Why gender equality still needs a bigger effort from parents
I posted a picture online of my youngest daughter covered in mud splatter, clothes drenched and smiling big after playing in a giant rain puddle. As she and her two sisters played in the rain puddle for a full hour, laughing, running, jumping, singing, marching, and dancing, I just thought to myself how lucky I am.
It seems gender equality has come pretty far. There’s just one big problem. It hasn’t come far enough. Gender bias between parents and children is a huge tomato in the room that no one is doing anything about and, even worse, no one even thinks there is a reason to do something about it.
What kind of gender bias am I talking about? The mom of all boys who “prays for a princess,” the family of all girls who gets asked when they’ll be trying for a boy, the moms of boy/girl twins who get told, “One of each. Perfect!” There are stereotypes that boys shouldn’t have mani/pedis and pink shorts or that girls can’t play in the dirt with trucks. I could go on and on and on.
So I posted my picture because for every mom who told me I just didn’t understand when it came to the messes that boys can make, I felt vindicated and proud. I am not raising three girls. I am raising three kids. My caption read:
“Why no, I don’t feel like I’m ‘missing out’ having all girls. I have three amazing KIDS. They are messy. They are princesses. They dance. They climb. They sing. They run. They like science. They like reading. They like superheroes. They like dolls. I have three amazing KIDS and I’m not missing out on a single damn thing.”
Within minutes, I got a comment from a mom of two boys saying in jest that I am missing out on one important detail and how boys fling around that detail. And yes, she’s right. My kids do not have penises. And no, they can’t exactly “fling” their vaginas. They can, however, drop their underwear on a playground and run over to me yelling that they need to go poo-poo (that didn’t happen last week.) They can also lift their dresses in Target showing the world their panties (that didn’t happen last week either.) And much to my disgust, they can pee in puddles when we go for a walk in rain boots (yet another example of what didn’t happen last week). They are KIDS. Kids tend to do a lot of gross shit. They don’t understand privacy until we teach them. It is no more appropriate for my girls to drop trou than it is for your boys to.
I don’t blame the mom who made the comment. We all need to look at our kids differently if we are ever going to fix the bias. I also get crap like, “Well, you’ve never seen my boys in a wrestling match” or “You say that now, but at least you don’t have to give daily baths from all the dirt he plays in.” It is just an overwhelming, appalling stream of one gender bias after another, and other than their physical genitalia, they are all the same. Just kids.
Gender equality means not limiting our girls, or boys.
Do not, do NOT call my girls “tom boys.” I hate that I’m raising them in a world where kids are expected to be or act a certain way because they were born with a vagina or a penis and they only get to be whoever they want if they have parents like me and the right circle of support. I had a little old lady tell me to put a bow on my very bald 13-month-old daughter’s head so people didn’t think she was a boy. I opted to let people think whatever they wanted and let my 13-month-old decide. Bows were available to her. I placed them on her head plenty of times. She yanked them off every time. I didn’t push it. Now she’s 6 years old and likes to wear pink, a lot. I let her. In a few months if she wants to wear all blue or all camo or all black, I’ll let her do that, too. It is all still acceptable to me.
Another mom tried to defend the differences between boys and girls by explaining just how different they are by nature on day one because she had fraternal twins, and she said each gender brings something different to the table to give the world balance. I think it’s great that she had that experience, but it’s sad to me that she formed opinions on their differences because of their genders. Gender equality can’t flourish with that mindset.
I have identical twin girls. From day one they have had completely and utterly different personalities. Please note, they are completely different and they are both girls! Gasp! Their demeanor, likes, dislikes, thoughts and so much more are not determined by their sex, whether by birth or chosen.
So yes, I have three amazing KIDS. And with each new progression toward gender equality, I do a little happy dance. But there is so much work to do and we are blind to it. Be happy about the KIDS in your house. Celebrate their differences as things they do well as KIDS, not as boys or girls. Let them be whoever they want to be, like what they want to like, and play like they want to play. Maybe by the time I have grandchildren, we’ll all be getting it right.
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Tags: gender bias