Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Uppity women

HALLIE EPHRON: Some NYU researchers have concluded that by the age of 6, girls are less likely to view girls than boys as brilliant. On top of this comes the news that American parents Googled “Is my son a genius?” more than twice as often as they Googled “Is my daughter a genius?” They also Googled “Is my daughter overweight?” about 70 percent more often than “Is my son overweight?” (Which got me wondering if it's parents who are more likely to be overweight and less likely to be geniuses.)

I have never had a problem calling myself a feminist. I’m the third of four sisters, daughter of one of Hollywood’s first female screenwriters, a mouthy broad, and I have never doubted women can be brilliant. My daughters, just for example, are brilliant. And it took me a very long time to find a man I thought was smarter than me (and interested enough) to marry. A physicist, he still can’t find the butter in a half-empty refrigerator or fry an egg while sorting laundry.

Now I have two grandchildren, a 11-month old boy and a 3 1/2 year old girl, and you can believe me when I tell you they are both brilliant. However, I find myself questioning my feminist credentials as I bestow upon my grandson a virtual fleet of trucks and cars, while to my granddaughter I search out the fanciest mermaid princess costume and ballerina dolls. It’s what they want, I say.

Or is it what I want to give them?

So where are you in the gender wars? And does hearing that it requires “brilliance” to do something put you off from trying?

LUCY BURDETTE: This is tricky Hallie, because I believe so much sexism and racism is embedded deep below our consciousness, both individually and as a country. I learned about sexism in the women's movement in the late 70s when I went to graduate school in Tennessee. I bought my copy of OUR BODIES, OURSELVES, my own plastic speculum (lol), and joined a consciousness raising group. And I have no doubt that women are as smart as men. But I have many old roots telling me (for one example) that the home is the purview of the woman.

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN:  I am so baffled by this. And have no idea. I have two grandsons, 7 and 14. They want trucks, Legos, fighting stuff, wars, superheroes, Pokemon, videogames, competition, silly jokes.

The little girls next door, 7 and 14, are totally different. The are semi-tomboys--hmmm, probably can't say that now?--soccer and horseback riding and running around and skateboards. But they never saw sparkly stuff they didn't like. And would never turn down a tiara.

BUT--if you asked me who was "smarter"? Ah. They are all equally brilliant.

And. As I was deplaning yesterday, the man across the aisle gestured me to go first. He said "Ladies should always go first." And I said "Yes. Very true! Especially in dangerous situations."

I was very proud of myself.


HALLIE: Ha ha ha! Mango, anyone? This reminds me of the hilarious song from FREE TO BE YOU AND ME, Marlo Thomas singing "Ladies First."



INGRID THOFT: I'm the youngest of four daughters raised by parents who always taught us that we were strong, smart, and capable.  Given that as a society we choose to paint newborns' rooms based on their gender (let's remember that newborns don't even see that well,) I would say that humans are still socialized along very strict gender lines. 

It drives me crazy when people talk about a kid being "such a boy" because he's energetic or likes to play with trucks.  I'm an aunt to 14, (eight girls and six boys,) and I can tell you that we have energetic girls and low-key boys, girls who like building things and boys who like stuffed animals.  Their interests and strength run the gamut, but they're all brilliant, of course. ;) 

DEBORAH CROMBIE: My parents never gave me the least idea that there was anything I couldn't do because I was a girl, or that I wasn't as smart as boys. And I was a tomboy (what do we say now, for girls who don't play with dolls and girly things?) as was my daughter.

It's too early to say about my granddaughter, but I wonder how much girls' preference for girly things and boys' for boy stuff is due to the expectations of parents? I do strongly feel, however, that there is still a strong cultural gender bias, and that it is on the uptick with the current social climate. 

JENN MCKINLAY: Gender wars. It's difficult for me to accept that we still have to fight, that we haven't evolved as a society enough to see individuals beyond their gender.

I am a feminist but mostly I'm a humanist -- I guess that would be the word. I believe in the power of the individual to defy the odds, to make their own way, to be better than the people who came before, no matter their gender, race, religion, or socio-economic status.

My brother and I are only eleven months apart with him being older. He was my first best friend and the person I admired above all others (still do). As the youngest of six, we were always together. Always. Even our name became one word: JedandJenny! We were allowed to run wild and we did. Mischief and shenanigans abounded and it would never have occurred to either of us that there was anything from skateboarding to sewing that my brother could do that I couldn't or vice versa because of our gender.

I am ever grateful for my childhood and have strived to teach my boys to view the world the same way.

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: My mother was a feminist in the sixties and seventies (I mean, of course, she still is, but that's when she got her consciousness raised.) She raised my sister and me to expect to work, to value ourselves outside any relationship with a man, and to require respect. She was also adamant about a woman's right to choose - parenthood or not, stay-at-home or career, dresses or jeans and a T shirt. That upbringing has stood us in good stead as Barb and I have been single career girls, working mothers, stay at home mothers and work-at-home mothers.

I worry much less about the girl-toy versus boy-toy divide since I actually had kids. The Smithie and The Sailor are only 15 months apart, so they shared most of their toys and activities. They both took dance, they both took karate. The both swam, the both did gymnastics. Their equality carried on into high school, where they both ran X-C and track, and were both involved in theater.


True, she would spend hours dressing up her Barbies and playacting with them; while he never saw a toy truck he didn't like. And as young adults? They're both "woke," as the kids say today, both very aware of feminism, privilege, intersectionality, etc. The Smithie is a take-charge, aggressive person and The Sailor has a soft heart. And she still likes to dress very "girly" and his first car was a pick-up truck!

RHYS BOWEN:
I was quite an adventurous girl, always getting knees skinned when I jumped out one of our apple trees. I went to a highly academic girls school and my classmates all expected to go into the professions. When I worked at the BBC I was treated with the same respect as my male colleages. 


I had four children, three girls and then a boy. I was interested to note in what ways he would be different. My girls all liked to play tea parties, to dress up in my clothes and shoes. When Dominic was two months old he was lying in his crib with a cradle gym above him. In his hand was a rattle. For about twenty minutes he looked at the rattle, then at the cradle gym. Rattle. Gym. Then suddenly he gave the gym an almighty swipe with the rattle.

That's a boy, I thought. Although he had all the girly stuff at his disposal he played with cars, trucks, balls, taking things to pieces. And my girls were all in the gifted program, as was my son.

But I think we do unconsciously stereotype. My daughter has twins. When they were babies people would say "Hi, handsome!" in a big voice to the boy, and "Hello, princess" in a gentle voice to the girl. She has turned out to be as physical and tough as her brother: a black belt in karate and absolutely terrifying on a skate board!

And I have to add there are certain males in the USA who still want to think of us as the little women, knowing their place in the kitchen!!!!

HALLIE: Guilty! If my husband tried to take over MY place in the kitchen, I'd drop kick him into the den. This is not because I think women's place is in the kitchen, it's because I'm a much better cook and he'll make stuff I don't feel like eating. Control freak? Yes. Sexist? In effect but not by intent.

It's... complicated. Or is it?

75 comments:

  1. Definitely complicated . . . while I’m definitely guilty of giving my children and grandchildren what they want, be it trucks or glittery things, they’ve also learned that their gender does not restrict them and that they are, of course, brilliant and capable.
    I’ve always believed the focus should be on teaching children to believe in themselves and, at the same time, to be kind and compassionate, gracious and caring, to see the best in others and to be the best that they can be as they make their way in this world . . . .

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  2. SO complicated. My sons always had stuffed animals and cooking toys. Poor Paddington Bear used to lie around with his jacket off, because the only challenge was figuring out how to unbutton it. I didn't buy them guns, so they went out in the garage, took out the saw and hammer, and made their own from old wood, then marched off into the woods to play whatever. I stressed kindness, fairness, and justice. They were both here taking care of me two weeks ago after I got out of the hospital. When I was having a rocky time, bad reaction to pain meds included, you couldn't have asked for sweeter, more competent caretakers. I'm confident they will be awesome parents when that comes to pass.

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    1. Edith, we're all wishing you a smooth, speedy recovery! Your sons are your silver lining.

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    2. They sure are! Thanks for the good wishes. I'm in the torture phase of PT exercises now...but it must be done.

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    3. Therapists are your best friend and your worst enemy, but they sure do make you work wonders!

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    4. Edith, I am wishing you a smooth, speedy recovery. Thank you for sharing your story.

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  3. I have no answers (and no kids), and just want to say that I really enjoyed today's blog post. Most interesting! So neat to learn about your lives and thoughts and views. Thank you! Just for the record, I'm a strong feminist, was raised by a strong mother and a "woke" father. My older sister, my younger brother and I are all quite different, which I see as a testament to the awareness and openness with which we were raised.

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    1. Nice to 'hear' you, Amanda! Sounds like your parents did something right. Hoping my kids end up being as generous, talking about me.

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  4. We had a daughter first and then a son. Our daughter was more interested in learning to shoot from her father, a rifle team member at college, than was our son. When my son was three, he like to put on his sister's skirt and twirl in it. However, she did seem to gravitate toward "girl" toys and he toward "boy" ones. Or was that my doing? It is complicated. I don't ever remember telling either of them they couldn't play with something because of their gender, or that they should play with something because of their gender. I know my mother-in-law was not happy that I let my son play in a skirt, but I didn't care. I know that there are some fathers that are aghast at their sons wanting to put on lipstick or dress up in girly clothes. I think that's wrong and sad.

    My seven-year-old granddaughter doesn't seem to see gender in choosing activities and secretly tells me that she is the smartest person in her class (really not in a bragging way and she wouldn't say it to any of her classmates, as she is very kind). I like that she is confident and not afraid to try anything. In the elementary chess regionals, her team (a team of four, with her being the only girl) came in third, and they are going to state.

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    1. Chess! Now that is something I used to think only boys could do... come to think of it. Kudoes to you, her parents, and your granddaughter! If there were regionals for Disney Princesses my 3-year-old granddaughter would be competing.

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  5. In an ideal world, all genders would possess all the ideal and most positive characteristics and aspects of humanity. I guess as parents it's up to us to help guide our children to their highest best lives. It doesn't always happen; is that the failure of parents, or the failure of society? Hard to say.

    My own three daughters are all brilliant, active physically in one way or the other (martial arts/soccer, climbing/marathon running, martial arts/CrossFit), and all kind and thoughtful professional women. The climbing daughter was at one point #6 in American women sports climbers, and she would rather be outdoors than in, preferably with dirt under her fingernails.

    The oldest is 14 years older than the middle one, so she was raised very differently than the other two, but all three of them spurned frills and the color pink. Their rooms were never painted pink, either, not even before they were born.

    Even though my kids had Barbie dolls (they were the go-to birthday party gifts, so we had over a dozen), our Barbies were more likely to participate in extreme sports than they were to flounce around in heels and lame' with Ken. Legos and other building sets were our favorite toys; my grandson now plays with his aunts' Legos, starting the minute he walks in the door.

    And speaking of my grandson, who just turned 12, when he was three his best friends were two cute little sisters who lived next-door. They were very girly, everything pink and purple and prissy, and he insisted his favorite color was also purple. He begged my daughter for a Barbie, and over my son-in-law's objections finally bought him one. He took it to the sisters' house, but in a couple of months he was over it. He still has a thing for stuffed animals, though.

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    1. A young man in my family wanted a doll in the worst way, and only his grandmother would give it to him. (He's now, it turns out, the world's best father.)

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  6. Back in 1972, Charlotte Zolotow wrote a wonderful children’s book called “William’s Doll.” In her story, William, despite teasing from the other boys and his father’s attempt to interest him in “boy” activities, insists that he wants a doll. His understanding grandmother takes him to the store to pick out a doll he can cuddle and love so that one day he will become a caring father. It’s one of my favorite children’s books . . . .

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    1. Yes, Joan! William's Doll! That's in How To Be You and Me, too -- here's the link to the Youtube video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lshobg1Wt2M

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    2. I remember there was a little boy in my class who wanted to play with dolls. Our kindergarten classmates gave him a hard time about it. I did not think it was a big deal. That little boy grew up to be very masculine, as far as I know.

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  7. Ann in Rochester, hopelessly pragmaticFebruary 22, 2017 at 8:13 AM

    My boys played with dolls and my girl could dismantle a lawn motor engine, repair it and put it back together. All my kids cook and do laundry and take care of the babies and work and earn money. That doesn't mean women have any advantage in the work force. We earn less for the same jobs, all that and a bag of chips.

    I think what irritated me most of all, as a professional woman, a nurse with an advanced degree, was people who said to me, "You're so smart. You should be a doctor." What utter BS. Nurses and doctors couldn't survive without each other, and the skill sets are unique. One is much better paid, and the other knows about that incipient pressure sore on that patient's backside, the one that will take intensive nursing care to resolve, the one that the doctor would never see because he or she rarely looks at the whole person.

    Ok Ann, get off your soap box.

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    1. As someone who's had some experience with hospitals, nurses make a HUGE difference. The down side of nursing (aside from the pay... and a grueling course of study) seems to me is that it's physically so demanding. How long can you keep doing it?

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    2. I kept doing it until I retired. I sometimes hated my job, but I always loved my work.

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    3. Ann, I now apologize to my nurse daughter for something similar. She wanted to be a nurse from the time she was two, but I, 70's feminist, said, "No, you want to be a doctor, and help people". So misguided. Mea culpa.

      She is an amazing nurse, with a Masters in diabetes management education, and she nearly singlehandedly runs the program at a huge hospital. I'm so darn proud of her, too.

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    4. Ann in Rochester,
      Is it possible that people who told you that WISHED that you were their doctor? Is it possible they did NOT like their doctor? I had doctors, both men and women. Also, remember that in the Victorian era, some women preferred women doctors to male doctors.

      Agreed that nurses are very important.

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  8. I'm a great aunt! My niece Emily had a baby this morning!!! Yay. It's a BOY--so now what do we do? No name yet... What should I get a a baby gift? What a perfect day to ask you all...

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    1. Congrats, Hank! Can't go wrong with a board-book copy of "Goodnight Moon."

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    2. CONGRATULATIONS TO YOUR NIECE! A case of disposable diapers and a dozen frozen casseroles.

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    3. Yay a baby man! I'm with Hallie

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    4. Congratulations!
      If you decide on clothing, consider skipping those cute newborn-sized outfits. Most people buy newborn-sized clothing for shower gifts and such, but the baby will outgrow them in an eye blink or two and Mom will be grateful to have the larger-sized outfits for the little guy.

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    5. Congratulations! I'm with Mary - a nice board book like Goodnight Moon or a collection of Sandra Boynton books. Oh, I do love babies. *sigh*

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    6. Goodnight Moon book is a great gift! Before I was born, no one knew if I would be a girl or a boy. That was a few years before prenatal tests showed the sex of the baby. My grandmother knitted a beautiful yellow baby blanket for me before I was born. And it turned out that I resemble her in looks.

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    7. Congratulations, Hank! Keep us posted on the name. I'm with Hallie on the gifts;-) And I would add a copy of Pat the Bunny to the book stash.

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    8. Congratulations, Hank! Nothing like a new baby to make the world look brighter. I like the Goodnight Moon book, but you could pair it with a Goodnight Moon silkie blanket/stuffed bunny toy. I gave that to my new great-niece, and it was adorable. Here's an Amazon link to show you what I'm talking about. https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_6_14?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=goodnight+moon+bunny&sprefix=Goodnight+Moon%2Caps%2C486&crid=1AWCI83YPXI01 And, Debs' suggestion of Pat the Bunny would be a great addition.

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    9. Congratulations! I always buy a silver mug for the baby to use later on. And to keep as an heirloom for his/her future children.

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  9. I don't know if it's complicated or not.

    I'm the oldest of four - me, two boys, and my sister. I had dolls, but I remember my sister wanting more sparkly stuff than I did. I remember the lime-green side-dump truck I had as a young girl As I grew up, I wanted books and I wanted time to read them. I'd climb trees if I had to. I preferred pants (still do), but I'd wear skirts and dresses. But I remember as a teenager wanting desperately to paint my bedroom pink (my parents let me). Girly? I don't know.

    I didn't know the gender of The Girl, so the bedroom was classic Winnie-the-Pooh. I admit, this was because I loved Pooh. The Girl got a lot of green and yellow clothes, but after she was born I didn't hesitate to dress her in a Buffalo Sabres black onesie a family member gave us. She received dolls and trucks--and used the trucks to drive around her dolls. She liked Barbie, but preferred Bratz. She played with Legos and blocks, but...meh. She went through the princess and glitter phase. She went through what she calls "goth" (but I'm not sure it was really goth). Now 16, she likes glitter nail polish sometimes, but thinks black is more practical, and prefers skirts/dresses to jeans. She's got long blonde hair and she likes it thank-you-very-much and likes high fashion.

    The Boy followed his sister everywhere (he's two years younger). He wore princess dresses and painted his nails. But he's mechanical as all get out (you could see the wheels turning as he figured out how something came apart). Like Edith's sons, he made his own guns and bows out of sticks. He also played with dolls and trucks, but he used the trucks to terrorize the dolls. He didn't hesitate to do things like climb on the roof of our shed to get his shoe off the neighbors' garage roof (dangling right over broken concrete and rebar, something his sister would NEVER have done). He was the one who climbed out of the crib - in that very same classic Pooh nursery. He loves camping and sports - particularly basketball. Pickups are cool, but he wants something more affordable and practical for his first car.

    She was a dancer. He wouldn't dance if you paid him. They're both black belts (he's a 3rd degree, she gave it up after 1st degree). She loves to read. He'd rather scoop out his eyeballs with a spoon than crack a book.

    Are they both brilliant? Um, sure - they're both smart. But The Girl's work ethic and discipline in the academic realm far outstrips his. At least for now.

    But they are both kind - maybe The Boy a touch more than The Girl. If I'm having trouble walking, he's right by me to hold me up. She's got a strong sense of fairness and a lot of the social justice issues in the news right now appall her.

    Did I cause this? Did I raise them differently? I don't know. I just sort of went with it. At least I think that's what I did.

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    1. Good question. I think as parents we take too much credit (and blame) for how they turn out, and give to little credit to their inborn personality and gifts. Which is why it's good to have 2, because then you realize how much of it is on them.

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    2. Hallie, that is so true. You can try all you want, but in the end the kid is going to be her (or him).

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    3. Mary, I had to laugh at the crib climbing thing. Our nephew was three when his little sister was born, but he never climbed out of his crib until she was a year old and showed him how! They were both very athletic all through their childhood.

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    4. Heh, Karen. The Girl never displayed a desire to climb out, but then again, we moved her to a bed early because I was pregnant and we wanted to get her used to a "real bed."

      Me? I climbed out of my crib early - but my father swears I would sit quietly on a quilt and never attempt to crawl away!

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  10. I'm the product of great parents who would not label themselves "feminists" and yet... I went to a women's college (Salem College, the first in the nation,est. 1772), was encouraged to go into both literature and computer programming, danced, swam, hit the gym hard, and loved to bake and read books. I never thought I was less than until someone else told me. When I told my father, his response was quite simply, "Well, he's clearly an idiot."

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    1. Rowe, kudos to your dad! What a perfect reply.

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  11. Hank, congrats! My go-to baby gift is "Is Your Mama a Llama?" "It's Time For Bed" and "Jamberry." Seriously, you cannot go wrong with these three board books. They are crowd pleasers!

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  12. Before having children, I was convinced that almost all of the seeming differences between girls and boys was cultural. Being a "good feminist" that had to be the case, right?
    Then I had a boy and a girl (in that order) added to my life.
    Darned if it didn't seem that they came hard-wired differently!
    Yes, we encouraged all aspects and options. They both showed great nurturing aptitudes from an early age.
    So, who knows?

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  13. A new baby? Wonderful! I usually get something practical--more onesies, burp cloths, etc., and top with a board book and/or rattle for baby.

    I was a tomboy growing up--and a reader--and to a large extent, I still am. I had nine nephews--the youngest two are a decade younger than the next ones up. When they were in preschool--much to my brother's dismay--they yearned for Barbies--princess Barbies, at that. So I got them. Those were some kick-ass Barbies, let me tell you. They had one doll we named 'Headless Ken.' I can't quite remember how Ken lost his head, but it didn't seem to faze the Barbies! ;-) They also loved to come to the fabric store with me (I quilt) and would spend hours laying out squares of the fabrics. The younger played almost every sport available at his school--football was his first love. The older was into track. Now music is their passion.

    Two young couples I know have 3-year-old daughters. The one is surrounded by all manner of 'girl' toys, pink and purple clothes, is signed up for dance class. The second, her mother has never allowed anyone to dress her in pink. No pink room, etc. Yet in all the photos of her, she's pushing a toy stroller with her doll, wearing tiaras, have tea parties with her best friend. It will be interesting to see how these girls grow up.

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  14. I'm a bossy mouthy broad who's had a easier time than my mother did, a bossy, mouthy woman who entered adulthood in the 50s.

    I guess the form my feminism takes is, it's fine to give little girls the pink and purple stuff they crave. But if a little girl wants Legos and trucks, it is NOT fine to steer her away from those things in an effort to make her somehow more acceptably feminine. Same for boys. The same in school and adulthood where people should be supported as they try new things and pursue their interests, not diverted to do things more "appropriate." In general, the notion of "appropriate" as refers to gender and most other things can go away.

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  15. Here's another observation: When I had two boys, I couldn't believe the number of people who said, "Oh, that's so sad. Now you won'thave anyone to take care of you when you're old." Seriously! I was stunned, primarily because I never had kids so that I had someone to take care of me - honestly, what it sup with that? But also, in my experience men are fantastic caregivers. Truly, my brother is a much better caregiver than I am. With both of our parents, he was the calm, patient, good listener, tend the wounds, and manage their care person, and I was the show up, crack some jokes, sneak in the contraband cookies or whatever, and try to lift their spirits person. If I were ill, I'd want my brother instead of me as a caregiver hands down.

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    1. Jenn,

      I wonder if they said that because they came from countries where daughters are expected to take care of their parents in old age? I asked because when I was a kid, a new family moved into my neighborhood. They were from another country. The mother asked my Mom if I was mentally retarded, because in her country, people with hearing loss were seen as retarded. Also, in that culture, they believed in the "evil eye". My Mom explained that I could do many things even if I could not hear.

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    2. At least no one sent you a condolence card that you had another boy. I say that tongue-in-cheek, as I had quite a good laugh after my parents had passed on and I was going through their things with my siblings. We were looking at old cards and came across ones that my mother had been sent upon the occasion of my birth. Two of her best friends sent the regular congratulatory card, but the message they wrote inside was to relay how sorry they were that I was a girl and not a boy. I was the fourth girl (one died in infancy) born to my parents, and they were gifted with only one boy. Apparently, there should have been more boys, and I was the last hope for another one, as my mother was 43 and my father was 52 when they had me, their last child. Even if my mother had wanted another boy, she couldn't have loved me more or been prouder. I still have the condolence congratulation cards.

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  16. I have to admit that much like Libby, my views on this changed somewhat as I raised my son. I came of age in the 70's and was very opposed to gender role stereotyping. But as my son grew up, I saw that there did seem to be a natural tendency for the boys to play more competitively and the girls more collaboratively, and a few other differences like that. My son isn't by nature a very stereotypical guy (gravitated more to the arts than sports), and he always had a lot of close female friends. Even at that, I saw a lot of traditional dynamics in his classrooms. I would still argue to the death that all children should have the same right to all toys, and it should always be OK for them to opt against a stereotype; but today I'm less likely to be surprised or push back if their choices do often follow the stereotype, either.

    Oh, and I do agree with the comment above that the pendulum may be swinging a bit too far in the direction of gender roles today as part of the broader political climate. Sigh. So many topics bring us back to that, don't they?

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  17. Hallie, did people assume your parents were unhappy with four girls? That they kept trying for a boy? My mom swears that wasn't the case, and I choose to believe her as the 4th girl!

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    1. Not that, but people always used to say: "Your poor father." He actually acted as if he'd won the lottery with four girls.

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    2. Hallie, your Dad had a great attitude!

      Ingrid, interesting question. One of my teachers had a baby boy then decided that she wanted her next child to be a girl. She is a feminist and she wanted a girl. When her daughter was born, she was born Deaf. She said that she was happy to have a girl that it did not matter if she was born with no hearing.

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    3. Most men I've seen with all daughters are really happy with their lot. There is the opposite of all boys and wondering how mothers feel, which I'm guessing is just as happy as a dad with all girls. There was a family in my hometown with eight boys. Everyone said that they kept trying for a girl, but maybe they just wanted lots of kids.

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    4. Both my husbands professed desires that their babies-to-be turn out to be male. Both of them could not be prouder of the daughters we had.

      I feel like a one-woman attitude changer. :-)

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    5. Karen, your girls deserve a little of the credit...

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  18. I won't even get into my childhood because what a mess of contradictory feminism I got at home but ...

    I rarely had to try to instill equality and feminist principles in my girl in our home but, man, did people - strangers, friends, family - want to lay down some serious gendered smack. It still happens. Now, The Girl fights her own battles but when she was little I was constantly fending off "well-meaning" advice about clothes and toys and dolls and colors and YADA! OY!

    My MIL wanted to put her in those impractical bishop's dresses and bought them in spades complaining about the boy's overalls (I had to buy them in the boy's section of Old Navy because the girl's baby ones were cut too narrow and cost too much) I put The Girl. But overalls were practical when dealing with a crawling baby in winter. We never bought her "girl's" toys or books until she started indicating a preference. Then we let her pick because feminism is about equality and respect for individuality.

    She took dance and gymnastic because she asked and when she didn't like them we moved on.

    When we enrolled her martial arts there were few girls but she loved it. The male teacher was great at treating all the students the same - boy, girl, learning disabled, on the spectrum, neuro-typical, adult, child, gender-fluid - but we had trouble with the moms of several boys. They didn't want their sons "hitting" a girl. They'd actually yell it out during sparring. Sparring which had been explained was not hitting but learning control and defense and that hitting anyone was not acceptable. (It sounds like a contradiction but they spend weeks pre-training sparring to help them understand the difference,)

    I tried to joke with the moms - "It's okay. She's my kid and he can totally hit her"; "Don't worry, she's got pads on"; "She's trained the same way he is" but it didn't help. A few even changed classes or took their sons out of the school. The dads I could see, the boys even, but the moms - women my age, women who called themselves feminists? I didn't understand it then and I don't now. How do those women not know how damaging that is to their son and my daughter? How that perpetuates ugly, outdated stereotypes? How disrespectful it is to both athletes?

    My Girl is now a blackbelt and she worked hard for more than half her life to achieve that. She still has to fight that battle though when people find out. That she's not a "real" blackbelt because she's a girl; that girls were "given" blackbelts and didn't really earn them. From kids her age (mostly boys) who are supposedly "woke." This girl who spent eight hours in her blackbelt exam breaking boards and doing forms (some that were forbidden for a woman to do as recently as 50 years ago) and sparring one, two, five people at a time. For eight hours, she did this. And at the end of it, after she'd had her blackbelt tied on her, she came home, ate, took a shower, put on a fancy dress and went to the 8th grade formal.

    My Girl is a blackbelt and a feminist and she's happy to put on her gear and show anyone what 'fight like a girl' really means and she'll put on three-inch heels that put her over 6 feet tall and go dance the rest of the night. :)



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    1. Aimee - I love this. The hooligans did karate but tapped out at orange belts, trading it in for music. They sparred hard with girls. Lexi, in particular, a "delicate" little cutie, who went on to get her black belt, got nothing but respect from the dudes because she kicked their butts - repeatedly - and they'd be the first ones to tell you it wasn't because they let her. Kudos to The Girl!

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    2. Aimee, you must be so proud of your girl, and your girl must be so proud of herself. It burns me up to think that there are people who would value your daughter's blackbelt less because of her gender.

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  19. My great grandmothers were suffragists and fought for the right to vote. My great aunt earned a teaching certificate and went to the Sorbonne in 1925. My godmother and her family were about to be executed in the gas chambers when the US Army arrived to liberate the camps. She arrived in Los Angeles with her parents after the war. In the 1950s, she was wore makeup and dresses, though she knew how to fix cars. Fixing cars was not girly in these days.

    In both World Wars, many women had to do men's work while the men were off to war

    I grew up in a progressive part of the country near a world known University. I never had restrictions because I was a girl. Both of my parents allowed me to be what I wanted to be. Interesting study about the six year old because I wanted to be the Bionic Woman, then Wonder Woman at that age. I had Legos and Barbies.

    My father mentioned that his sisters had a hard time because they were girls. He decided to be different from his parents. My father was aghast at the boarding school philosophy that I attended. It was the "best" school for me. Though the teachers were great, the support staff was a different story. The women were encouraged to be baby machines. He threatened to disown me if I became a baby machine. I think it was a joke, I was there for a short time then went to public schools. I remember that despite Title X?, there were more men's sports teams than women's sports teams due to budget cuts and not enough women were interested in athletics. At university, I saw more women athletes. By that time, women athletes were called athletes, not tomboys.

    My mom's father, an attorney, hired female attorneys, including one who later married my grandmother's baby brother, also an attorney. My grandfather expected female attorneys to pull their weight too. His mother was a suffragist.

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  20. What a timely topic. I've been having flashbacks to the 1970s, my high school and college years. I was the "women's editor" on my college newspaper writing about feminism. This current cultural climate is making me crazy because I had thought we were past most of the gender issues I felt so passionately about as a young woman. I was the rebellious one in my family. My father sent me to college just in case I ever needed to support myself. 🙄 I always worked until retirement, but now my husband gets gourmet dinners every night because I have time to plan meals properly😉. I have 2 sons who sometimes will correct their father when he says something that is inadvertently a little sexist. I raised them right😀.

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  21. Slightly off the topic here.

    Has anyone read Alexander McCall Smith's 44 Scotland Street series? There is a character named Bertie. He is about 6 year old and his Mother makes him wear pink dungarees because she wants him to be "gender neutral".

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    1. It's not pink, it's 'crushed strawberry'! ;-)

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    2. Love, love the Scotland Street series.

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    3. Hallie, you will love the 44 Scotland Street series.

      FChurch, why did I think it was Matthew with crushed strawberry pants?

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    4. Because Matthew had crushed strawberry cords until Elspeth got rid of them.

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  22. My mom told my sister and I, we could do anything I wanted to do. We had to take aptitude tests when entering college because it was a requirement for orphans who were drawing their father's VA benefits. My sister's results were that she was good in math, so the man told her she could be a bank teller or a math teacher but if she had been a man, he would have said banker or engineer. She became an aeromechanical design engineer. My results were that I would be a good social worker except I hate people. I went to law school. I have two daughters: a lawyer and an engineering student. And as for the grandkids, two boys and a girl, they are so unique that you can't compare them. But the girl does like sparkly pink things and at the same time, she is the better fighter of all of them.

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  23. Bibliophile, you're reminding me about my mother. HER mother barely spoke English was a homemaker, but she had two aunts whom she said inspired her. They were dentists in NYC, both born in Russia. We're talking back in the 1920s.

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    1. Similar story here. In the 1920s my grandmother went to normal school and became a physical education teacher even though she was engaged to her high school sweetheart. She was inspired by two unmarried aunts who were teachers. When my mother was in college, my grandmother commuted from north Jersey to Columbia Teachers college to get the four year degree that was by then necessary. She taught gym to special education students in Newark for years.

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    2. Hallie, that would make a great movie! And the 1920s was after the First World War. I think Gloria Steinem's Jewish grandmother was a professional or perhaps I am thinking of someone else from Finding Your Roots television program.

      Barb,
      That is great about your grandmother!

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  24. I was expected to go to college (even though no women in either parent's families had done so.) I was expected to be able to support myself. I was never encouraged to get married or to have babies. It never occurred to me then that, considering my parents backgrounds and upbringing, this was unusual. It's interesting to remember now, after our post about MTM a couple of weeks ago, that The Mary Tyler Moore Show was my dad's favorite.

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    1. Deb, you were lucky. And I notice that you have strong female characters in your books.

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  25. Hallie,
    Your statement about inborn personalities is so true.

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  26. So funny, I can still remember cringing when my mother would say things like, "It will be different when you have your children." Scared the heck out of me. Where were these children I was supposed to have hiding? Under the bed? Never did find them. I always expected to make my way, and I did. But I admit, my husband belongs at the grill. I'm at the stove. Otherwise it will take me a week to clean up the mess!

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  27. It's very complicated. I am watching three of my four daughters now, who have children aged 5 months to 12 years -- the complicated issues of child care are mind-boggling. While the household chores are allocated non-traditionally, the basic organization of who will watch the children where and when seems to rest on the mother.

    I hoped for a different world for my daughters -- certainly one in which day care would be more available and more reasonably priced (subsidized by the government). That hasn't happened -- it is a patchwork system -- and I am part of the village that cares for the next generation.

    The other complex issue is the value society places on work. Choosing to forgo paid employment to care for children is a valid and important commitment -- and should be admired. IMHO.

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  28. Oh, thank you all for gift ideas! I'll just....send all of them, right? I'm thrilled enough to do that! xooxxoo ANd love to you all..

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