Today is blog against sexism day. I thought all about my life and the things that I’ve experienced brought to me by my friendly neighborhood misogynist and while I am quite exasperated with many of those things I bet there are plenty of bloggers who will address those issues in a wittier way than I. I am choosing the less traveled path and want to talk about sexism among toddlers.
Yeah at first it sounds funny, you may be thinking “What, do we give toddler girls less food than we give toddler boys for an equal day of play?” and the answer actually is yes. Florida State University says
“Researchers found that parents of 3-year-olds worried that their sons but not their daughters were underweight - even though the weights and body mass index of the boys and girls in the study were nearly identical. They also said that their daughters ate enough food, but their sons did not.”
In a world were little girls get to start asking “Do I look fat in this?” at age 3, we can also give them tiny little belly shirts to wear. I have started to buy Ella’s shirts in a size 4T even though she is actually a 2T. I would rather roll up the sleeves than have her little belly hang out in March in Northern IL. In fact even if we lived in FL it would be the same. Ella loves to dress up as Cinderella with her little crown and wand (heavy sign and eye roll from me) but I think that is totally different from buying little hip huggers so her G-string underwear featuring cherries and the words "eye candy" and "wink wink" can poke out of her little jeans. There is a vast difference between letting my daughter feel pretty shuffling around in her sparkly plastic princess shoes and actually buying her little heels for daily wear to shorten up her little hams strings so she can comfortably walk in the size 5 Manolos when she’s 7.
While we are busy imposing our own body images onto our children's psyche by standing in front of the mirror muttering curse words, we also do a terrible disservice to our nations boys by encouraging them to be big and tough. You may have seen or even experienced the reaction of Mr. Man looking at his son holding a baby doll or wearing mommy’s heels in absolute horror. Some men get hives from the very thought and consequently make sure to periodically and randomly poke their sons in the eye or punch them in their little arms to keep them tough.
Little girls can play with trains and cars and dollies and we tell them “you can be anything you want to be when you grow up” and little boys can play with trains and cars but not anything pink or pretty or feminine in any way because we'll all get uncomfortable and wonder why he’s so sensitive. We still tell little boys “You can be anything you want to be when you grow up, but please oh please make sure it’s a football player or astronaut and not an artists or interior decorator or wedding planner”? We use all kinds of adjectives for little girls: smart, pretty, tough, clever, cute, bright, charming, but try and tell a little boy he’s pretty in front of Mr. Man and you can watch the daggers fly.
So, I’m not much for laying out the problem and not the solution. Here it is folks – lead by example. If you have a son, buy him a baby doll to play with and then don't grimace when he does play with it. If you have a daughter who watches you make disparaging comments in front of the mirror, stop it - she hears you.
It occurred to me, perhaps some of you are thinking –“Well what’s wrong with wanting my daughter to be sensitive and pretty and my son to be strong and in charge?” By no means do I think that if you let your daughter wear lip-gloss she’ll grown up to be Pam Anderson or if you encourage your son to play football he will someday start a war but I think unfair gender stereo-types facilitate many of the inequalities and hang-ups we suffer from in adulthood. And if you don’t believe in those than you can just go back to the bubble you live in.