Sexism and free range kids - do we still treat our boys and girls differently? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 7 Old 07-05-2013, 02:21 PM - Thread Starter
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My dd is 15.5, and I feel like I've been coming up against expectations and rules that still differ for boys and girls. Do you ever feel stymied by other parents or cultural expectations in your efforts to raise a confident, adventurous young woman?


Been thinking a lot about it lately because my dd is set to go on an adventure to another city this weekend with a couple of her homeschool friends. They'll be taking a bus to another part of the state and meeting up with a family there whom we know well. The kids will be attending two days of a con, then coming home. The two friends she's going with are boys, and in the trip planning, I've heard a certain sentiment more than once: "Well, since (dd) is a girl, we want to make sure you're comfortable/we want her to be safe." There never seems to be the same sentiment aimed at the boys, even though my dd is physically as big and strong as they are, and at least as confident.  The fact that I'm hearing this from fellow moms who are competent women in their own right has made me curious. How much of a double standard is still present with teenagers, especially in regards to "free-range" parenting? Do you give your girls the same freedoms you do (or would) a boy, and why or why not?


When I talk to some other parents of kids our age (especially parents of boys), and I say something that I'm letting my dd do, I often get a wide-eyed look of "And you're ok with that?!" and when I say "Sure, we've been building up to it and she's very trustworthy," they cluck and say "oh, you're so brave," and I feel the subtext is that I'm too permissive. Yet their boys are encouraged in the same freedoms. It makes me wonder how much of the old-fashioned condemnation of girls being too free or too wild or running around like boys is still ingrained in our culture, even in socially progressive areas like ours. I honestly never thought in this day and age that girls would still be expected to be sheltered, protected, coddled more than boys, and that parents who trusted their girls to have some (appropriate, safe) freedom to make their own decisions would be considered lacking. I also think there's a bit of sexual intent there -- they worry that girls, if not protected, will be sexual, or are "easy" or slutty or whatever.


I don't want to ignore the very real fact that women are more likely than men to be sexually or physically assaulted, but I don't want to let it rule our lives either. DD has had self-defense training, and she's very cautious about protecting her own physical space. She's been talking a lot lately about wanting to attend our next "Take Back the Night" rally, as she finds it unfair that women face more dangers than men.


In short, though, I feel sometimes there's an inference that by letting dd do the same things the boys her age do that I'm an irresponsible parent. Do you treat your girls differently than boys? Should you?

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#2 of 7 Old 07-05-2013, 05:05 PM
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It's hard to say. Our DS 12 gained certain freedoms a little younger than DD 16 but he is also the second child. We are more relaxed with him because we are more experienced parents. For the most part though, I think we've been pretty equal. Both kids have had self-defense with update sessions every few years. We encourage the same habits.... take a friend, be aware of your surroundings, let us know where you are, listen to your gut, smart choices, ect.


I do have particular concerns about DD as a female. Is it fair? No, of course not. However, there is no denying that women are at risk. In our own situation, we don't stress so much about public transit and such.... currently, we are much more worried about an 18-year-old body building classmate who is having trouble accepting "no" from her. 


Personally, I know more over-protective moms of boys than girls... then again, both my kids hang out largely with boys and so don't really talk to mom's of girls as often.

Married mom, DD 18, DS 15, and a Valentine's surprise on the way!
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#3 of 7 Old 07-06-2013, 06:17 AM
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Funnily enough, I have always felt more comfortable with my daughter being out and about - because I know she could take out most guys if she needed to. I worry more about my son/daughter, as he is trans*. I worry for their safety, as the dangers are greater for them, in many ways, due to intolerance/bias.

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#4 of 7 Old 07-10-2013, 03:50 PM - Thread Starter
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Mtiger, thanks for your response (and sorry for my late reply - away from the computer this week). I can imagine there are a lot more safety worries with your trans child than for a cis child of either gender.  Heck, I feel protective sometimes of my dd just because she chooses to dress funny and I'm afraid she'll be judged ... and that's nothing at all like what you must experience. Do you just worry more, or are you more careful with their activities?

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#5 of 7 Old 07-11-2013, 12:25 PM
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I have 6 girls, one boy. I definitely worry more for the girls. Do I treat them differently? I don't know. My oldest is 12, and my only boy is just 2. At 2, I don't treat him any differently than his sisters were/will be treated. But the worry is greater over my girls. Not because I find them less capable or inherently unequal, but because of the culture we live in.


Ultimately, all I can do is respond to it at this point, which yes, may include treating my girls a little different than I'd treat a boy at the same age. However, I do try to make that difference positive - focusing on empowering them up rather than breaking them down, encouraging them rather than holding them back in fear, but also on making sure they understand what they are up against and how to realistically respond to it.

Peaceful, homeschooling, UC/HBing, select vaxing, breastfeeding, intactivist mama to a bunch of small people.

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#6 of 7 Old 07-15-2013, 08:11 AM
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If anything, I am perhaps more concerned about my son than my daughter. DD is so strong, self-aware, that I have a hard time imagining her as a victim in any circumstance. Of course, I suppose a stranger could jump out of the bushes, but really, she can handle herself with such confidence in nearly any situation, that no one is likely to perceive her as an easy target. My YoungSon, on the other hand. Well, I could imagine him getting himself involved in questionable situations. I don't know for sure that he would have the skills to extricate himself, or the awareness to recognize the problem early. I keep closer tabs on him for this reason. By that I mean I need to know where he is, and to have phone contact. All my kids have been pretty much free-range. All survived, even learned from their solo experiences. ElderSon once came home with 2 black eyes and his head shaved. I never did learn what happened that night - he was 17, and not too into sharing with Mommy at that stage. I think I will call him this evening and ask about that. :) It has been 15 years - I guess he can safely talk about it now!

Rhu - mother,grandmother,daughter,sister,friend-foster,adoptive,and biological;not necessarily in that order. Some of it's magic, some of it's tragic, but I had a good life all the way (Jimmy Buffet)

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#7 of 7 Old 07-15-2013, 01:56 PM
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Only two of my kids have reached the teenager stage, and I do worry more about my 15yo daughter, but that is because of her personality rather than her gender. She doesn't pay attention to her surroundings, and doesn't think before she acts nearly as much as she should. For example, today she fell and hurt herself walking to the store because she decided to climb over a railing between the creek and a very busy street rather than walk two whole feet to go around it. And she was shocked that I got upset, because even after she hurt herself, she still didn't realize that climbing over the railing was a bad idea.

However, with my younger kids, I definitely feel that my two youngest daughters are more mature than my two youngest sons at the same ages. I usually don't let my kids play "out front" with their siblings and without me until they are 6, but my youngest daughter was so ready for it at 5 that I had a hard time not giving in. But my about-to-be 5yo ds? I don't even trust him not to get out of bed and get soap in his hair at naptime, LOL. He's not going out front any time soon!
Originally Posted by grethel View Post

I don't want to ignore the very real fact that women are more likely than men to be sexually or physically assaulted, but I don't want to let it rule our lives either. DD has had self-defense training, and she's very cautious about protecting her own physical space. She's been talking a lot lately about wanting to attend our next "Take Back the Night" rally, as she finds it unfair that women face more dangers than men.

Statistically speaking, women are more likely to be victims of sexual or domestic violence, but men are more likely to be victims of violent crime in general, and are three times more likely to be victims of homicide. Even among small children -- a 5yo boy is twice as likely to be murdered as a 5yo girl. At least, that is the case in the US, don't know about other countries.

Michelle, wife to DH, and momma to DD16, DS15, DS12, DS10, DD9, DD7, DS5, and baby girl born Christmas Eve 2013!
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