Do you worry about gender stereotyping your son? - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 21 Old 03-28-2003, 11:39 AM - Thread Starter
 
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before ds was born i was intrigued by the whole 'baby x' theory, but now i find myself quick to correct people when they call him 'she/her', and i'm drowning in sports/construction/airplane/fishing themed baby clothes, and have to catch myself from calling him big boy or describing him as angry when he's crying, etc etc.

i don't want him to be crippled by our society's idea of what a boy/man should be, but i don't know how to do it differently. about the only thing i know for certain is that we won't have toy guns or violent video games (if ANY) or only trucks or sports-related toys. but what else?

other mamas of boys, how do you deal with this? or do you?
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#2 of 21 Old 03-28-2003, 01:01 PM
 
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What is the whole "baby X" theory?
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#3 of 21 Old 03-28-2003, 01:24 PM
 
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I've thought about it. I correct people when they incorrectly refer to either ds or dd though. I try to not be overly gender specific with either kid, but I do find myself being more likely to put dd in 'boys' clothes, than putting ds in 'girls' clothes. I try to stay somewhat neutral for both.

DD has a football and basketball hoop, and DS has stuffed animals. I'm hoping they both end up very self assured and considerate of others, regardless of gender.

Michelle -mom to Katlyn 4/00 , Jake 3/02, and Seth 5/04
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#4 of 21 Old 03-28-2003, 01:33 PM
 
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I know how you feel. I have a baby girl who wears dresses and pink and all the stuff said I would never put her in. But, she will own baby dolls as well as trains and soccer balls as will any boy I may have. Its tough to be totally gender neutral, but if you buy dolls in adition to 'boy' toys, and he rejects them, you tried, KWIM? I wouldnt worry about correcting people when the incorrectly assume hes a girl, after all he IS a boy. I think the most important thing to remember with a boy is to be just as affectionate as you would with a girl. Dont encourage/force independence too soon or withhold babying when he needs it. I think that the 'big boys dont cry' mentality is what makes our young men so agressive and distant, not the sports themed toys and whatnot. Its espessially important fr the baby's dad (if hes in his life) to remember this. My husband once said hes glad he had a girl because he doesnt feel he could be as cuddly with a boy. I am working hard to change this by the time we do have a boy. Good luck.

Evergreen- Loving my girls Dylan dust.gifage8, Ava energy.gifage 4 and baby Georgia baby.gif (6/3/11).

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#5 of 21 Old 03-28-2003, 03:32 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Quote:
Originally posted by ohiomama
What is the whole "baby X" theory?
i read an article in college about an 'experiment' that a couple did (i'm not sure if it was actually done or if it was just an idea the author had for the purposes of a discussion on gender roles) where a baby was given a gender neutral name, clothes, toys, as s/he got older had a gender neutral haircut, etc, and no one could really tell if it was a girl/boy.

basically, the idea is that most of what society defines as 'girl' or 'boy' are totally constucted from thin air and have no basis in nature. in other words, boys play with trucks and girls play with dolls b/c those are the toys they are given, and not necessarily b/c those are toys that they naturally gravitate to. same goes for how they play... boys are rough and tumble b/c they are taught that that is how they are supposed to play while girls worry about getting their dresses dirty b/c that is what they are taught.

i think what Gr8flmom said is so important... society teaches boys that they have to be independent before they are ready ('cut the apron strings') and that they shouldn't cry... this is what i am worried about the most. those subtle messages to boys that they have to be strong men (while they are still babies!), they cannot be sensitive, or express feelings or emotions the way girls can.
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#6 of 21 Old 03-28-2003, 03:32 PM
 
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I definately struggle with this. I thought I was the hippest moma, but I threw a fit the other day when DH put DS in Minnie Mouse sweatpants. They were just red sweatpants that happened to have a small picture of Minnie Mouse, high on the thigh.

I am also kind of bugged by the toys out there. I think DS would enjoy a tea set, but the only ones I can find are so ultra-feminine. I'd really prefer to get him a plain, gender-neutral one. (I heard Tupperware has one)
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#7 of 21 Old 03-28-2003, 04:01 PM
 
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People often mistakenly thought my little guy was a girl when he was younger and I would correct them. After all, he was a boy and there's nothing wrong that! I let him know early on that boys are wonderful and I am so glad that he came into the world just the way he is. Of course, I also told my girl the same things about being female. I dressed them in whatever seemed comfortable, usually sweats, and let them dress themselves as soon as they were able. DD went through a girly-girl phase, all lacey and such, but she still played in the dirt dressed in her finery. DS likes his shirts with cars and skateboards but it isn't THAT important. With both of them I always stressed wearing what was comfortable and let them make their own choices from there. At 13 and 9, comfort is still their main criteria.

Helping your boy identify his feelings is important, as it is for any child. If he is feeling angry, help him label it as such, but don't forget words like frustrated, annoyed, growly, resentful, etc. There's lots of shades of any emotion. Do stress how important it is to not hold these sorts of feelings in his body. Help him find ways to constructively deal with it. Cry, whack a pillow, talk to you, take a soothing bath, whatever. I have found that one of the most wonderful things you can do for your child is to help them identify their feelings but also not to pass judgement on those feelings.

Be honest with him about how society is. He will get the message loud and clear that he should not cry, be stoic, etc. Simply tell him when the opportunity arises that this is a ridiculous notion and you and he are too smart to buy into it. Being there for him, holding him and cuddling him, and listening without wanting to fix everything right then and there will go a long way toward letting him grow into a well balanced man. I have found with my DS, when I just let him talk, and I simply listen with an occasional "uh-huh" or "how did you feel about that" or "you must have felt pretty annoyed" is all it takes to work through a situation which he has found difficult.

Acknowledge him when he is kind, gentle, and peaceful, and help him label the feelings inside that such actions engender. Content, happy, loving etc. "Feels good, huh, big guy." Casually talk about this in front of him to others. "DS did the kindest thing today--(fill in the blank)--and it was so nice to see him feeling happy inside and doing good things in the world. He is so powerful and strong that way."

Chances are pretty good that he will love trucks and cars and make weapons out of the legos, while mostly ignoring the dolls and such. I swear my son came into the world already knowing how to make that "vrooom vroom" sound, not to mention "bang bang." I never bought him war toys and never let him watch violent anything, but, he still likes play like that. I talk to him about why I don't like stuff like that but let him make his own decisions about imaginative play. That way it is not forbidden (and hence all the more interesting) fruit but I have still spoken my piece.

Much of what society will teach him is good--being assertive, taking care of your loved ones, taking a leadership role, being strong emotionally. But in the end, he will be who he is, as long as you encourage him to think for himself and always question the values of the larger society, taking or leaving what he pleases depending on what works for him.

Enjoy your little guy! I was a bit lost when I had a boy, not really knowing if I could raise him outside of society's perogatives, much of what you are feeling right now, I suspect. He's 9 now, and the most wonderful kid, loving, kind, always on the lookout for the underdog. He likes to cook and he keeps his room a lot cleaner than his sister, too, so there ya go with stereotypes! You will do just fine, simply because you are an aware and conscientious mom. Lucky boy you got there!
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#8 of 21 Old 03-28-2003, 04:45 PM
 
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I have two boys ages 4 1/2 and 2 1/2. The first one played with pretty much whatever he liked. He was fascinated by balls and two litre pop bottles as a baby and young toddler. He also like trucks and construction things. When I was expecting #2 we got him a doll and it was the first of many. When he was 3 1/2 the one thing he really wanted for Christmas was a Miracle Baby doll. My dad got it for him and thought it was great. Each of my boys has several dolls and each sleep with them at night. For a while when dh2 was a baby I had to carry him, my first, and two dolls. I had the sling for my baby and the double stroller for ds1 and his two dolls that came with us literally everywhere. Ds1 has always been very sensitive and we didn't direct his likes or dislikes in any way. For the longest time he wanted a pair of those sparkley, red, Mary Jane type shoes, but we couldn't find a pair that would fit his feet. Even Dh didn't have a problem with him wanting the shoes, and us trying to find them for him.

Ds2 is much more of a "boy." I think that it mainly comes from having the example of a now preschool age big brother who enjoys things like sports, wrestling and more "boy" type toys. Either way, we encourage both of them to feel free to express their feelings, their sadness, their love any way they feel comfortable.
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#9 of 21 Old 03-28-2003, 04:53 PM
 
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I think that about 3 minutes after meeting Baby X, most people would want to know his/her gender. Not much of life is lived in the company of people who don't want to know that information, and the few people who don't know if a child is a boy or a girl would have very minimal impact on the child's upbringing, in my opinion. We want the information because we have certain expectations about behaviour from boys and girls.

I am not sure how much of what our children do is internally driven and how much is the result of watching adults and the ways they act. My children, for example, were amazed when I told them that I used to have a job outside the home. In our community, there are a lot of moms who are not employed and most of the ones who have jobs work part-time and schedule the work around the children. Meanwhile, all the dads head off to "the office" each morning to do something called "work." Even if a mom goes out to work, they don't see her, so she doesn't really exist in their imagination, and the person who looks after her children is always woman, so that caregiver is seen as being their mom. Who would imagine that women could do the same work as men? They have never seen an example of it actually happening.

At our house, I don't try much to suggest that the boys play dolls or the girls play trucks. What I do work on, though, is that each child is honest, both to others and to himself or herself, and that they are allowed to act in the ways their emotions tell them is right. Gentlegreen's post said it all.
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#10 of 21 Old 03-28-2003, 06:04 PM
 
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I think.. That no matter how much you try .. Boys are gonna want to play with toy guns.. We don't have any, but our boys use the strangest things for guns..

I don't worry about gender stereo-typing my boys.. I don't think i do.. They have gender neutral toys, and some definate boy toys.. And some "girl" toys i suppose.. My oldest loves and old pink cup with Barbie on it.. So i care.. Nah, not so much.. Hell, it was my Barbie cup!!

I think the idea is not to push on to your child who they are, but to let them be who they are.. Be that boyish, or girly.. You love your child for who they are, NOT who you wish them to be.. Or at least i think that's how it's supposed to be..

Warm Squishy Feelings...

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It's lonely being the only XX in a house of XYs.
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#11 of 21 Old 03-28-2003, 06:20 PM
 
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A friend of mine asked what to get Avey on his 2nd birthday, and I asked her to get him a baby doll. Dh wasn't overly thrilled, but didn't have a real problem with it either. I have no problem with him playing Barbies with friends, or kitchen. He loves to play in the kitchen, and he loves to clean. He will make somebody a good husband and father someday, so long as he loses the temper. Lord knows I would love to lose mine:
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#12 of 21 Old 03-28-2003, 07:07 PM
 
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I'm already having a tough time with this, and ds isn't even born yet! I think what makes it so hard is that many of the properties that are valued in our societies are often related to "maleness," like strength and control and "toughness." When my dd toughs it out, I sometimes find myself expressing admiration and it's okay, because it's "feminist" to do so. But with my son, it will easily resemble the propagation of machismo.

Many AP values lean toward the more "female" side, like caring and supporting and letting your feelings show. I imagine that I will support those things as much in my son as I do now in my daughter, but it will probably be hard to also appreciate the more "traditional" strengths in my son as much as I do in my daughter.

I like gentlegreen's suggestions: "What a big strong loving boy!"

My dd plays with all types of toys. "mamacar, daddycar, and baby-car" :LOL
I wonder if my ds will play with barbies that way. "cop barbie, burglar barbie, gunshot barbie"
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#13 of 21 Old 03-28-2003, 08:55 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by QuinsMami
i read an article in college about an 'experiment' that a couple did (i'm not sure if it was actually done or if it was just an idea the author had for the purposes of a discussion on gender roles) where a baby was given a gender neutral name, clothes, toys, as s/he got older had a gender neutral haircut, etc, and no one could really tell if it was a girl/boy.

basically, the idea is that most of what society defines as 'girl' or 'boy' are totally constucted from thin air and have no basis in nature. in other words, boys play with trucks and girls play with dolls b/c those are the toys they are given, and not necessarily b/c those are toys that they naturally gravitate to. same goes for how they play... boys are rough and tumble b/c they are taught that that is how they are supposed to play while girls worry about getting their dresses dirty b/c that is what they are taught.



BOTH nature and nuture matter. Yes, our children should be exposed to a wide range of experiences, and should not be pigeon-holed based on gender.

(For example, my dd was one of only 3 girls in a roomful of boys at a local Saturday Science class.)

But.....you should read "As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised as a Girl" to understand the role of biology in all of this.

That child (after a botched circ) was raised as a girl, so got all the "girlie" messages from society, and was ABSOLUTELY MISERABLE!!
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#14 of 21 Old 03-28-2003, 09:43 PM
 
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Okay, I may be alone in this, but...

I just do not see the point really in trying to be gender neutral because *humans* are not gender nuetral!

For the record, I have a son and a daughter. My son was born first, and I bough him a range of toys, including a few dolls and stuffed animals, etc. Now dd is here, and she has plenty of trains, cars, etc, as well as a tea set, etc.

Even though I have raised them the same (and I really have), my ds is the one who plays rough and likes dinosaurs and all that, and my dd likes to try to on clothes and wrap dolls in blankets.

Of course there will always be exceptions, but I think this is common for a reason.

Just look at nature. Look at us! We have breasts with milk and wombs and nuturing hormones. Men have penis's and are taller and stronger and hairier! There is no denying we have different abilities, and were made for different things.

I think this is okay and a good thing.

If my house was on fire, would a woman firefighter be able to pull dh out? Maybe not, but a man could.
If a newborn baby was left alone with daddy for three hours, would daddy be able to keep him happy? Maybe not, but mommy could.

I think we should be considered equal in that we are both people, we both should have certain rights, etc. ~Obviously.
But men and women are not equal (just different in a good way) in some very important ways that can't be ignored.

So while I would always make sure my kids have a variety of toys, I would not ever expect any male or female of any age, to deny who they are, and to be "gender neutral."

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#15 of 21 Old 03-28-2003, 10:03 PM
 
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Bladestar...

Isn't losing your temper bad??? :LOL :LOL

Perfectlove..

My dad was a firefighter, and a lot of those women are pretty strong girls.. Sometimes he would have problems holding the hose when it was full of pressuer (and my dad is a BIG guy), and the women who were full time did not..

Warm Squishies..

Dyan

It's lonely being the only XX in a house of XYs.
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#16 of 21 Old 03-28-2003, 10:32 PM
 
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Oops!! I guess I worded that wrong!!:LOL
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#17 of 21 Old 03-29-2003, 05:58 AM
 
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This is an odd subject for me and my family.

We are very much into providing a non-stereotyped environment for our children. As such, our daughter was given not just dolls and "girly" playthings, but RC cars, toy barns, tool sets, and other "boyish" playthings as well.

Of course, despite having a HUGE tomboy for a mother, and despite having a RC-car nut for a daddy, and despite not getting her first doll until she was over a year old...she is very much a girly girl. She loves dresses and hairdos and playing with her dolls. Of course, she climbs trees and likes to play with the RC cars, so we felt pretty good about her not getting to gender-typed.

But our son, boy, he is such a BOY. I mean, I thought it was all exaggeration about boys being more violent and more exciteable and all, but we didn't treat him any different, and he is VERY much the boy. His nickname to my family is Bam-Bam. He has never ONCE been mistaken for a girl, no matter how I dress him (I swear, pink shirt and a doll and he might get looked at funny, but people KNOW he's a boy); this guy REEKS of BOY. And we did NOTHING, absolutely NOTHING to encourage this. All of the clothing is gender-neutral to the point where my daughter can wear it too (yup, they're approximately the same size despite the 2 year age difference). Sure, he likes dolls, but he'll go for the trucks much faster! And just give the kid a bat or ball or mallet, he's all over that stuff! No way he's organizing the little farm animals or patting the dolls; he'll give his doll a hug and a cuddle and that is the end of that.

And here I thought I could raise more gender-flexible kids. I ended up with extreme kids. I swear, we do NOTHING different between them. We hardly even bought new clothes or new toys for our son, our toys were that varied and the clothes were that neutral. We take them all the same places and play with them all the same ways. It makes so little sense in terms of the whole they're-the-same-until-society-comes-along schema that I've had to throw that whole idea out the window (not that I wholeheartedly believed it, but I did believe that to some extent it was true until I experienced how my own kids behaved).

OK, that got too long. Point is, we stressed about making things equal to the kids, and succeeded in creating a roughly equal enviroment only to find that they really ARE different, after all.

Mama, homeschooler, midwife. DD (13yo), DS (11yo), DD (8yo), DD (3yo), somebody new coming in November 2013.

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#18 of 21 Old 03-29-2003, 10:58 AM
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Boys are labeled "Special Education" more often.
Boys often grow up disparaging women.
Boys are taught to be violent--and then we send them off to war.

Boys often see reading as primarily a female activity, so it's important to have Daddy (or some other significant male--uncle, Grandpa, etc.) read to your son frequently.
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#19 of 21 Old 03-30-2003, 01:03 PM
 
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I remember when I was studying feminist theory and gender studies back in college (oh, 15 years ago or so...) and I really thought that the differences between men and women were mostly social constructs. Ha! If having my partner change genders didn't throw that theory to the wind, having a child certainly did! Without any conscious effort on our part, Jackson started making car sounds and playing with anything that had wheels when he was about 8 months old. He has started that toddler phase of construction vehicle fascination. I'm sure he'll do the every-thing-I-pick-up-is-a-gun thing someday. But, he also has a baby doll he loves and he kisses her and puts her to bed. He has tons of toys that would be considered gender neutral. We make a conscious effort to dress him in gender-neurtral clothing. We listen to 'Free to Be You and Me' on a daily basis!

I feel a responsibility raising a son to counter social messages about masculinity as much as possible. I'll do everything I can. I also want him to realize (when it's developmentally appropriate) that being male is a privilege in this culture. He didn't ask to be male, but he didn't ask to be white or to live in a family that could afford two cars and a house and organic food. All privileges that come with responsibility, imo, and I want him to act out of that awareness.

If I were raising a girl, I would want to counter social messages about feminity, too. But, that feels easier somehow?? Maybe because I am a woman... And such a righteous one!
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#20 of 21 Old 03-30-2003, 05:43 PM
 
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we have a close family friend who's parents tried to raise them extremely gender neutral. 3 girls with boy names and they couldn't do very many girly things, even if they wanted to, it wasn't allowed.

So, like many of you have already said, giving kids choices is the way to go. make sure they have plenty of toys from all three areas (boy/girl/neutral) then let them choose which they want to play with. Making it okay for a boy to play with dolls (my brothers had them) and girls to play with cars and trucks etc.
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#21 of 21 Old 03-31-2003, 01:34 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally posted by PerfectLove
[B]Okay, I may be alone in this, but...
Just look at nature. Look at us! We have breasts with milk and wombs and nuturing hormones. Men have penis's and are taller and stronger and hairier! There is no denying we have different abilities, and were made for different things.
Okay, it's clear that we have different reproductive roles, but...

Quote:

If my house was on fire, would a woman firefighter be able to pull dh out? Maybe not, but a man could.
If a newborn baby was left alone with daddy for three hours, would daddy be able to keep him happy? Maybe not, but mommy could.


I really think you are wrong about this. A female firefighter has to be able to pull your husband out of a burning house, or she can't get the job. If she can't physically carry him, she can learn other ways to get him out. Right? Because as human beings, we can use tools and figure things out with our brains. And we can work together to get the job done!

My husband can't produce breastmilk, but if I leave him with expressed breastmilk, he can keep the baby happy for three hours. He knows how to keep the baby happy! In fact, when I go off to work tomorrow morning for the first time since my ds was born, guess who is going to be taking care of ds? That's right, Daddy. It's true that even after only two months, we have different parenting styles. I learned mine from my dad and he learned his from his mom!

I have ambivalent feeling about the baby X experiment. On the one hand, I don't want to limit my baby to only being good at boy things. On the other hand, I don't want for a minute to give the impression that boys aren't great! I like little boys. I was very psyched to have one, because the little boys I know are a lot of fun!

I don't know how much of what's different about boys is nature and how much is nuture, but I also know that little boys are different. They learn to talk later, they run around more, and their imaginative play can sometimes look different. That doesn't limit their ability to be loving people, good daddies and peaceful adults.

Divorced mom of one awesome boy born 2-3-2003.
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