Try it. Make a liar out of me. I just told my daughter the only job I could think of that a girl couldn’t do was be a daddy.
I hate, hate, hate that I’m having this conversation with her. She is four. She has lots of questions about what bones are made of, how fingernails are attached, what eyelashes are for, why girl toys have eyelashes but boy toys don’t. She’s smart and observant, but the truth is that she wouldn’t have to be either of those things to see that things are classified in this world, and that things that fall into the predetermined “girl” category are also considered “less”.
We were listening to a kids’ radio station and some train song came on, sung by a woman. My daughter heard this, thought for a minute, and asked “Is this a real train engineer?”
“No. Is this a real girl train driver?”
“Of course.” (Because, why not?) “Train drivers are girls or boys.” And then I said what I said about girls and jobs they could do. “It would be silly if a girl grew up to be a daddy. (She giggles.) That’s the only thing I can think of that she can’t grow up to be.”
Tell me, though, what do you do when an intelligent, well-meaning woman, who has even read Pink Brain, Blue Brain, (which I haven’t read, but whose express purpose I understand, is to “break down damaging gender stereotypes”) consistently tells your daughter that dinosaurs are “boy toys?” Says “boys are like that” when talking about rambunctious, rowdy behavior? Who gets visibly distressed at the thought of my daughter getting her dress dirty?
Mostly I don’t say anything. My daughter is her own person. She continues to host dinosaur battles in her lap arena on long car trips. She continues to jump on beds and tackle her brother. She continues to dress herself in a beloved CARS t-shirt and dinosaur hat. She continues to make big messes, exploring the water-adaptability of all her toys and shoes. And yet all she has to do is wear a pink dress once and that’s all people see. How is it that we ignore 90% of her personality and focus solely on the pretty, “girl” stuff she does? How many times can she play cars and have you insist she’s only doing it because her big brother likes them? I mean, have you met this little girl? Believe me when I say she has never, not once, done anything she didn’t want to do.
Every kid I’ve ever met wants to discover about the world, figure out things for themselves, are natural-born scientists, and yet my news feed is filled with things like “Girl Day, 2015” to encourage engineering skills in our girls. Such garbage. Not that there is one, but that we need one, and boy do we need one. That we need to remind ourselves not to limit children. What are we doing to our girls that we suddenly need to be re-teaching ourselves and the adults in our children’s lives not to be the gender police? I’ll tell you.
We just went to Barnes & Noble and discovered this:
A lovely display of sticker books.
Look! There are so many choices!
There’s even one for “Heroes”…
Without a single woman in the book.
Not. A. Single. One.
I’ve already written to Usborne, a children’s book publisher out of the UK about the egregious error of not including any women in their Heroes sticker dressing book. (Well, okay. There are two women in the book. In the background, in bikinis, on one page.) About the lack of choices they present to boys AND girls. Here is a company dedicated to publishing children’s books. This is what they should be able to do best, and yet they looked to old stereotypes to create an entire display of over-the-top sticker books, twelve of them with girls, and only girls, putting on fashion shows, traveling, planning their wedding, being pop stars and running hair salons, and one of them with boys, and only boys, doing rescue work. I expect better. And so should you.
Is it small? Yes. Does it still irritate me to no end? You bet. I didn’t even have to go looking to find ridiculous and limiting gender stereotypes. They came right to us, right at my very observant child’s eye level. It is everywhere and I swear to you I will punch you in the face if you’re the first one to tell my daughter she can’t do something because she’s a girl. Actually, I’ll let her do that herself. She’s got a mean right hook. Just ask the cousin who tried to take her Lightning McQueen car out of her hands.