparkly pink sneakers to be exact. My oldest son asked to buy shoes at a store, instead of them coming in the mail. At the store, I made an off-hand comment about pink being a girl color and now I am bombarded daily with questions on the gender of every color and everything else. Having a 3 year old tell me I cannot do something because I am a girl would be less offensive if he was not my own son. Now I have to dig myself out of this hole...

I have nothing against men wearing pink - or skirts - or whatever else they feel like wearing. But my son is 3, and the kids at daycare are merciless. I would rather he decided to fight the stigma when he is mature enough not to fall for the teasing. Nowadays he seems to fall apart when someone calls him a baby...

Moreover, I do not think I am the only one pointing out differences between boys and girls. He is probably hearing things at school too. Unfortunately it is not just which line to get in to use the potty... Some days he comes home with statements such as "girls like princesses and boys like action figures". Then Dada jumps up and says that boys like princesses too - they marry them. My reply is that I like action figures too - Aquaman was always my favorite. My son looks puzzled - is it because he is trying to comprehend that boys and girls can like the same things or is he trying to figure out who Aquaman is?

But how can we teach children about gender without pointing out some differences? I worry that making gender distinctions will unintentionally propagate gender discrimination - biases that I feel affronted by in my adult life. The basics are easy: Dada is a boy, Mama is a girl. Only mommies have babies in their bellies. The rest seems like only personal preferences. Mama can use Dada's tools when she needs to, including the sharp saw - and the drill. She just cannot pee standing up...

1 comment:

  1. I'm with ya on the gender "bias..." I might call it discrimination though.

    The last comment made me giggle...which kinda got me to thinking of my own biases I didn't realize I had. Women (and girls) can mos assuredly pee standing up. It takes practice though, and since we don't basically have a hose, aiming comes a bit more slowly, but then again, how often are young boys ridiculed for not having good aim?