Close call

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This morning I was playing with my two year old son. He’s obsessed with anything that moves, cars and trucks in particular. He has access to plenty of toys, he even has a dolly that he loves but cars and trucks are his go tos. He’s been like that since he could make choices, I tried to be even-handed in what I offered him, so as not to push him in a particular direction. Anyway, his favourite car is Lightning McQueen, he has even referred to him as his best friend (all together now: awwwwwww).

So, we were racing Lightning McQueen and some of the other race cars from the Cars movie, one of which happened to be a female car. I was racing the female car, he knows the difference between boys and girls but not enough to assign that one to me because I too am female, I just was never getting my hands on Lightning McQueen while he was around. While zooming them backwards and forwards, I picked up the female car and started examining her decidedly more elaborate paint job. The next words out of my mouth were about to be ‘isn’t she pretty?’.  I literally gasped in shock and caught myself before I said it. Without even thinking, I almost passed on a gender stereotype to my little boy. I’m not sure what gave me the realisation. It seems like a microscopic thing but it had never occurred to me how something so innocent lays the foundation for how our children respond to things. He copies so much of what I say, when we see little puppies he says they’re cute because that’s what he hears me say. Children learn how to be people from us. Yes, there’s the whole nature vs nurture debate and I don’t doubt that nature plays a part in developing who we are but nurture is so direct.

I went to an International Women’s Day breakfast a couple of weeks ago. One of the speakers said it was going to take another 100 years to reach gender parity in society. At the time I wondered if it would realistically ever happen, sometimes I feel like men and women are chalk and cheese; that’s a topic for another day. Its in the hands people like you and me to make it happen. As parents it’s our job to lead by example if we ever want to reach gender parity. Instead of saying she was pretty I said ‘isn’t she fast and strong’ with a smug look on my face. I love a bit of self satisfaction, it goes a long way.

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  1. cabrogal says:

    Instead of saying she was pretty I said ‘isnt she fast and strong’ with a smug look on my face.

    So now you’re training him to like fast women?
    Tut, tut.

    More seriously, while you did well to swallow your initial response I’m not sure that reversing stereotypes is a whole lot better. Margaret Thatcher used to like to say she was the best man for the job. And it sounds a bit like the sexist stereotype was already implicit in the paint-job. Maybe even better would be finding some way to get him to assign attributes (and genders) himself. At two it’s probably a bit early to try to get him to question his own assumptions by asking why he would call a particular object ‘he’, ‘she’ or ‘it’ or ‘strong’, ‘pretty’ or ‘brave’ but you can still encourage him to make his own assessments rather than wait for them to be imposed by an external authority – even if it’s you.

    … says the guy who has never had to try to raise kids.

    • Definitely implied in the paint job. I was set up! Its hard, you want to educate, I read to him every night and even his books have stereotypes and hidden messages. It would be tough to adjust everything as to not influence. I dont have that sort of brain power!

      • cabrogal says:

        Yeah, you can’t form him. You vs the rest of the universe? No contest.
        All you can do is try to give him some tools to form himself.
        And don’t forget. You’re his Mum. One of these days he’s going to react against everything he imagines you are. Probably start over the next twelve months I reckon.

        • He’s already as bossy as hell. People say he’s spirited. He’s so clever its ridiculous. I taught him sphere yesterday now hes pointing at all his balls saying sphere. I love it that he’s constantly asking me ‘whats dis mummy?’. Hopefully he’ll always be a mummy’s boy.

  2. Good share! It is true. While I’m not a parent, I do agree that children learn to grow from their parents. Sometimes parents don’t think children catch everything they say and do, but it’s the opposite.

  3. bgddyjim says:

    I thank God I don’t see the world through your eyes. I feel sorry for you. And your son. There will never be parity between men and women because women will never let go of their victim status. There’s too much power in it. Ironically.

    • cabrogal says:

      Are you satirising Men’s Rights Activists or is this for real?

      • bgddyjim says:

        You’ll have to forgive me, I only speak English. Neither. I see a sunny day and an opportunity to go for a bike ride with my wife and friends. I can only guess at what you think of it. I am thankful I am old enough that I haven’t been tainted by your fear, pessimism and anger. I can just be me, my wife can be she and we can have fun. It’s quite freeing, you should try it.

        • cabrogal says:

          Right on bro!
          If we let the Hairy Legged Lesbians castrate our Tonka Toys then before we know it our nation’s Holy Highways will be gridlocked by Bull Dykes in pink Kenworths!

        • You don’t have to guess, I think of it as a sunny day. A beautiful sunny day, but I can hold more than one thought in my head at any one time. Its not fear in my mind, its mindfullness of the future I want to create, would hate to see my son growing up to think women are victims like you would have him believe. Thanks for making my point exactly for me.

    • Thats a fundamentally old fashioned statement. What evidence do you have to support that? We may never have parity because of views like that. I want my son to respect people for what they are not what society has conditioned him to believe. If you believe that it doesnt influence then I feel sorry for you.

      • bgddyjim says:

        You’re supposed to be an influence. You’re his mother, it kind of works that way. You’ll never have parity as long as you continue to misunderstand and confuse the words parity, respect and same – and as long as there are men like me who open the door for women with a slight bow as they enter before I do.

        I should hope men and women are never treated the same – and you can be certain that I teach my daughters to expect better.

        What I meant is that there is no air in your construct of a society, where women and men can’t be ladies and gentlemen. Where is the fun in that?

        On the other side of this, my wife will thank you. You’ve reminded me that I need to dress up in my best suit and take her dancing again.

  4. Graham says:

    While not a parent myself, I do feel that an awful lot of issues in the world could be dealt with if parents didn’t pass on their prejudices and opinions without a degree of thought. You just have to look at things like the Northern Ireland issues over hundreds of years or the religious hatred we are now seeing in various places. I hadn’t thought of the gender issue like that before but you are so right, it should be fair and equitable and people judged on merits, nothing else.

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