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Boys and girls and persons

Today I was looking on the internet for sun hats. My children won’t wear hats of any kind, but I’m foolishly hoping if I just get ones with things they like on them, they’ll do it. And maybe force them a few times until they accept it? I don’t know, man. I was fine with letting them freeze their ears off, but sunburned scalps is a different story. Anyway, in sorting by size I ended up seeing a lot of other shit, including this item. I tracked it down to its home, and it’s in the boy’s section.

boyHere’s the girl equivalent.

girlI already sent them a complaint in which I note that while a parent can buy these shirts for children of either sex, having them in the BOYS and GIRLS section sends a message for fucking sure. Boys like ponies, too, you know. But that’s not a socially urgent issue. The socially urgent issue is that women are underrepresented in so-called STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields, so sending the message (to three-year-olds!!!) that science goes in the boys section is extremely unhelpful.

I know, gender gender blah blah blah some people get up in arms about this shit, some don’t. And it’s complicated stuff. I read a nice paper recently discussing the fact that it’s not so straightforward to distinguish between sex (usually described as the biological part) and gender (usually described as the social part). And it’s insidious and everywhere and part of how we think at the most basic level. And in many cases, that’s fine.

And though I try, I fuck up too. A while back I was trying to get Bunlet to do something or other and he was wobbling a lot. Don’t fall over on this poor guy! I said, referring to the pair of hiking boots and jeans that were in my line of sight. He did fall over on the guy, and the guy was a woman. That is to say, based on the person’s voice and face, I would guess it was a biological female, in the sense of having female gonads. I have no idea what its gender identify was, and maybe it wasn’t a female…which is really my point. I shouldn’t have been using gender-specific terms like guy.

Meanwhile, Bun Bun has been talking about when she’s a big girl and when Bunlet is a big boy… This is coming from her nanny, because Mr Bunny and I don’t use that phrase. We talk about when they are grown ups, or when they are older or taller or whatever is the important dimension for the situation. Usually taller, because they want to reach things. Anyway, why do they need to be thinking about boys and girls?

I guess I can only try my best to teach them that they are people, and other people are people.

I got Bun Bun at hat with bunnies on it, because the only way to have any chance at ALL that she’ll wear something is to make sure it’s got one of an extremely small selection of animals on it. And for Bunlet, I got one with cars, because he’s passionate about cars. Yeah, totally gender stereotypical. I guess it’s too late.


13 Comments Post a comment
  1. More thoughts to follow, but check out for some excellent clothing options- just got funded on kick-starter. I particularly like the ‘Half of all T-Rexes were women’ one.

    June 20, 2014
  2. Ana #

    I think about gender stuff a lot, because B tells me frequently that he wants to be a girl because he wants to wear dresses, and have long hair with barrettes. But if boys could wear dresses he’d be OK being a boy because its cool to be able to stand up and pee. I tell them that boys CAN wear dresses—but he knows he’d stick out if he did. He also knows that even though he asked me, and I said “yeah sure, I will”, I never did buy him a dress (well I bought one but its a “dress up” thing, not everyday wear from the girls section, and I haven’t given it to him yet). Because even though I think I think its OK for boys to wear dresses, maybe I really don’t think its OK enough and I can’t protect him from getting teased and looked funny at all day.

    June 20, 2014
  3. I love your point about the ponies. And yeah, le sigh on this entire issue. I’m working on a sort of plan for this in my work community, and I think having daughters has made me even more sensitive to it all. Still, preventing sun but is the more urgent issue – I’m sure you will have plenty opportunities to tell Bun Bun she can be a mathematician and Bunlet he can ride a pony. If they want to.

    June 20, 2014
  4. I thought my kids would never keep any piece of cloth on their heads when sunny, until I got them naked on a beach, and they kept those hats on ALL THE TIME. And I got the necessary pictures of naked children on a beach, wearing hats. Conclusion: when it is absolutely a must, they will wear it.
    Both my boys have long-ish hair (think early Beatles), because that is the way (a-ha, a-ha) I like it (a-ha, a-ha). The pram and buggy are both red. Most of their clothes are vivid colours. Whenever they wear red or yellow, people ask me if they are girls, and when answered NO, they look again and ask me if they are twins (yes, the taller is two years younger, badaboom). People are an infinite source of amusement when they are not annoying.

    June 20, 2014
  5. WordPress swallowed my comment on your last post and I’ve been too lazy to type it out again. So fingers crossed this one works.

    The Australian summer means we simply cannot let Monkey outside without sun protection (between 8am-5pm in midsummer). So no hat, no suncream = no going outside. If he takes his hat off, we go straight back inside. Simple as that.

    June 21, 2014
  6. Weird eh? So rigid. And it’s a strange thing, because it’s market-led, I suppose? Or is it the retailers? I have an idea that otherwise thoughtful parents become ultra-conservative when it comes to their children fitting in. A otherwise nice man I know didn’t want his son to even go to the ballet, never mind DO it. (!!!) And so it goes on.

    June 22, 2014
  7. I get SO up in arms about this shit. Clothes are just the tip of the iceberg. We finally got around to watching the Lego movie last night (sans child), which I haven’t heard a single bad thing about. Except, it turns out it goes like this: fighting, fighting, fighting, clever pretty girl is insecure, fighting, fighting, fighting, ASSHOLE BOYFRIEND ALLOWS PRETTY GIRL TO BE WITH HERO, fighting, fighting, fighting, father and son bond, baby girl ruins everything. I mean, come ON! Sure, it was funny in parts and not all bad, and the male-centric storyline wouldn’t grate nearly as much if there were female-centric antidotes, but there just aren’t. (Don’t even talk to me about Frozen. Singing princesses is the best we can do? Give me a break. I had to go and puke before the end of the first song.)


    June 22, 2014
  8. Winter Blue #

    Thanks for bringing up this topic Bunny! It’s so hard! Just when I think I’ve got my stuff together I recently confused the son of a friend with her daughter (I hadn’t met her kids before), when I met the son first at an event – he has long hair…. but he doesn’t really look girlie at all. So maybe it shows that I’m actually very gender sensitive?

    And, the cars thing – what’s with that? It can’t be evolution – since cars have only been around for about two human generations… it must be us… my toddler son is completely obsessed with anything on wheels.


    June 23, 2014
  9. I love that you’re the kind of person who got pissed and actually sent a complaint, as opposed to impotently kvetching. Seriously, that’s awesome.

    Gender is an issue so ingrained in our thoughts, and particularly in our language, it can be difficult to even talk about. When I was little, my mother read a book called “Growing Up Free: Raising Your Child in the 80’s”, which advocated raising children free of gender stereotypes, and she was all about buying me trucks to go with my Barbies (speaking of the 80’s/early 90’s, remember the talking Barbie that said, “Math is hard!” Fun! At least it caused an uproar and was discontinued). I’m really proud of my mom because I think at the time she was seen as a way out hippie weirdo, but she thought it was important and I agree; I definitely feel I’ve benefited from being raised in a not stereotypically “girlie” environment. I will say though, I was way into my Barbies and ponies and didn’t give a shit about the trucks, one of the many reasons it’s a tough subject. If your daughter wants nothing but princesses and your son nothing but dump trucks, despite your most gender neutral parenting, what then?

    June 23, 2014
  10. So I’ve got to start this out with the disclaimer that I’m the only female gender human in a house full of males…so my side is skewed a littleBUT I was visiting a friends house who is all pink princess and shit for her 3 year old daughter. She brought me a book and asked me to read it. It was titled pinkalicious princess. BARF! I think stereotypical gender roles are important for this friend and her family but when is enough enough? One of my undergrad degrees is in electrical engineering. I get the other side of the stereotype first hand. And fucking A if much rather give my kid the science shirt regardless of gender but my friend would be the pony for the girl. I hate it. It bugs me soooo much. I think it’s time for some data collection and a pie chart on this, Bunny!

    June 24, 2014

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