I have raised my children intentionally to see girls and boys as equals- equals in voice, intelligence, and potential. My husband and I have always been extremely careful about our words and actions regarding differences between boys and girls. For example, we have always bought gender neutral toys and games for both our boys and our girls. We have encouraged and allowed the children to play with whatever they might find around the house. If the boys carried around my purse, or pushed a baby in the stroller, no big deal. If my daughter played with balls or trucks, no big deal. Our goal in modeling gender mutuality has been purposeful and calculated.
You can imagine my shock yesterday when I heard my daughter tell me a story about how “when Daddy snuck up and scared Canon, he screamed like a girl.”
I’m sure that she was equally as shocked by my extreme response! “WHAT DID YOU JUST SAY?”, I interrogated. “I never want to hear something like that come out of your mouth again.” Poor child probably had no idea what she even said! We talked more about it and I encouraged the children to come up with some other simile for the intensity and pitch of scream she heard. We all giggled as we went through a whole host of options and then came up with, “Canon screamed like a howler monkey!”
What is the big deal?
It is a big deal to me that we make insulting distinctions for boys and girls. The language we use shapes their image of themselves. Everyday. All the time. Girly girl. Tom-boy. Princess. Like a girl. If we only paid attention to the gravity of our flippant classifications. Last year I confronted a 9 year old boy when he ridiculed his friend on the playground after being beat in a race by my daughter, “You got beat by a girl!” AH no. Mama don’t play. Don’t worry, I was kind, but what I really wanted to do was kick him in the shins. The phrases we think are ok in referring to boys are a big deal as well. Boys will be boys. He’s a mama’s boy. He’s all boy. Man up. Really people? These cliches are both dismissive and damaging.
Influence of culture
We don’t even realize the sludge that slowly seeps into our psyche. My daughter could not even remember where she heard the phrase, “like a girl”. She doesn’t know who first told her that she was a “tom-boy”. What does that even mean? You may think I am overreacting, but I steer my family away from the tween and teen trash that hollywood cranks out. I can not shield them forever, I understand that. But I can for a while at least, while they are in my care, and while their mind, will, and self-understanding are still in development. With fierce effort, I kick out the walls of the boxes that american culture tries to stuff my kids into.
Under normal circumstances, I would not necessarily commit free advertising for a panty liner company, but #ALWAYS has made a brilliant commercial on the subject of #LIKEAGIRL. Enjoy!