Boys, Barbies, and Broken Necks

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This post was written as a contribution to the Boys vs. Girls Blog Carnival.  The participating bloggers are sharing their experiences, ideas, and opinions on why gender roles should be avoided in parenting and teaching practices.

Boys, Barbies, and Broken Necks - Why ignoring gender stereotypes will give our children a leg up.

I have 3 sons, and no daughters.  And I am well aware of this because everywhere we go someone feels the need to remind me.

“Oh, 3 boys!  I bet they are a handful!”

“Three boys – you must be supermom to handle them!”

Three boys, oh my!!  When are you trying for a girl?”

And don’t get me started on the pity looks. 

It’s so common that Baloo (6) now tells people that we meet “Three boys!  Crazy, right?  We’re a handful!”. 

The truth is, I love and cherish my three boys and I wouldn’t trade any of them for a girl!  Are they a handful?  Sure…but that’s because they are KIDS not because they are BOYS.  I’ve been around little girls – they are loud and quick and destructive just like little boys. 

So what is with all the gender stereotyping?  Why do people assume that all girls love dolls, ponies, and pink?  And why are all boys supposed to love trucks, superheros, and blue?  And most importantly, why is any mixing of the two considering a really big problem?

We’ve been unpacking boxes lately and came across the Barbie’s that I’d decided to keep for my future daughter.  Naturally, the boys were curious and wanted to play – so I let them!  I let them play with stuffed animals and GI Joes, so how is a Barbie any different?  Unfortunately for the Barbies, the boys don’t see them as any different and were a bit too rough.  We now have a few Barbies with broken necks.  Baloo also a liking for Hello Kitty.  Did you know that they don’t make any Hello Kitty products for boys?  There is no Hello Kitty anything in the boys clothing sections.  (We went ahead and bought Baloo some “girl” Hello Kitty PJs, and that comes with it’s own story)
My theory is that stereotyping has it’s time and place – like when you’re walking down a dark alley and a big dark figure starts walking toward you.  Stereotyping might tell you to turn and run, and that just might save your life.
However, stereotyping based on age, race, or gender will generally not do anyone any good.
At our house, we do our best to ignore gender stereotypes.  We don’t do boy colors and girl colors.  We don’t do boy toys and girl toys.  And we don’t have boy chores and girl chores.  My boys have all had the options to explore all toys and 9 times out of 10 they decide on the typical “boy” toy – which is fine!  But they do have the option.
So, how will gender stereotyping give our kids a leg up?  As adults, my boys will know how to do their own laundry and cook their own food.  They will know to encourage their female friends who are attempting to get a “man’s” job.  They won’t feel limited by their gender.  And most important (in my opinion) is that they won’t be more confused about who they are and how they fit into this world.  I’m not saying they’ll automatically know who they are, but by having the opportunity to explore everything the world has to offer regardless of gender, they won’t have to wonder ‘what if…’.
My boys love:
And I love to explore all of those with them!  They know they are boys, and mommy is a girl and they know the differences between boys and girls.  I think that is important.  What I try to teach them is that boys and girls can like and do the same things, should have the same opportunities, and should not have to worry if something is labeled ‘boy’ or ‘girl’.
Look here to read submissions by the other carnival bloggers
Gender Cliches Debunked
Andie Jaye of Crayon Freckles is a momma to a preschool boy and teen girl, looks at cliches held about genders and offers an alternate view to them. 

Parenting and Gender Biases
Maggy, mum of a boy (5) and girl (3) discusses on Life At The Zoo her observations about how each of her children do have many characteristics associated with their gender. However stresses that children should be given equal opportunities to explore, play and discover and is frequently surprised by each child really enjoys non gender specific activities – this is particularly noticeable during the arts and crafts activities they do over on Red Ted Art.
The Monko at Taming the Goblin asks “What is the difference between girls and boys at the age of three? And why do we care?”
Brittany from Love, Play, Learn shares how to help your child grow up happy and emotionally well adjusted by cutting through gender stereotypes and bias in children’s toys, media, and society. She shares easy and practical tips and ideas for raising happy and confident girls and boys.

Children and Gender Roles
Gina, from Connecting Family & Seoul, and her sister share the importance of allowing children to explore multiple gender roles.  Also provided are examples and ideas for such exploration through pretend play and general play.

Boys, Barbies, and Broken Necks
Erin from Royal Baloo writes on why ignoring gender stereotypes will give your child a leg up.

Gender Stereotypes in Society
Gender stereotypes are everywhere, among friends, colleagues, at stores and pretty much anywhere else in life. Alex, from Glittering Muffins and father to Nico {an energetic three and a half year old} looks at how difficult it can be to keep an open mind. 

7 thoughts on “Boys, Barbies, and Broken Necks”

  1. I agree that society tends to stereotype kids!  I have four girls.  They can be a handful, and I never hear any comments about them in public the way that people hear about having boys.  I teach preK for students with special needs and most of my students are boys.  They are wonderful to teach- partly because they bring so much energy and excitement (and sound effects!) to the classroom.  If I use their energy and excitement to lead my lessons, we always have more fun.  Generally speaking, the girls that I have taught are  more sedate and more content to do the seatwork.  I always let each individual child engage on the level of energy and enthusiasm that comes most naturally to them (and then I usually "amp it up" for my seatwork fans 🙂 I love active learning!
    The bottom line is that God gave you three boys because you were the perfect mom for them. He chose you for them and them for you.  And He knows best! I'm glad you have the sense to enjoy them for who they are.    

  2. We L.O.V.E the movie "Tangled" at our house. Now I happen to have a 2 and 3 year old..both girls. But….this is even a favorite cartoon of Daddy's so I'd say it has just the right amount of everything in it. Thanks for this post! I think your approach with your kids is wonderful!

  3. My oldest (5.5) loved cars until she was around 4 when she found My Little Ponies. She still lvoes cars and still has imaginary friends who are cars. She has never cared about baby dolls at all! I never once worried about it or tried to change it.  Her little sister has always been drawn to more girlish things and thats fine too.  Now we have a boy (I have never really been around a little boy), but he LOVES cars as well as soft, fluffy animals and blankets. He is also currently drawn to pink. Oh well, who knows how things will change as he gets older.

  4. Pingback: Boys vs. Girls Blog Carnival | Glittering Muffins

  5. i know!  no hello kitty and no dora for boys… it stinks!  and i can't believe people have actually asked you if you were trying for a girl… wow.  so glad that you participated in the carnival.  pinning.

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