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 Post subject: Adventures in Gender Socialization
PostPosted: Sun Dec 14, 2014 11:20 am 
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Semen Strong
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I'd love a thread where we can talk about the challenges of empowering our children around gender issues and all the problematic socialization they get from the media, familes, friends etc. I'd love a dialogue, shared articles, shared commiserations, whatever works! I know many of us have posted about these issues in other threads, so a dedicated thread might be useful.

Yesterday we had a lovely playdate with a friend's 4 year old, B. B is very into playing make-up and the two girls were in her room. So this morning, L comes to me and says "Mama, I need to put on make-up. I'm not very pretty without my make up on!" I never wear make-up and my only make-up is a 10 year old lipstick, so she isn't getting it from me, and I watch her media consumption pretty rigorously. We avoid the princess culture and even the Disney culture, but even outside the obvious sources, the messages on gender identity and femininity are everywhere.

I tried not to react and just asked her more about the make-up thing until we could have a conversation about how everyone is beautiful, with or without make-up.

But it did throw me for a loop!

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 Post subject: Re: Adventures in Gender Socialization
PostPosted: Mon Dec 15, 2014 5:50 am 
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I'll be reading this thread with interest as I feel very strongly about gender socialisation but I often have trouble articulating what troubles me about particular situations.

And I have a dear little 7-year old female relative who is very into pink and princesses and 'girly' plastic tat, but who also seems as though she will be very easily influenced by peers and perceived expectations. She's very bright but SO eager to be liked. So I'll be looking for pointers on good ways to interact with her.


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 Post subject: Re: Adventures in Gender Socialization
PostPosted: Mon Dec 15, 2014 6:50 am 
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We tried super hard to avoid this stuff (no pink was permitted in the house, no disney, no barbies) but it seeps in. I know i have read similar stuff about pacifist, quaker homes where no guns or weapon toys are allowed- you find the kids biting their sandwiches into gun shapes and shooting each other with them, parents are horrified, it seeps in somehow. I think the key is to do what you are doing- give the kid tools to learn that things are not always so cut and dry.

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 Post subject: Re: Adventures in Gender Socialization
PostPosted: Mon Dec 15, 2014 8:06 am 
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We realised that if you want to avoid the pink stereotype you have to spend a lot of money on clothes. All the companies (here in Germany) that have cheap stuff sell pink/violet stuff for girls and blue/truck/bob the builder stuff to boys. So for people who cannot afford to be picky when it comes to children's clothes don't have much choice. They have to dress their daughters as pink princesses.
My daughter attends kindergarten since October. Now here favourite colour is pink, too. The first week I spent a lot of time at that daycare and realised that the boys played with other boys and the girls with other girls. At Fs former daycare she was in a small mixed group of 5 kids, three boy and two girls. She played with everyone and nobody excluded her.
She has short hair, likes pirates, and we can afford to buy her stuff that could be interpreted as gender neutral (but of course it basically means, everyone thinks she's a boy). She wasn't bothered by this until all those bigger boys at her new daycare started to shove it into her face that she apparently looks like a boy. It turns out she decided to love pink now because she's supposed to. She's a girl. She constantly asks me if I like that colour. At first I said no. (Because I really don't. Not for feminist reasons, I just think pink is ugly.) But I don't want to shame her. If she likes pink so be it. I started telling her I like it, too. It's nothing bad. Pink is not a second class colour and I don't want her to think she has to feel bad about it. I want to teach her that she can choose to like whatever she wants and that it is okay.
I feel that there is so much pressure coming from other parents. Parents who teach their boys not to cry and who also teach them that they cannot have pink and glitter and nail polish because it's for girls only. That way they teach their children that girls are somehow inferior and that it's embarrasing to look like a girl. So I guess that's what I am trying to focus on from now on. I'll try to teach her that it's okay to like pink, that it's not an inferior colour, that everybody, no matter what gender, can like it. But that there are other colours, too. And if she wants to be feminine, it shouldn't be a bad thing either. I'll just try to make shore that she can have whatever identity she wants and that it's okay.
It's pretty hard though. She's only three, wants to fit in and of course she's doing what all the other kids in her group do. And they all learned fom their parents that there's only male and female, that they are pretty different and that girls do not like the same things as boys and vice versa.


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 Post subject: Re: Adventures in Gender Socialization
PostPosted: Mon Dec 15, 2014 9:45 am 
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Yes, L is in pink pretty much all the time, because almost all her clothes are hand-me-downs. And you're totally right that it costs so much more to get girls clothes that aren't pink or boy's clothes (in the US) that aren't camo (which raises a whole other set of issues as well), brown, green, blue etc. We talk about how all colors are pretty and we all get to wear any color we want, and so far she doesn't seem to have a strong need to pick her own outfits. But some of her playmates are really focused on wearing clothes that "match" and putting together cute outfits that are way better than I can even do for myself, and I know she's going to be getting that pressure as well. On the one hand, I think its great for her to have a lot of autonomy and nascent sense of style, but on the other, I don't love the value placed on how one looks and what others think or on not getting dirty.

And its interesting, because L went through a "I only like girls!" stage, and I was going to do the "child-led" preference and do mainly all girl playdates, but I really liked Ariann's point that its important to underscore that we can't just "write off" an entire group of people. So we now look for very mixed gender playgroups or playdates with male kids, to be able to reinforce that we can play with anyone. And of course, there is really no difference in how L plays - she's a very physical kid who loves running around and jumping on things.

A friend of mine told me that her friend stopped hanging out with her after her son turned 2 "because now he has testosterone and its going to mean that he is too rough for my little girl." And its interesting, because her son is really gentle. And I notice that a lot of our friends have playdates "for girls" or "for boys" (and we aren't invited to the "for boys" ones, even though L gets along great with her male friends). It sucks when its the parents, working so hard to send these messages.

I just am kind of surprised by how loud the gendering messages are, even at this young age. I don't think that was the case for us growing up in the 70s. We all kind of wore the same types of clothing and played in big groups. I remember the boys deciding in 5th grade that I couldn't play soccer any more because I was a girl, but up to then, I generally played mostly with boys and girls who were really into sports.

I also really loved CQ's comment that the benefit of teaching children to be inclusive and not limited by gender roles is that you can spare your child so much pain if they end up being non-conforming. So much of the pain that non-conforming children suffer is due to the rigid gender binary and how cruelly it is enforced. I am paraphrasing here, so any errors are my own. I definitely want to make sure that Leela can explore whatever interests she has, without feeling like some of them are off limits because she is a girl.

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 Post subject: Re: Adventures in Gender Socialization
PostPosted: Mon Dec 15, 2014 9:55 am 
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i read an interesting book recently called Cinderella Ate My Daughter (see amazon link)
http://www.amazon.com/Cinderella-Ate-Daughter-Dispatches-Girlie-Girl/dp/0061711535/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1418654414&sr=8-1&keywords=cinderella+ate+my+daughter

and im pretty terrible at explaining things i read but basically the author also was like super anti princess/pink/frilly stuff and she goes into the history of how the Disney Princess stuff evolved but what she found is being anti that stuff it somehow sends a message to young girls that being a girl is bad because the color pink and princess stuff is so unbelievably tied to femininity. when you tell them that they shouldn't want to be a princess you are somehow sending the message that it's bad and therefore being a girl is second rate.

so i think Mihl has the right idea. i also cant stand the color pink. it makes me want to vomit but i guess it's important to not make it seem like a bad color. being a princess is ok but being an astronaut is cool too (or a vet or a dr or a waiter, or someone who sits at a desk all day doing data entry, its ALL OK!)

i know when BabyPunk is old enough to be interested in princesses and has decided she doesnt hate other kids it's literally going to kill me the first time she comes home and wants a frilly princess costume. not sure i will be able to practice what i just preached but ill try and keep it in mind!

the thing that stinks is we cant raise these kids in a vacuum. no matter what we preach at home and what we do in practice there is always the day when they go play with a friend who tells them they aren't pretty without lipstick.

it's really really tough. i think about stuff like this CONSTANTLY and BabyPunk is only 19 months so in reality we havent come across this stuff in life because she's too young.

though i do find my mom talks to her like "shes a girl"
i try and talk to her like she's a kid. i try to be gender neutral in life and most of the time i call her "cute" but i noticed my mom is very girl-centric with her. she tells her how she's "pretty" and oh you look so pretty let's comb your hair you have to look pretty and i grit my teeth as i listen.

BabyPunk used to CONSTANTLY be mistaken for a boy when she was younger. even once when she was wearing lavender pants someone still called her a boy. if you dont have your girls dressed to the 9s in pink frills and head bows they are boys.
im not sure when it stopped happening but im guessing when her hair grew a little longer. she also is very delicate and doll-like so i guess that helps people realize she is a girl.

as frustrating as the whole girl culture, princess crepe is to me and how it makes me want to stab things i hate it so much i do feel for people who have boys that aren't into "boys being boys"
it's more acceptable now for girls to play with cars and blocks and dinosaurs but GOD FORBID YOUR SON PLAYS WITH A DOLL or cries or likes sparkly pink things.

so when are we starting that PPKommune? i think we need to raise our kids there!


EDIT: here's another book i read about a woman who's son is very into pink and frilly and sparkly and "girl" things and there struggles accepting it themselves and then dealing with society.
http://www.amazon.com/Raising-My-Rainbow-Adventures-Fabulous/dp/0770437729/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1418655433&sr=8-1&keywords=raising+my+rainbow

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Last edited by LisaPunk on Mon Dec 15, 2014 9:59 am, edited 2 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Adventures in Gender Socialization
PostPosted: Mon Dec 15, 2014 9:55 am 
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Tofulish wrote:
I don't think that was the case for us growing up in the 70s. We all kind of wore the same types of clothing and played in big groups.

It was because we all had the same bowl haircut.

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 Post subject: Re: Adventures in Gender Socialization
PostPosted: Mon Dec 15, 2014 9:58 am 
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torque wrote:
Tofulish wrote:
I don't think that was the case for us growing up in the 70s. We all kind of wore the same types of clothing and played in big groups.

It was because we all had the same bowl haircut.


I just peed a little!!! YES!!!!

my mom constantly says how different stuff is today than than when she me and my brother (mid to late 70s) i had some pink clothes but a lot of things were gender neutral.

i think a lot of it was because they couldnt tell you the gender of your baby back then so most baby stuff was gender neutral.

i wonder how much that one scientific advancement has effected the whole pink onslaught. interesting to think about

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 Post subject: Re: Adventures in Gender Socialization
PostPosted: Mon Dec 15, 2014 10:06 am 
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and i wonder about class-type values as well and the breakdown of support groups. we all wore handmedowns from cousins and neighbors and it was seen as a responsibility to do so, so that things got used the way they were supposed to be used. If something didn't get worn to shreds it was a "shame". it seems laughable to think that today about something we buy from Walmart.
Maybe it is just because we had so little back then and our focus was on survival, I remember my first pair of ice skates was a boy's pair because that was what my family could get (hand me down from a cousin) and being told that I couldn't be choosy.

(god, rereading that I feel about a thousand years old)

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 Post subject: Re: Adventures in Gender Socialization
PostPosted: Mon Dec 15, 2014 10:38 am 
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Tofulish wrote:
I We avoid the princess culture and even the Disney culture, but even outside the obvious sources, the messages on gender identity and femininity are everywhere.



I find this interesting since you did just spend 10 days in Disney. :) You can't avoid these things especially if you are taking her to them.

The best thing you can do for your kids is to try and raise them to be confident in who they are, not who you want them to be and if that's a make up wearing girly girl then so be it. If it's a boy who wears spiderman t-shirts and his sisters pink sparkly belt to school (ahem..Miles) then that's awesome.

I forgot to add...while still having the conversations with them that it's ok for boys to wear make up too and girls can be really into Thor and Iron Man and sports...etc...you get the idea!

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 Post subject: Re: Adventures in Gender Socialization
PostPosted: Mon Dec 15, 2014 10:42 am 
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Lisa Bloom has two books on gender stereotypes and kids (Think and Swagger.) I haven't read the one about boys yet, but one point I liked from Think was the idea of starting conversations with kids by asking what they're reading lately and telling them about what you're reading. It's a conversation about what they do, not how they express their gender ("You're so pretty/big!").


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 Post subject: Re: Adventures in Gender Socialization
PostPosted: Mon Dec 15, 2014 11:26 am 
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E's at the age where the biggest source of gender pressure seems to be other kids. He comes home with stories like this all the time: another kid (boy) told him he can't sing "Let it Go" because it's a girl song. He said, I can sing whatever I want. The other kid told him, no, you can only sing Olaf's song. I asked him what he did then and he said "I just started singing Let it Go again *shrug*". Which is awesome, I'm glad he can stand up for what he likes like that, but it just irritates me that he has to.

He's a kid. He likes a wide variety of things, which I think is one of the most appealing possible traits in a person. It would be awesome if this were something he could maintain long-term.

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 Post subject: Re: Adventures in Gender Socialization
PostPosted: Mon Dec 15, 2014 12:26 pm 
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I have a boy and a girl. My girl is 7. She is autistic, and while that presents its own set of challenges at times, funny enough, it is very protective in this arena. She just doesn't give a shiitake what other people say enough to be influenced by them. She loves pink and dress up and barbies and trucks and legos and mud and worms. The other day she insisted on wearing her white, fancy dress and then promptly went outside and dug in the mud while wearing it. (Always buy very washable, fancy dresses.) Personally, I like pink. It has always been my favorite color. I don't try to avoid pink and pretty things, I just try to balance them with other stuff. Personally I don't try to shield my kids from toys like barbie, but instead try to make sure there are no limits on what toys they can play with.

My 4 year old son presents different issues though because as a neurotypical kid, he is influenced by his peers. All of the sudden one day he came home and didn't want to use the pink cup anymore because he was told pink was a girl color. He loves having grandma paint his finger nails, and really wants his own barbie for the holidays, and plays bakery at school, and also loves trucks, and dinosaurs, and space. But I worry about what will happen when someone tells him that barbies are for girls. He is a sweet and sensitive boy who has trouble standing up for himself. I genuinely worry about him bowing to the peer pressure and I feel like I have to put in a million times more effort to help him understand gender equality and not be swayed by what other kids say.


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 Post subject: Re: Adventures in Gender Socialization
PostPosted: Mon Dec 15, 2014 12:46 pm 
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I hadn't ever thought too much about this subject before, and really still don't that much since my babies are still so young. So this is interesting. I did have a facebook experience where I posted a picture of my 2 year old holding a doll and someone mentioned the "action figure" he was holding and that led to a whole *funny* thread about this baby doll being an action figure....all because I guess a 2 year old boy should never ever be playing with a baby doll. I was surprised, but I guess I shouldn't have been.


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 Post subject: Re: Adventures in Gender Socialization
PostPosted: Mon Dec 15, 2014 1:48 pm 
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JENNA wrote:

I find this interesting since you did just spend 10 days in Disney.


It's awesome to be exposed to the "Magic Kingdom" and all its trappings while one is there. Who wears the ears outside the park on a day to day basis?

It's especially good to see the Disney stuff in context and then, after, separate it out from real life.

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 Post subject: Re: Adventures in Gender Socialization
PostPosted: Mon Dec 15, 2014 2:14 pm 
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I like that context Sz! Thanks!

We went to Disney, because my father is 80, lives in Austria, is in the early stages of dementia, so he can't hold a telephone conversation, and is a 2x cancer survivor, and I wouldn't have had another opportunity to see him this year. I wish he lived closer and I wish things were easier, but in the given circumstances, I didn't want to miss the opportunity to see him, in case he dies. He's been in and out of the hospital a lot over the last few years and I don't think he's going to be around much longer.

And yes, Leela had a great time, and we were grateful we went, but we don't watch the shows or buy the branded merchandise, because some of the messages are so problematic (and are less obvious at the park). If you watch Minnie's Bow-tique, its like being back in the 50s.

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 Post subject: Re: Adventures in Gender Socialization
PostPosted: Mon Dec 15, 2014 2:46 pm 
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I think about this stuff a lot, and am at least somewhat anxious about what the next few years will bring...
Westiebaby is 2 in a few weeks, she sometimes wears dresses but has never worn pink [I don't like it and have made it clear to all gift-givers that she won't wear pink clothes so we've been lucky to avoid it]. She is frequently [at least 3 times in the last 3 days] referred to as a boy when we go out, which I am fine with and she doesn't really notice yet. She's even been called a boy when wearing a dress, because it was blue. And I've had a stranger say to me, 'but it isn't wearing pink! How am I supposed to know?' [yes, he called my daughter 'it'...]
She's also never watched tv and we just started going to a playgroup this last term, but she just does her own thing because under-2 year olds aren't really into playing together so she hasn't picked up any pressure/messages from there, but I know all that will change in the next year or two...
Basically I don't have anything to contribute but I hope she can continue to be loud and fast and enjoy climbing and jumping, dinosaurs, cars, diggers, her baby doll, and whatever else she chooses!!


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 Post subject: Re: Adventures in Gender Socialization
PostPosted: Tue Dec 16, 2014 5:57 am 
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Tofulish wrote:
I also really loved CQ's comment that the benefit of teaching children to be inclusive and not limited by gender roles is that you can spare your child so much pain if they end up being non-conforming. So much of the pain that non-conforming children suffer is due to the rigid gender binary and how cruelly it is enforced. I am paraphrasing here, so any errors are my own. I definitely want to make sure that Leela can explore whatever interests she has, without feeling like some of them are off limits because she is a girl.


I agree. I think it's very important to tell you kids that people can be like whatever they want and that it's okay, that it's normal to be "different".

LisaPunk wrote:
basically the author also was like super anti princess/pink/frilly stuff and she goes into the history of how the Disney Princess stuff evolved but what she found is being anti that stuff it somehow sends a message to young girls that being a girl is bad because the color pink and princess stuff is so unbelievably tied to femininity. when you tell them that they shouldn't want to be a princess you are somehow sending the message that it's bad and therefore being a girl is second rate.


Yeah, that is exactly what I think as well.

I told F that princess is a bad job choice because they never get to decide anything. If she wants to work in that kind of field when she grows up she'd better become queen because that way she can decide stuff. (Of course that is not true. But I hope you know what I mean.) So now she runs around and whenever someone calls her princess she replies "I am not a princess. I am a queen. I decide stuff." The best.


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 Post subject: Re: Adventures in Gender Socialization
PostPosted: Tue Dec 16, 2014 7:31 pm 
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I have no useful advice at this point (still cookin the kid!) but I just saw this and loved it.

http://maximumble.thebookofbiff.com/201 ... 80-dolled/

Sorry, I can't figure out how to share this as an image.

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 Post subject: Re: Adventures in Gender Socialization
PostPosted: Thu Dec 18, 2014 11:54 pm 
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Every night we ask E what the best and worst parts of his day were, which often leads to interesting discussions. Tonight he told me how one of his friends brought in goodie bags for all the kids in the class and he was seriously tearing up telling me how there were blue bags for boys and red for girls and he wanted a red one because it had a My Little Pony toy in it and the blue bags had cars instead, and he'd rather have MLP but he couldn't because he's a boy.

Seriously, other parents? You know even if we can accept for a moment that it's not ridic to send in goodie bags for a class of 4-5 year olds, why the fork make them different? As E and I discussed, he probably wasn't the only kid who would have preferred the toy in the opposite gender's bag. If some toy is so ridiculously boy/girl oriented that you feel you can't put it in every goodie bag... maybe... that's not an appropriate forking toy to put in a goodie bag.

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 Post subject: Re: Adventures in Gender Socialization
PostPosted: Fri Dec 19, 2014 12:17 am 
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Oh poor E! I wish that schools would set limits that everyone gets the same thing! So good that you can talk about this with him, so he's not left feeling unhappy.

There is a cool campaign in the UK called "Let toys be toys" http://www.lettoysbetoys.org.uk which is asking toy and publishing industries to stop limiting children's interests by promoting some toys and books as only suitable for girls, and others only for boys. And they highlight that limiting what children can be interested in, based on gender can make children feel 'wrong' for liking certain things."

Quote:
Jo Swinson, the Equalities Minister, told Sky News that she felt it was important to make the intervention in the run-up to Christmas because the stereotyping was affecting children's "aspirations".

She warned it was leading to a situation in which too many girls would not consider a career in science while boys were significantly less likely to opt for nurturing professions.

She said: "Stereotypes about what men and women can and can't do actually limits children's aspirations and that harms our economy - only 7% of engineers are women and only 10% of nurses are men."

Ms Swinson argued that progress had been made but she said she felt the need to write to the British Retail Consortium to urge all retailers to follow the lead of companies such as Marks and Spencer, Tesco and Boots, which have removed boys and girls designations from their websites.
http://news.sky.com/story/1393553/no-mo ... s-minister

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 Post subject: Re: Adventures in Gender Socialization
PostPosted: Fri Dec 19, 2014 7:37 am 
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Oh E, that sounds so sad!

I have a friend with two boys, one is 7ish and one is 6ish. The older one really likes My Little Pony but now he's embarrassed about it because he was teased at school. He also liked to wear nail polish and my friend would paint his nails sometimes, but now he'll only let her paint his toes because he was teased for having nail polish on his fingers...it makes me so sad that he has to hide what he really likes. He's such a sweet, sensitive kid.

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 Post subject: Re: Adventures in Gender Socialization
PostPosted: Fri Dec 19, 2014 9:53 am 
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Poor E. I grew up with boys who loved playing with My Little Pony.

I hate school goodie bags. First. They don't need them! Second. Make one type of bag for everyone! We did a Halloween goodie bag because the 3 other 2nd grade classes were and some boys got pink vampire teeth and some girls got blue...it was random and thankfully they didn't care. One Mom wanted to do a craft where the boys would use TMNT stickers and the girls would use Frozen stickers. We aren't doing that craft! Its a veto perk you get for being the head class mom. ;)

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 Post subject: Re: Adventures in Gender Socialization
PostPosted: Fri Dec 19, 2014 1:00 pm 
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Dr Bronners, MD
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Joined: Wed Oct 20, 2010 5:58 pm
Posts: 4792
Location: Santa Cruz whoop whoop
Yeah, me and the boy (E) and MLP go way back. Before Adventure Time (and actually at the same time as Adventure Time depending on what had new episodes) he and I watched it together-- our pre-dinner TV schedule was half an hour every other day.

He only knows Spiderman and most superheroes from other kids and from a couple of movies (not the Spiderman movies-- Captain America and Iron Man and one or two others). He doesn't seem super interested, though, so I'm following his lead as far as interests go. He likes all kinds of stuff and I don't really care what he likes as long as he likes things and pursues his interests.

In the meantime, the other day at preschool the smaller boy asked me to help him put on a princess dress from the dress-up wardrobe, so I helped him into it, gave him a hug and a kiss, and went to work. It was super cute.

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 Post subject: Re: Adventures in Gender Socialization
PostPosted: Fri Dec 19, 2014 4:09 pm 
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***LIES!!!***
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Joined: Sun Feb 12, 2012 4:10 pm
Posts: 3896
JENNA wrote:
Poor E. I grew up with boys who loved playing with My Little Pony.

I hate school goodie bags. First. They don't need them! Second. Make one type of bag for everyone! We did a Halloween goodie bag because the 3 other 2nd grade classes were and some boys got pink vampire teeth and some girls got blue...it was random and thankfully they didn't care. One Mom wanted to do a craft where the boys would use TMNT stickers and the girls would use Frozen stickers. We aren't doing that craft! Its a veto perk you get for being the head class mom. ;)


Good job, class mom!


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