Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Not just for Tomboys

Book by Lisa Sekib Davis 

Kids And Gender Roles

By Jessica DuLong, CNNTue August 11, 2020

Beginning in preschool, Lisa Selin Davis' daughter expressed her preference for what are considered more masculine clothing, haircuts and play styles. In first grade she announced she was a "tomboy."

Davis did her best to support her daughter, letting her cross gender barriers despite occasionally feeling uncomfortable.
Learning how to talk to her child about gender issues and how to leave room for a variety of identities to develop led Davis to write "Tomboy: The Surprising History and Future of Girls Who Dare to Be Different," which not only explores how tomboys fit into our evolving understandings of gender identity and expression but also "how and why we've ordered the world by gender, and who benefits," Davis said.

The influence of homophobia continues to this day when parents avoid dressing their boys in pink or buying them dolls. Beyond action figures, which are also, of course, dolls!

We've seen boys' worlds opened to girls, but girls' worlds haven't been opened to boys. That remains a tough thing for parents. If your boy likes a dress, if your boy wears pink, if your boy is sweet and kind and other-centered, why is that so threatening and scary?

We're still stuck in this thinking that says if we don't teach our kids how to be properly masculine or feminine, things are going to be hard for them. So, we wind up imposing gender roles on them. But the problem with dressing kids in ways that directly communicate their gender to the outside world affects how other people see and treat that child.

Davis Continues:

In the '90s, there was a lot of "girl crisis literature" about eating disorders, low self-esteem and the academic achievement gap. This focus on girls in crisis fueled efforts to help them.

Now there's discussion of a crisis among boys. Many boys are socialized to suppress emotions, to be dominant and to demean women — all under a narrow definition of masculinity that is pretty punishing for boys. The backlash against this kind of toxic masculinity is focused on redefining possibilities for a range of masculine presentation.

But, it's important to note that one thing we haven't yet tried is degendering boys' and girls' personalities, their hopes and dreams, their toys, their clothes. Who would our kids be if we didn't gender their emotions and all the material stuff around them?


I have picked out parts that apply more to boys than girls.  The whole article is fascinating but the takeaway is " Parents need to notice that today's hyper-gendered childhood, with roles that have gotten narrower and more stringent in recent years, is a social construct. We don't have to buy into it."

Do Read the whole article: Not just for tomboys (and their parents): Kids and gender roles.

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