Monday, December 08, 2008

I Enjoy Being a Girl: Sexism Version Boy

So we're starting to experience the after-effects of society on the extremely-soon-to-be three year old (tomorrow!), one incident that I tried to address by ignoring, the other head-on.

The two kids, being siblings, get into quarrels, particularly in those evening hours just before dinner, at the height of exhaustion.

The other night I was attempting to put together some nourishment, when I felt it heating up in the living room between them.

At moments like these I really try hard to just ignore it. I've learned that often, when I get involved, I just make it worse. Besides, they need to learn how to deal with each other and forge out the relationship that is theirs.

But then I heard him say this: STUPID GIRL!

My immediate reaction was to go shake his shoulders and say that he should NEVER call ANY girls stupid. And, by the way, you're living with FIVE of them (if you count the cats). We could GANG up on you, you, you .... BOY!

That, I pushed deep inside. ...

Later, at dinner, I gently said, that we shouldn't call anyone stupid, particularly one's sister. Blah blah blah.

By then the event was so far in the distant past that he had no clue of which I spoke.

Then, yesterday, we went on a family sled adventure down the 'big' hill.

I was kind of building it up for Big because he and I had gone alone down the big hill a day or so earlier and Eight and I were helping to make him feel important, as though he was showing her the hill for the first time.

I must have said something to the effect of her possibly being scared of the hill and that he could show her how fun it would be.

Then, when we round the corner to the hill, he says, quietly confident: She's scared because she's a girl.

BioMom and I: What???

Big: Yeah. I'm a boy, so I'm not scared. She's a girl. She's scared.

You can imagine the Charlie-Brown-Adult voice lecture that ensued.

What is very different about this version of child-coming-of-age in terms of exposure to society than what I felt when Eight (then three) went through it, is that while the things he is saying are fairly offensive, and not very nice on a personal level, he's not saying them about himself, like she was. He is confident about himself. Wrongly, of course, because he attributes it to his sex, but confident none-the-less. When she was initially exhibiting signs of societal-exposure that were sexist, it was scary because she was saying, interpreting and seeming to take in all of these notions of what girls should be. For example, she would have said something like "I'm scared to sled down that big hill BECAUSE I'm a girl."

Of course, the two kids doing these things are like two sides of the same coin. Sexism girl version and sexism boy version. It just seems so much easier this time around. Like I can fix his perspective somehow, just by being me and living in a house with three strong women. Whereas with her, I was (and am still )not sure that I can completely shield her from being inculcated in this sexist culture and taking on all of the baggage that goes with it as a girl.


Brigindo said...

I can see why it seems easier or more effective to correct his perspective but I think they are both a really tall task in our society. I've been explaining and correcting for 19 years, and while Angel can accept a woman's strength, he is still very tied into the little man-big man myth. I often find myself without credibility when trying to explain that one away.

Happy Birthday to Big!

giddings said...

Dang. I can only hope that your experience and insight aren't correct! Wish me luck...

hw said...

So very true...

giddings said...

I'm still thinking about Brigindo's comment... And I still maintain that the boy version of sexism feels easier to deal with than the girl's... At least he is not feeling that way about HIMSELF, leading to forever-issues along the self-esteem lines (like the rest of us girls, right?). I can work on his sexism and how he treats girls/women, but I don't have to worry about him internalizing negative images about himself. Right? Am I delusional?