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Friday, 10 February 2012

Breaking The Gender Stereotypes

Freddy is an absolute delight.  On one hand he is boisterous and likes to throw or kick things around the room. And boy does he have a good chucking arm!  He likes trucks and trains and cars and planes.  He'll give you a 'death punch' (thanks for teaching him that kids!) He thinks farts and burps are hilarious.  He loves active play, climbing, jumping and sliding.  He is great at football.

However he also loves dolls...Bratz are his favourites.  Pink is his favourite colour. He loves Disney princesses.  He absolutely loves to dance.  He strikes poses, wiggles his hips in a way that would make Louie Spence proud and does jazz hands!  He likes to put on one of his big sister's tops when he dances because he likes how the fabric swishes and billows out as he moves.  Just Dance 3 is his favourite game and he now knows a lot of the moves by heart, and performs them while watching himself in the reflection on the oven.

Dancing Boy
I love Freddy's freedom, his lack of inhibitions and his determination to simply be himself.  I'm sure in time, when he starts nursery and meets other little lads, he will become more stereotypical in his behaviour.  But for now I fully intend to enjoy every moment of my free spirited little boy.  He knows noting of society's expectations of him as a male.  For him anything goes and he embraces it all.

Society deems any girlish behaviour in males as a sign of weakness or effeminacy.  I recently read a post from the USA about an American mum writing in favour of the new pink, girly Lego.  She argued that for years Lego has supported the macho stereotypes with their vehicles, cities, spaceships and other boyish designs.  Her own 4 year old son preferred all things pink, girlie and fluffy and was very excited about a Lego option that would appeal to his tastes.  The piece was warm, loving and articulate.  However the comments she received were the exact opposite.  An outpouring of hatred, venom and ignorance spewed out from more than half of the commenters.  People saying how she was raising a gay child which was abhorrent to God and she should be manning him up before he was damaged and damned to Hell.  It was stomach turning to read such terrible things written about a child and a mother who was bringing him up with sensitivity and openness.  Whether or not her child turns out to be gay is irrelevant. How can adults be so narrow minded and fail to see the positivity of allowing children to develop their own personalities without the constraints of stereotyping.

The other extreme of this however is the mother who refused to divulge the sex of her newborn and kept his gender secret for five years.  She wanted him to develop his personality without the constraints of gender.  In effect he was treated both as a boy or a girl at his mother's whim.  It certainly didn't seem to be his decision whether or not he was dressed in fairy wings and a tu-tu!  I can only imagine how confusing this must have been to the child.  Allowing them to discover their own personalities is one thing, imposing your own ideas and values is another.  After coming out as the mother of a son, she said she would still encourage him to wear blouses...did she actually want a girl??  Supporting his decision to wear blouses is one thing, but dressing him up because you actively want your son to be in touch with his feminine side defeats the whole object of gender neutral parenting.  Let him be!

Many people seem to be opposed to boys being macho, rough and tumble boys or girls being pink, girlie girls who love puppies and rainbows.  But if your son or daughter naturally orientates towards these ends of the spectrum, then that too should be supported and respected.  My first born son would have been horrified if I'd given him a Barbie for Christmas...he was a real laddish boy.  Whereas Kizzy would love the new girlie Lego and has no interest in regular Lego sets.  It doesn't interest her, whereas glamour, fashion and make-up does.  Anything goes!  Let our children be who they are meant to be!

So whether my son turns out to want to be a Prima Ballerina, or whether he ends up a builder, the choices will be there for him to make, not imposed upon him.  I'll give him all the opportunities available to give him and I'll support him in the decisions he makes.

13 comments:

  1. great post :) my little boy is the same, he loves my nieces ballerina outfit and her princess toys, but likewise he like hammering things and wearing his bob the builder hat :) i like the freedom he has to do what he likes, not whats seen as 'correct' x x

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  2. I agree they should have the freedom to find out what they like without stereotypes but some of it is just in them... I have bought all my boys 'girls' toys and my daughter 'typical' boys toys to address the balance in my own way but it is hard with a lot of the market aimed toward one or the other gender... kids are simply kids and happy to let them be just that xx

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  3. I totally agree Wendy Mikey my youngest was always wearing giry clothes and dancing and singing he knew nothing off it and I left him be, I shared some pictures of him in a pink hat and jacket on one of my parent groups once to be met with comments of 'you'll make him gay dressing him like that!' I firstly wasn't dressing him like anything he choose to experiment with his sister things and i didn't stop him, he is much like your freddy and one minute loved rolling around rough and tumble with his brother with a toy gun or bow and arrow playing fights, next he'd be plastering on play make up with bows in his hair and chloes pink hat on... it helped him build his own personality and thats why i allowed him to dress up with whatever took his imagination and play with the bratz as much as the trains, That innocent period of time doesn't last long, now hes at school he plays with all the boys and i doubt id get him near a pink hat... ;)

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  4. It is other people's comments that are so thoughtless. Just because they enjoy the freedom of doing what they enjoy does not mean they will grow up to be gay or a cross dresser!! Freddy adores Kizzy and wants to be like her...and I'm not going to stop him from doing what she does. As you say, they grow out of it and the innocence is lost!! xxx

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  5. I love that our little ones are just happy to be themselves! x

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  6. Wholeheartedly agree with everything you've said there, and just horrified (although not all that shocked) at the comments on the American Mum. I just have one girl and we've always tried to keep things pretty gender neutral, but now she's two she seems to be showing a prefence for "girly" activities, tea parties, dolls etc. I suspect the expectation of conforming to gender rolls is worse for young boys, I doubt a mum who puts her girl in jeans would be acused of turning her into a lesbian but I also get annoyed when some people assert it is anti-feminist to have any kind of princess book or pink toy for a girl. Surely there will only be genuine gender equality when everyone can be whatever they like, regardles of their sex rather than forcing everyone into a masculine personality!

    As you say - it's not up to us to impose rolls on our children be that going with or against the percieved norm, whatever our own ideologies.

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  7. Freddy is so cute & has some great moves! It's great how he loves to wear Kizzy clothes and doesn't see it as being wrong...& why would he. Jack loves playing with dolls and other pink stuff, equally he loves playing with cars . It's great to see how many of the boys at pre-school like to dress in the pink fairy costumes too!
    x

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  8. All these little lads in touch with their feminine side...maybe there is hope for mankind after all!! xxx

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  9. I couldn't understand the outrage around the pink lego at all...surely its better for a girl who wouldn't play with lego to play with the pink stuff rather than none, and those who don't agree don't have to buy it. The whole thing made me really quite cross.

    My 3 year old keeps telling me she wants to be a boy, and currently will only wear her 'boy trousers'...I'm sure that will change.

    Freddy is sooo cute. xx

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  10. Aaron is very boyish and I definitely don't at all impose it on him. He could see twenty things on TV and yet at the top of his voice he would (and does) say "tractor". He loves cars! Loves them. He loves throwing things and being boyish - it is not something I have encouraged but it is certainly who he is.

    On the other hand he is the most affectionate little boy I know and can be heard once every 20 minutes saying "cuddle cuddle" and expects to be lifted up and cuddled before he runs for the hills and plays again.

    So he is a big softie in a boy's body - perfect balance I'd say.

    When we go too far not to impose gender, all we do is impose our wishes instead of theirs.

    I had a healing in the days before he was born and was already told he was a real boyish boy and it's turned out exactly right.

    And him having soya milk hasn't caused any estrogen (however you spell it) problems either.

    Liska xx

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  11. What a cutie and love his dancing moves! My little Nephew seems to do and have everything Poppy does so right now he is very happy with a very girly pink Barbie electric toothbrush! He also wants to do ballet just like her. I guess children are influenced by those around them and outside influences like TV as well as personality x

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  12. Great post Wendy :) freddy is a star! Marky often walks around in brookes pink slippers and fluffy dressing gown and he is obsessed with dolls. I don't see anything wrong with these little people doing what they enjoy, i just see it that they are becoming a very rounded little person who isnt a slave to stereotypes that is often forced upon them. in fact, my now 9 year olds favourite outfit when he was 2 was a pink fairy outfit! He would refuse to take it off, I had some very funny looks taking him to the supermarket!

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  13. I fully support everything you have written in your blog. Freddy is such an absolute delight in everything he does whether its playing with trucks or dolls. as you say, once he starts nursery or school he will develop his own needs and his own personality will shine through, whatever he decides.

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