Kids and gender roles

[deleted account] ( 18 moms have responded )

Do you think we might be too narrow in how we portray "women's roles" and "men's roles" to our kids?

This idea came to me in another community in a discussion about a 10 year old girl who was sure she was actually a boy. It made me think - wouldn't it be nice if we could teach our kids that women (and men) can be anywhere along a huge spectrum of "maleness" and "femaleness", and all of those points are OK. ie if your girl wants to run around and play vigorous games and wear old clothes and play with boys etc etc - that's totally fine, and ditto for a boy who wants to play with the girls etc.

This would make everybody feel like they can be who they want to be and won't be pushed into a box, or else judged as weird.

I do think that things are improving - in our school I can think of several kids who identify with the opposite gender, and although people talk about it, no one bothers about it much... but it is like that where you're from?


Denikka - posted on 04/15/2012




I personally don't push gender specific stuff on my kids, to an extent.

I still buy my son *boy* toys and my daughter *girl* toys,but once it's unwrapped, whoever plays with whatever and that's fine. I also have a dress that I bought for my daughter that is WAY too big for her, but is my sons size, so occasionally he likes to wear it :P it's super cute :P

I do think there should be SOME line between gender roles, but at the same time, I don't think gender should be an obstacle. If that makes any sense at all.

What I see happening more and more is gender neutrality, which I don't agree with. I have seen/heard/read some people who actually believe that a boy being ultra masculine or a girl being ultra feminine is a bad thing. Which I totally don't agree with at all. I would say that most people are some shade of *purple* on the scale, but there are still those girls firmly in the *pink* corner and those boys firmly in the *blue* corner.

I absolutely agree with gender equality. More in the sense that, as an example, the woman staying home to watch the kids and take care of the house is just as valuable and important as the man going out to work. Or vice versa. Not that one person should not just be ABLE to, but should actually fill ALL the roles out there (example would be a woman who feels she is expected to have a career, be a full time mom, do the housekeeping, cooking, looking after her husband etc etc etc.) For those who WANT to do everything, great for them :) But it should not be a social expectation that they should HAVE to fill all the roles. There are men and women for a reason. Each has their own role to fill. And what that role happens to be should be only between themselves and, potentially, their partner.

I do think there should still be general lines between the genders though. A girl should be a girl and a boy should be a boy, no matter what their favourite colour is or whether they prefer to play with dolls or trucks.

What I fear is going to happen with the gender neutrality thing, if it gets taken too far, is a world of androgynous people where it's unacceptable to be feminine or masculine. Or to be filling any of the typical gender roles. I get enough eye rolling when I mention that I'm a stay at home mom or the person learns that I'm not *working* or going to school with the intention of working at some point in the future.

I say that people are people first. That's what I teach my kids. It doesn't matter what sex or gender they are. It doesn't matter what sexuality, what colour their skin, eyes or hair is. It doesn't matter what god they believe in, or if they believe in no god at all. People are people first. Be who you are and be proud of it. Don't hide it just because society thinks you shouldn't be that way. As long as you're not hurting anyone, be true to yourself to the greatest extent possible.

Krista - posted on 04/18/2012




I think things are improving, but we haven't gone far enough. We're good about it with toddlers, but I see a lot of parents who try to urge their children to adopt more traditional gender roles once they start school, due to a worry about them being teased or bullied.

And it's a vicious cycle. If we discourage boys from "girlish" activities, then they will feel that there is something wrong with those activities, and will internalize that, and will wind up picking on the one kid in school who is still non-conformist.

It would take a giant act of societal bravery for ALL of us to just say, "Okay. This stops now. Let's let our kids be whoever they want, and NOBODY is going to make them feel bad for it."

It is funny, though -- some things are just innate, I think. I have provided a broad variety of toys to my son, from balls and trucks to "gender-neutral" stuff like blocks and play-doh, to "girlish" toys like dolls. I've never pushed him towards one or the other. But he has only played with the doll once, and is a complete nut for Hot Wheels, trucks, balls and dirt.

Like I said on the welcome page thread -- you can "nurture" all you want, but "nature" still sometimes plays a factor. And my kid is naturally a very "boyish" boy, I guess.

[deleted account]

i think we have made trmendous strides in the changing of female attitudes but not quite so much with boys. We (as a whole) still look askance at boys in dresses or playing with dolls, etc. At our local school district, they have evening adult education with things like gardening classes, etc., One class they offer is a Mommy & DAughter class on puberty and celebrating becoming a woman blah blah but they have never once offered a separate but equal class for boys entering puberty. We really have done great pushing to girls that your body is your own, you can choose to do x, y or z but I as the mother of a son do not see the same for boys beyond what has always been. That they have to figure it out themselves and be men.

Merry - posted on 04/18/2012




It is a hard cycle to stop though! JUST today I was cleaning out my closet and found in the back a bunch of old dressesof mine that my aunt sewed for me. Most were bigger but one was a two-three year old sized so I tried it on Fierna. It was too big but cute :) it was pastel pink with a ruffled collar and a white petticoat with lace and more ruffles. Way too much ruffles for our tastes but it was fun to see it on her anyhow.

So. I showed her to Matt and then went to take it off her. Eric said he wanted to try it on.

I swearing knew what I should do but in my head were the voices saying, don't let him think wearing dresses is ok, convince him that boys don't wear dresses, etc.

But I stalled him as I churned through al these thoughts and finally ended saying ok fine, you can try it on. He said I can? Boys can wear dresses? I can be a princess? And I said yes you're a boy and you can wear whatever you like. And hoped he wouldn't like dresses lol.

So anyways I put it on him and he was sooooooo cute. He just needed a hair bow and he would have been the cutest three year old girl alive :) but he wouldn't smile, he said I don't like being a princess. He said I like my boy clothes.

So I took it off and felt relieved but proud. I may have not done it the best way possible but I tried to not do as my mom would have done, and I think I did ok :)

I remember being about 6 and crying and begging my mom to let me wear a tie and she was adament that girls don't wear ties. But I wanted one like my dad and brother and I felt so confused cuz I didn't know whyi couldn't. So even before I started learning about gender stuff like this had told myself that' id never be so strict as to do that to my kids.

So it's hard to help my son into a dress but worth it I think, he's three and he's just curious.

Merry - posted on 04/18/2012




From what I can see here there's a lot of acceptance for girls to be masculine. They wear boys clothes play with boy toys, even are being named boy names and everyone is all proud of themselves for making feminine right so good. But if a boy wears a girls dress or a pink girly Dora shirt or drags around a Barbie or a baby doll or is named a bi gender name or god forbid a female name we all are so quick to whisper and stare.

It's pretty messed up.

It's obvious that girls are allowed to be masculine but boys dare not be feminine.

And we as moms perpetuate the cycle by dissuading our boys from acting girly, telling them to toughen up, be a man, pick boy colors, and even by choosing to name our girls with boy names we are continuing the message that girls can can be boyish but boys can't be girly. But it's tough to stop when the world is so judgemental. Heck you can't even try to makes our girl girly anymore without people accusing you of trying to make her something she isn't. But making boys boyish is still quite accepted and praised. Its unfair.


View replies by

Kimberlee - posted on 10/30/2012




I think we can (and should ) teach our children to be who they are and not to define themselves strictly by other peoples ideas about male and female -ness.

Niketa - posted on 10/27/2012




Hi, My name is Niki Bhatia and I am the author of a childrens book, PINK IS JUST A COLOR AND SO IS BLUE. It is about letting go of our old gender stereotypes about colors (pink and blue) and toys kids choose to play with. The main character is a little boy who is not too athletic and his best friend is a feisty little girl who is "tomboyish". Our ultimate goal is to assure that our kids grow upto be confident, productive individuals, without placing so much emphasis on color and toys when they are sooo young.Toys are just a means of exploring and learning about the big world. Don't we want our girls to be confident gogetters. So let her be confident and comfortable with herslef. We need to teach kids and parents to be more open minded....

Lisa - posted on 04/22/2012




There are no gender roles at all in my house. Toys are bought and whoever plays with them plays with them. My little girl is girly sometimes, but also like to roughhouse so it's a good balance. My little boy likes to put on skirts, and play house as well which is super cute i feel :)

MeMe - Raises Her Hand (-_-) (Mommy Of A Toddler And Teen) - posted on 04/18/2012




I think that was very sweet Laura. Your boy will appreciate you for not criticizing but rather "humouring" him (as they say). He is only interested, wanting to be able to participate, as you have seen, there is nothing wrong with it.. ;)

Tee - posted on 04/18/2012




In my case I am not preventing my boy from acting girly. If I would have had daughters first then it would have been the boys playing with mostly girl things if that was what the girls would have been into. Children do what they see their siblings do.

My oldest used to play with girls, doing girly stuff all the time at one point because there were a lot of girls across the hall for him to play with. My middle plays with mostly boys because that is what he is around for the most part.

As far as dressing, the boys mostly see / saw what is traditionally thought of as boy attire because they were / are in school uniforms But they are / were free to pick out their own clothing within price limits when shopping.

In my experiences children emulate other children they are with and do not care about gender when they are little unless those around them make a big deal about it.

Tee - posted on 04/16/2012




My daughter tries to pick out her clothes when we shop and prefers to dress all girly (although she does wear some of her brothers old pjs and tshirts). The more pink and sparkly the better. But would rather play with cars and trucks before a doll. On Sundays she is the first one on the couch to watch sports with her dad. If anyone knows where to find a pink basketball, football or tool belt and tools please let me know. My son plays with mostly boy toys but does play dolls with his sister.

The see their father and myself doing various things and and don't think of anything being just for boys or girls.

Beth - posted on 04/16/2012




I live in San Francisco, and needless to say most kids here (not all, but most) are taught that it's okay for them to enjoy activities, dress, etc. "typical" of the opposite gender. Some people maybe take it too far though, and they get upset when their daughter asks for a Barbie, or their son pretends the stick he found is a gun or a sword. But, sometimes it is okay for us to let them just do what they want, even if it falls in line with the stereotypes, just as long as they're happy, who cares? As long as we're not pushing them too hard to do what we want vs. what they want (as long as they aren't harming anyone or themselves) I think we should let them live, explore and learn by doing.

Lady Heather - posted on 04/15/2012




I don't really know anyone who forces their kid into gender roles. My daughter picks her own clothes and goes for the girly every time. Maybe daughter #2 will be different.

I kind of thought that sort boy vs. girl toy thing was old fashioned though. Maybe that's just who I hang out with.

Stifler's - posted on 04/15/2012




Around here people think boys having anything pink is "a bit gay" and stuff but most women work and men wash their own work clothes and my son will have to help with house chores just like my husband does.

Stifler's - posted on 04/15/2012




I don't push gender specifics either my kids have mostly unisex toys, stuffed animals, blocks, those shapes that you put through holes thing from tupperware, ride on car things, the trampoline, a rocking seahorse, sensory table, musical instruments, trucks and cars which i don't find are a male thing, i am a woman and i drive a car. and logan had a doll and pram before renae was even born and my husband pushes his kids in the stroller so i don't find that a female toy either. they have fairly boy/girl clothes i guess mostly because they are hand me downs. i didn't buy every single cup and spoon blue for logan and pink for renae either they use whatever.

MeMe - Raises Her Hand (-_-) (Mommy Of A Toddler And Teen) - posted on 04/15/2012




I too think that we have come a long way with not gendering our children. However, it is still true that boys and girls are treated somewhat differently. I try my hardest to not do this with my own children.

My daughter had all the typical "girl" toys but I also made sure she had dinky cars and was allowed to scale a tree (within saftey). With my son he has all the typical "boy" toys but he is just starting to become really interested in baby's. He just started saying "Baby" the other day. Now every baby he see's he gets super excited and yells "BABY" (he is soooo cute!). So, I am heading out next weekend to buy him his own little baby. I still have the hand crafted wooden baby rocker crib, my daughter had for play. He will get to put his baby to sleep in that, just as she did. ;)

Now, when I told my husband I am going to go and buy our boy a baby, he wasn't all that happy. He said "Don't buy him a baby, he isn't a girl!". I told him Daddies take care of babies too, not just Mommies. He shut up then. LOL He knows it. He has helped with our boy from infancy, with absolutely everything, including putting him to bed. ;)

The Daycare where my son goes do not gender children. Boys get to play dress up just as the girls. If a boy wants to wear a dress, then he gets to. My sons teacher and I were discussing this a few weeks ago. I told her I thought that was wonderful and I encourage them to encourage my son to play "make belief", it is what will help him develop a wee bit of female quality, that I think all boys and men need. They need this in order to understand and be compassionate for and about women. Girls need a wee bit of boy qualities in order to stand up for themselves and be strong, too. I told my sons Daycare teacher that my husband won't be very happy to pick his son up to find him in a dress. LOL So, I told her to make sure he is in one every once in awhile to get Daddy used to his son having fun with role play!

Oh and my daughter wants me to pull all her barbies out of our crawl space, so she can play with them with her brother. She is going on 14 and she is excited to play barbies with him, I told her I would. He deserves to learn to play house too, I'll just try to make it a bit easier on Daddy and make sure there is a Ken in there. ;)

I also agree Jen. I think it is wonderful that there are Mom and Daughter groups for puberty and such but what about the boys? That isn't fair at all. It should be an equal thing, boys need education and support as well. There definitely is still gender bias people and groups. I think it is very unfair.

Nikki - posted on 04/15/2012




Our schools are pretty good, they do not allow gender stereotypes. I live in a small rural area so unfortunately old fashioned gender roles from the 50's are rather prominent. I am hoping that mine and my husband's views can compensate because I want my daughter to grow up believing that gender is not an obstacle. I want her to believe in herself as a person and feel that she can do whatever she wants with her life regardless of gender.

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