Out of the mouth of babes

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I’ve had two encounters over the last week which made me wonder about how we are raising our children and whether we will ever achieve equality when children get indoctrinated with gender normative messages. 

Now I should insert a disclaimer: I’m not a great feminist, I’m more a feminish. I find a lot of the doctrine a bit tiresome, militant people in general scare me and I am comfortable in very traditionally ‘female’ roles: nurse, mother, cook. Before you shout at me I don’t believe that women should be anything other than what they choose, I don’t believe anyone should be anything other than what they choose to be. I believe in humans being human in whichever way they see fit. Ok. We got that? Right, I’ll continue.

So on the way back from Beaver Scouts the other day my six year old son is explaining to me how he likes rugby but not football. He then says ‘Do you know how you should throw a rugby ball to a girl? Like this…’ and mimes throwing a ball very softly, says he was told by someone at a bbq. Cue mummy outrage. I explained how girls can be as strong as men. How some are stronger. I explain that you should assess based on size/ability/preference but definitely not gender. He then turns to me and says ‘Some girls are strong, some aren’t, some just don’t want to be and the same for boys, it’s all alright.’ And I then breathe a sigh of relief that my influence on my son has been stronger than society’s.

A few days later my son and nephew are acting all disgusted at ‘girl stuff’. This is a battle I often lose and am torn on, I believe if my son wants to turn his nose up at pink things he can, but I do try and tell him that it’s (once again) nothing to do with gender. This time however it goes a bit further. My nephew comments on how I have ‘boy tattoos’, I am more heavily tattooed then any man he knows and yet he sees them as inherently male. I tried challenging him, I tried asking why he felt like that and he wasn’t sure but he was entirely unchangeable, my tattoos are like a boy, my short hair is like a boy; society has told him that and I cannot sway him.

Why do children have such gender norms? Do they serve a purpose around finding their identity? Or are we just feeding into inequality? I don’t have the answers, I’d like to just let kids be kids. 

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One thought on “Out of the mouth of babes

  1. Dear Nicola Sheehan,

    Regular readers of you blog will be aware that you recently attempted to solicit purchases of your apparently polarising eBook, “Tiger Tiger” (rated 3.6/5 on Amazon UK at time of writing), with the promise that you would “donate [your] next two weeks profits to charity”.

    The message was posted over two weeks ago, so I am writing to inquire about said donation. Can you confirm that such a donation did indeed take place? And if not, can you reassure this concerned citizen that such a donation will be made in the near future to The Albert Kennedy Trust (a voluntary organisation based in England, created in 1989 to serve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual young people, who retweeted your blog in good faith)?

    Regards,
    Concerned Citizen.

    P.S. This concerned citizen does not have time to go into a long discussion on gender, but does wonder whether these “girls” who are “as strong as men” do indeed exist. He further wonders why you are telling your son to not judge strength based on gender but on size, given that a woman being bigger than a man is not in any way indicative that she is stronger than him, and that size would only really be relevant to two people of the same gender with similar body-fat percentages.

    This concerned citizen will leave you to ponder whether society’s gender norms have developed naturally and for reasons which benefit all of us – perhaps they are due to the “accomplished will of the past and present, a higher self worked out by the infinite pain, the sweat and blood of generations, and now given to you by free grace and in love and faith as a sacred trust”, which “come to you as the truth of your own nature, and the power and the law, which is stronger and higher than any caprice or opinion of your own,” as British philosopher F. H. Bradley believed? Regardless, given the alternative is cultural Marxism and moral relativism, this reader wonders which kind of society your would rather your son grow up in.

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