Welcome to ControverSunday. When you are done reading this go see Perpetua for the list of everyone else who is playing this week. While you are there, thank her for being the hostess with the most-est and then head over to Accidents and applaud her for her awesome badge making ways.
First, I need to confess that I have never taken a course on Feminism. I did a degree in Political Science and yet never once did I set foot in a Feminism class. I don’t know why. So I have never been well versed in the gender debate. I know that women still make less the men in equivalent roles. And that women in certain places/cultures still deal with a lot of discrimination. And yes, women here in North American deal with discrimination too, but more so, I think, we deal with continued objectification. Other then that, I am really not well versed in the current debate. I know some of my fellow ControverSundaians are and I am looking forward to reading what they have to say on this.
Anyway, pretty much the moment I was pregnant I knew I was having a girl. Even in the time from early July to late August where I WAS pregnant but didn’t KNOW I was pregnant, because apparently pregnancy tests (including blood work) can be WRONG….. I still thought I was pregnant and that baby was a girl. (Didn’t I ever share that fun fact with you all? Yes, despite being the official headquarters of queasy central and having the tenderest most painful boobs ever, my pregnancy wasn’t confirmed until I was about 10 weeks along.)
And due to A being a complete wiggly trouble maker even when she was in the womb, we didn’t actually know for 98% sure that she was a girl until I was about 7 months pregnant. (We got the ‘baby doesn’t appear to be a boy” line.)
And yet, through all that, I knew she was a girl. And I was happy about it. I don’t know why. I mean, I would have been just as happy, I guess, if she was a boy. I would have been! I promise! All I really cared about was a healthy baby. BUT. Well, maybe I can explain it this way:
A while back (before I was pregnant) we got together with some friends and their family. This family of our friends were a couple with 4 (I think, at the time) boys. FOUR BOYS. All under the age of 6. (Also, I should mention, they are some pretty amazing parents, as they seemed to have it all under control. I don’t think I would be sane if I had 4 kids under the age of 6, let alone all boys.) ANYWAY. We were hanging out with them and one of the boys (I think he was 4ish) brought a book for me to read to him. A book about trucks, helicopters, boats, ect. And he wanted me to tell him what each of them did. Now, these were not simple, like “dump truck dumps stuff” these were specialized vehicles with specialized purposes. All of which this boy wanted to know. I tried to make it up. But he knew I had no idea what I was talking about.
So truth is, I am kinda scared of having a boy. Girl fits in my comfort zone. I don’t watch or play sports. I don’t care about cars. And I know nothing about different kinds of specialized vehicles like you would see on a construction site.
BUT. There I go, making the assumption that boys play with cars and girls don’t. And so we come to the CLASSIC of gender discussion: nature versus nurture.
So, here I go, on the nature versus nurture. My answer to the debate is: yes.
Yes to nature. Yes to nurture. Yes to gender difference. Yes to not all people ‘conform’ to the typical gender differences. Yes. It be complicated people. And so we shouldn’t assume. But I also think it is unreasonable to say that boys and girls are ‘the same.’ In my opinion, they aren’t.
From a very early age, you can observe differences in boys and girls. Someone once told me that very young girls (like 6 month old babies) look to their Mom’s before they pick up something new, almost asking permission. Boys rarely do this. When I think about how school age kids play, both engage in competition and development of social structure. But it seems to me that the currency of social structure for boys is possessions and abilities. For girls, it seems the currency is if they have influence over each other. The most popular boy is the one who is good at sports. The most popular girl is the one everyone likes and listens to. So I think it is valid to see boys and girl differently.
So, does that mean I will discourage my daughter from playing with trucks if she so desired? No. Does that mean that I will dress her in pink every day? OH MY GOODNESS, NO! I have some serious mixed feelings on the pink. (In that I really don’t like it, but every time I put A in it, she does look pretty darn cute.) But it also means that if she wants to put a bow in her hair everyday or dance around like a princess she is welcome to. I am not going to try and push a ‘gender neutral’ approach on her. Essentially, she is welcome to be interested in anything she wants. And if that means I will be taking her to her rugby practice when she is 12- so be it. If that means she wants to be the best ballet dancer of all time- so be it.
As with most things, I try to take a rather laid back approach. Sure, yes, society perpetuates certain images and beliefs on to women that have a negative impact on equality. And I can see how raising our daughters and sons to try and break those barriers is a good thing. I just don’t think it is any better to push our kids to be gender neutral then it is to push them to be ‘girly’ or ‘boyish.’ I am sure it depends on how you support the gender neutral environment. There are probably ways to do it so that you aren’t ‘pushing’ anything…. but this is a parenting issue I have yet to research much about.
At the same time, if/when we have a second baby and if that second baby is a boy, I will not have gender based expectations for one child that I do not have for the other. I remember, as a kid, we went to my grandparents every summer. I have two brothers. And every night after dinner I was asked (by my grandfather) to clear the table and help my grandmother do the dishes. They never asked my brothers. Ever. This made me ANGRY! I felt like I was being punished for being a girl, because they had the expectation that girls help clean up. And boys don’t. So I will be very conscious not to have double standards about what chores (or behaviour for that matter. I call bull on the ‘boys will be boys line’, good behaviour should be expected of both genders) I expect my kids to do.
But truth be told, I haven’t really thought about this issue all that much. (And I still managed to blab on for 1200 words about it… I know…. I have a true talent.) I think I need to hear the rest of the ControverSunday team’s intelligent thoughts on this. And that’s what I am off to do now… read what everyone else has to say.