The Ugly Truth In Gender Stereotypes

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I was determined to be one of those parents who buys my boy dolls and my girl tools. Who lets my son wear pink if he wants. Who is not bound by gender stereotypes.

Then I had kids.

And my boy wanted Ninja Turtles, not baby dolls. He wanted nothing to do with pink. My baby girl, too young for toys, likes to cuddle and coo sweetly while my son was most content as a baby sitting in his baby seat and screeching his presence to the world.

It’s been interesting to find out, that at least in my case, many of the gender stereotypes ring true.

Sure, our babies’ gender is colored almost from the beginning, and literally at times, in pink or blue. At baby showers we are given “boy” or “girl” clothes and likewise for toys.

But my 4-year-old boy has always liked to help clean, and I bought him a toy broom as a toddler. Pink and purple, of course, because apparently only girls sweep. Ha! True if you ask my husband.

My boy swept, but mostly used the broom as a makeshift sword to whack us.

Most interesting to watch is the boy and girl dynamics at daycare and preschool. My son has been surrounded by boys since he was just months old at daycare, and loved to watch the boys roughhouse around him until he could toddle around and join the fun.

Bumps and bruises have always been commonplace for him.

After my daughter was born and I started bringing her to pick up my son at preschool, the little girls at preschool had baby fever to the max. They swooped in, trying to inject their germs into her not-yet-vaccinated little immune system through their nose-picking fingers. They’d walk up to me, feeding their dolls bottles and full of questions about my real life baby.

The boys generally didn’t give two hoots about my baby. They were too busy pretending to be superheros and pushing eachother down and crying.

Other times when I pick my son up from preschool, most of the girls are sitting quietly doing art or having snacks. The boys are off playing on the play equipment or running in the yard.

It’s like despite our best efforts to make boys and girls the same, the genders are often just plain different. Maybe that’s OK. Each gender (whichever that is, regardless of your physical sex) brings its own strengths. What’s important is ensuring all children have equal opportunities and are accepted as they are, not that we roll them together into one big ball of gender nuetral playdough.

Of course there’s a good deal of socialization involved in shaping gender, but is it more than that? Are boys acting on some primal hunter-gatherer instinct and girls are being the nurturers we have evolved to be out of necessity to ensure our children that we alone are naturally equipped to feed are cared for?

Lord knows, at least in my house, the baby just might get left in her seat out in the family room while her dad sleep walks to bed. Someone has to hold down the fort. And someone else will probably whack that fort with a pink and purple broom.

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