“Boys Will Be Boys” and Other Annoying Assumptions

“my girls hard at work building stuff”

Last week I told my tween girls that I’d got them a subscription to a magazine. I thought they’d be excited, but instead they responded with “We don’t want it mom – we don’t want to read about lip gloss”. Interesting. They already know what they’re being fed and don’t like what’s being served up. Once I explained that the subscription was to New Moon magazine and its website, they were appreciative of my gift.

A few short days later, my friend Annie over at PhD in Parenting wrote about gender and the things families can do to combat gender stereotyping. Her post is jam-packed with great advice.

It got me thinking about some of the things I see and hear regularly that either confuse or bother me.

1) I recently saw a Mother’s Day card that had a picture of boys riding a go-kart, with the caption “raising boys – it’s an extreme sport”. Having six kids spread equally across both genders, I have not experienced that the boys are more daring, adventurous, or likely to get injured than the girls. Our broken-bone count is evenly spread throughout genders. I don’t like the expectation of boys being adventurous and girls being inactive. The expression “boys will be boys” puts me over the edge. Our children are equally likely to build a fort, catch a frog, hook a worm and work in the garden. We don’t have gender-specific sports, chores or expectations.

2) Sure, it was funny when I had my third daughter and everyone told Daddy-o he’d need a triple-barreled shotgun. But, really – not that funny. This notion that we must protect our daughters from their countless suitors ranks as annoying for me. My daughters will be well equipped to take care of themselves. Also troublesome is when adults try to inject romance into their children’s friendships. Comments about future husbands and little girlfriends, well – let’s face it, we are projecting our ideas of gender relationships on to them. Maybe we should just let them be kids for the five minutes that they actually are.

What about in your house? Does little Janey have a Gr.1 boyfriend? Does your son shovel the driveway and your daughter set the table? What impact has gender had on your family – if any?

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23 Responses to ““Boys Will Be Boys” and Other Annoying Assumptions”

  1. Alex

    I hear ya, the gender assumptions drive me bananas. I think, though, more than that, the forced romance stuff rankles me. The “oh, he’s such a little flirt” comments are ridiculous, and when the toddlers hold hands and are compared to lovers, it’s more than a little gross.

    I spout off about this stuff regularly. :p

    Reply
    • Julie Cole

      agreed. And when parents seem happy that all the little girls think their 4-yr-old son is cute and they talk about it all the time? Enough.

      Reply
  2. Jenn@Fox in the City

    I am trying hard not to allow gender stereotyping into our house. My daughter loves going to the Home Depot workshops and building things, she loves kung fu and climbing whatever she can. She also loves to dress-up and play princess. Luckily, my son loves to dress up with her and is the first one to line up to get his nails painted.

    It is difficult when the grandparents etc. buy them gifts that are “boy” or “girl” gifts.

    Reply
  3. AlwaysARedhead

    As a mother of 2 girls and 1 boy, my husband and I have never let gender play a role in their activities. All have helped my husband build a deck, a pergola, each have assisted me with cooking. All clean bathrooms, wash dishes, do laundry, etc. Now some kids will only like lip gloss, or banging a hammer but each gender should be given an opportunity to try anything.

    Reply
    • Gal

      I think that you can expose them to everything, but the fact is that they helped *your husband* build a deck and *you* with the cooking. Don’t get me wrong, it’s the same way at our house, but that role division is what they grow up with. I’m not sure if there’s a way to fix it, though, because I have no interest to do hardware projects, and *nobody* wants my husband to cook.

      Reply
      • Julie Cole

        yes, role modelling has a huge impact. At my house they’d be helping daddy with the cooking and the deck building :) But many parents take on traditional roles….but many do not. Good to be aware for sure!

        Reply
  4. Maranda

    I have three boys and a girl, and although I haven’t made a conscious effort to raise them without gender stereotypes I’ve always encouraged them to just be themselves and do whatever they’re interested in. I have an almost 13 year old boy with hair past his shoulders, who loves to cook and loves Star Wars and Minecraft. I have a 10 year old boy with a buzz cut who’s a little more ‘rough and tumble’ but who loves babies and little kids and plays dolls patiently with his sister. My only girl equally loves LEGO, Diego and My Little Pony. They just are who they are, which is exactly how I like it :)

    Reply
  5. Julia G

    I admit to falling pray to the pink/blue clothing. Mostly because I love pink and when my son came along blue was the “in” color that year. Everything else is a free for all. My youngest DD likes cars as much as her brother. Life is too short to be worrying about them fitting a mold that no longer works. I do find I have to fight saying the typical gender things though, like the shotgun comment, locking them up. It’s what I was taught and even though I believe otherwise sometimes that stuff still slips out.

    Reply
  6. Kim Ramsay Gorny

    Couldn’t agree more! Nothing drives me crazier then when people paint all boys with that ‘rambunctious’ brush! Not all boys are loud and rough. As the Mother of a very sweet and sensitive boy who loves to read but also plays hockey I think all kids (like people…go figure!) are multifaceted. I think the best we can do for our kids is to embrace what interests them and encourage them to try everything.

    Reply
  7. Chantal

    I have 3 sons and I have to admit that if one more person looks at me wide eyed when I tell them I may scream. 3 boys or 3 girls really it is 3 KIDS, gender is irrelevant! It drives me nuts. In some situations I avoid the gender and just say I have 3.

    Reply
    • Julie Cole

      agreed. I think it’s funny when people comment about my 3 boys……as if I have three little quiet, clean angelic girls. They’re ALL messy work!!

      Reply
  8. Alisa

    I pulled my son out of a preschool where other boys were being violent and uncontrollable and their response was, “Boys will be boys.” No. They’re 3 years old and will learn to follow the rules if you set some for them.

    My son is 5 now and he’s a maker/creator/builder. This applies in equal part to a love of Home Depot projects and cooking. “Cooking is awesome, Mom! You get to create things, but at the end you have something good to eat!” Of course, more than a few people have told me that it’s weird that he likes to cook and ask me if I really wanted a girl instead. It makes me crazy.

    Reply
  9. Laura B.

    Pairing off preschoolers as boyfriend and girlfriend MAKES ME CRAZY! Also: “She’s gonna be a heartbreaker!” and “the boys had better watch out” etc. etc.

    The first load of laundry I did after my daughter was born was mostly all the new clothes she had been given at birth. I vividly remember the lint trap being chock full of pink fluff and thinking, “it started already!” She was less than 48 hours old. These days I shop mostly in the blue and green section, because toddler dresses are so impractical for swinging and sliding (especially sliding!)

    Reply
  10. Elizabeth McKenzie

    Another great post, Julie. I agree, let them try everything and let their interests fall where they may. This was how I was raised and was a proud little girl geek, all into computers and photography. My eldest son tried dance and liked it but was ridiculed and dropped out. He tried sports but hated it. He played sports just to please others including me which I vowed I would not let happen again. His love of cars has lead to a gender-acceptable career but what if he did a 180 and went into cooking – another of his favourite things – would outsiders be thinking Martha Stewart or Emeril? I fear the former. My much younger boy/girl twins play whatever they wish and no one bats an eye. But there is pressure in school to love only the traditional boy/girl things which makes me sad.

    Reply
  11. Melanie

    What I can’t stand is when gender stereotyping is used to excuse certain behavior. A 6 yr old boy (complete stranger!) jumped into the front seat of my car while I had the doors open helping my kids with and their bags and stuff. He then proceeded to play around with the controls and stomped all over art work that he made fall off the seat, I told him to get out, that he shouldn’t be jumping into strangers’ cars and his mom comes hurrying over, laughing(!) saying ‘boys will be boys’. I was SO dumbfounded! Not even an apology! I have a young boy and there is absolutely no way that he would ever think that this behavior would be acceptable!

    Reply
  12. Greg

    We made a conscious effort to not let gender typing into our house, but it’s basically impossible to keep it out of their lives. It’s on TV, it’s there with their friends, and it’s ingrained in the grandparents as well (you can encourage them to update their viewpoint, but you can’t MAKE them be somebody else!).

    But, as parents we get to be a major influence, and you can see the positive effects of this when he considers “girl” toys and clothing alongside “boy” items. Some days he wants to grow up (while we “grow down”) so that he can give us milk (he was a bit upset to discover he’s never going to be able to feed a baby by breast), but on the other side just the other day he said he wants to be a daddy when he grows up.

    Lots of positive attitude in that kid, and I think although he’s a little bit on the “rough and tumble” side of things, he’s balanced overall in his interests.

    But the overall point being: we are doing our absolute best, but we’ve decided that the world will continue to push gender roles at him and our job is to educate and discuss, not shelter.

    Reply
  13. Jess

    I have 4 boys under 5. My husband and I have been careful not to gender stereotype. One of the favorite colors in my house is pink. My boys love pink and purple, to them they are just colors.
    The thing I hate is the responses I get when people hear I have 4 boys. A few weeks ago I had a women tell me “Better luck next time!” She thought it was funny, I was not impressed but maintained my polite smile as we walked away.
    I would love to have a little girl but I have 4 amazing little boys I wouldn’t trade for anything. I just hate the assumption that I’m not happy or content because I don’t have a girl. Girls aren’t better then boys, boys aren’t better then girls. I can take the jokes and the comments that are kidding but the comments that are negative really irritate me. My sister in law has 3 girls and I know she gets sick of all the jokes too. The comments we get when we go out together are pretty priceless.

    Reply

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