Friday, July 10, 2009

Keep your gender roles to yourself, thanks.

Since L has been a wee little thing, we've tried very hard to not have "boy" things and "girl" things. It's incredibly hard to escape every bit of that, and we weren't trying super super hard or anything, but you know, the day to day things--bugs and trucks and blue clothes are just as prevalent, if not more so, than ruffles and pink and dolls around here. L loves her fancy huge pink unicorn, but she also loves catching bugs and toy rocketships and her jammies (from the boys' department, or course, god forbid someone make girls jammies that have spaceships on them) that have planes and trucks all over them. Which is exactly what I want for her: I want her to like what she likes, whatever that may be.

Recently, someone made a comment that she should be more "ladylike". (They are lucky the comment was made to my husband, and not me, because.....yeah, it wouldn't have been pretty). I don't even know where to begin with that statement. I honestly am not sure what it even means. Ladylike? She is a preschool aged child, and the last thing she needs to be is "ladylike". I mean, manners and etiquette are incredibly important, and we are making sure that she is well versed in how to behave politely, but to me, ladylike conveys something more....well, sneakily sinister, I guess, when applied to a young child. Because it makes me think, "here it begins; here it begins when she's told that she's too strong or too fast or too proudly smart and doesn't she just want to wear the nice ruffled pink dress instead, or take the ballet class instead of making a beautiful mess with art?" If she wants to wear the froufrou dress or take ballet, I would and will gladly accommodate that, but I don't want her to ever be told (or have it be implied) that she is wrong for wanting something different. And the simple utterance of "ladylike" sends chills down my spine, because that small word encompasses so much more than what it seems to at first glance.

And I mean, seriously. I thought we were well past 20th century notions of what being a "lady" means. Apparently not, and I'm somewhat glad to have this wake-up call, because now I know that attitude is still out there, lurking about, waiting to take my lovely perfect baby and make her feel less than. And god help the next person that makes the mistake of saying she needs to be more ladylike.


Anonymous said...

I have a girl at school that I call my Cowboy Ballerina. She sounds very similar to L.

Paula said...

Ha, Jayne's "Cowboy Ballerina." That pretty much says it all for non-gender gender typing.

Lila's just PERFECT the way she IS! You've made very generous choices available to L, above and beyond the call of duty in parenting.

Sarah, have you considered (I'm sure you have) from whom that comment of being "more ladylike" came from??? Remember that opinions are like noses and everyone's got one and they all smell. (or a lower part of one's anatomy fits this analogy also ;)

A couple of "come back" phrases when someone gives unsolicited advise or inquiries I have found "work" (although this was said to L's father.) are:
1. What difference does it make?
2. Why do you want to know?
These usually shut them up or catch them off guard.