Monday, October 22, 2012

Gender Stigmas

I suppose it's society and culturing that has given me certain frames of mind. I am accepting of all people from all walks of life, though I still have my opinions. It's never my place to judge, and I wouldn't even if it was. I'm raising my children to know that they can be whoever and whatever they want, and teaching them to strive for the best that they can, but not to be obsessed with being on top or the best.

So when Landon came to me today with this discussion, I found myself baffled at the thoughts and words that automatically came from me. Mike the Knight came on TV, one of Landon's favorite cartoons. He wanted to be a Knight for Halloween, and chose a Princess costume for Nevaeh so they could match (Though his Mom bought him a Ninja costume, so that didn't really work out). Nevaeh proclaimed, "I Mike Knight!" and carried around one of Landon's toy swords. Landon was aghast and told her, "No no! Nevaeh, you can't be a Knight. That's just for boys, and you're a girl. Girls can't be knights." I jumped to her rescue, saying that of course she could be a Knight She could be anything she wanted to be, especially if she was playing pretend and using her imagination. Landon's face scrunched up, and he went back to watching his show.

A little while later Landon came to me holding Nevaeh's princess costume. "BB, can I be a Princess for Halloween?" In the middle of mashing up the meatloaf mix, I tossed over my shoulder, "No Bubba, your sister is going to be the Princess. Girls are Princesses. You can be a Prince though." He got distracted and went off to play, leaving me to think about what I just said.

Girls can be Knights, but boys can't be Princesses. When I think about my kids' futures, I admit I have a general picture in mind. Landon playing football, or baseball or soccer. Playing the drums or guitar. Nevaeh (and baby girl) playing volleyball, softball or swimming. Playing the piano like her Momma did. Not that I will pressure them to play sports, or dance or anything. I picture them all being intelligent, maybe being in the Chess Club or something equally challenging. But when it comes to the gender-specific things, like makeup vs. man stink, football vs. ballerina...I don't picture my kids doing the opposite gender-specific activity. If my daughters came to me one day expressing a desire to be quarterback, I admit that I would initially sit them down and talk long and hard about it. Tell them how difficult it would be, that maybe something a little softer or safer would be better. I wouldn't forbid them, of course, but I wouldn't exactly encourage it either.

Why is that? Why do I feel the need to encourage my kids to do things that society has cultured us to believe is acceptable? It's not wrong to want things for my children, to guide them in the directions I feel will help them thrive. But why would my gut reaction be to discourage them from anything? Why would I dive in with the mindset that girls can't be football players, and boys can't be Princesses? I count my blessings that I am not a close-minded person. That I embrace life the way it comes. But then comes smaller things like this, that can play such an important part in someone's life. Buying a firetruck for Landon and letting Nevaeh play with it, but when Landon starts toting around a pink purse I tell him that is for little girls, and he is a big boy. My gender stigma is definitely more critical towards boys than it is to girls. Perhaps because of the "equality" issue. Makes no sense, because I'm not an outright feminist, nor do I think the issue should be as blown out as it is.

I made myself a goal tonight. I will continue to guide my children how I feel is best, but I will hold my tongue from instilling a gender stigma in their impressionable minds. I can't say I'll buy Landon a princess dress as fast as I would buy Nevaeh a Knight costume, but if he expressed a desire to wear pink I will not deny him that. I am certainly entitled to my ways of thinking, but that doesn't mean I should force my own ideas onto them.

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