Thursday, October 27, 2011

Are you a Boy or a Girl?

When I dropped my Little one off at daycare the other day, pretty much the first words out of one of the "older" carers mouths was "Are you a boy or a girl?"

Cue a WTF look from me.

One of the little girls answered "I'm a girl!" and the carer shushed her and asked my Little once more "are you a boy or a girl?"

His answer was a quizzical look and a strong "I'm Manny!"

I grinned. That's my kiddo. Labels are for soup cans.

The carer looks up at me and explains that she is teaching them "differences" and the differences between boys and girls. I must have had a deer in the headlights look because she went on with "maybe Mummy can practice teaching you at home!"

Honestly I had no idea what to say. I was dumbfounded. I didn't want to cause a scene so I stayed quiet. Was I being oversensitive because of my queerness? Probably. But it just seemed wrong to me.

Do I say to her that we do not enforce gender stereotypes on our children?
Do I tell her that within our community of friends we have a number of transgender and genderqueer peeps who we love and support?
That a couple of people our children once knew as "she" are now "he"?
Do I tell her that Manny is way too young to know yet whether he is a girl or a boy?
Or quite simply that I feel it is an inappropriate choice of topic?

What would you do?

I would like to clarify that I do call him my sweet boy, darling boy etc constantly, we are not raising him genderless, it just struck me quite strongly (and unexpectedly) as I heard her asking such a black and white question. We assume he is a boy. That he will grow up to be a man. But that may not be the case and I know it. I dont think there is anything wrong with explaining genders to your kids (aka "Mummy is a girl") but this seemed different to me. Perhaps I am oversensitive?!


  1. We taught MiniMe that Mummy's a girl and Daddy's a boy. But that's about it. I don't see the harm as long as we don't attach the stereotypes to the sexes. She can play with trucks and fairies, or do whatever she wants to do regardless of gender stereotypes attached to it by society. The daycare where she goes to is amazing. They encourage self expression. Boys can play around in fairy dresses without fear of being embarrassed.

  2. Really for us the only time we have had to stress the difference between genders is when D wanted to pee standing up like the 2 little boys we were holidaying with. There are plenty of other things to use to teach kids about "differences"(say comparing aplles and oranges) than gender, why would they chose that?

  3. I'd write a letter I think, explaining that you do not reinforce gender stereotypes. Why does it matter if someone is biologically a girl or boy (because I assume that is what they mean, though it could be fun to ask them to clarify that). Plus, why are they focusing on differences? Surely that isn't a constructive way to ensure harmony? I might be inclined to tell them that Manny is still young and hasn't decided what gender means to him yet. I'd be pretty angry in your shoes.

  4. Wow, I'm appalled that they would use gender as the subject of learning differences. I mean, unless they're comparing genitals it is a completely inappropriate stereotype-enforcing subject! I would definitely write a letter expressing my distaste. Actually, I'd probably have exploded on the scene, so I applaud your self-control. There are thousands of things they could use to teach 'different' that don't enforce out-dated, harmful stereotypes.

  5. I think it's important to remember that most people are (unfortunately) deeply entrenched in society's gender stereotypes, and so I'm sure that the carer had absolutely no idea that there could be any harm in what she was doing. Personally, I agree with talking to the carer about the situation and educating her about your viewpoint, but I would try to do it in person so that she has the opportunity to express her own viewpoint and ask questions.

  6. I adore you for letting this get under your skin. Sadly, I think I go through life looking for a fight about half of the time. This really gets me going. I think it is all foam from the recent Halloween costumes that attempted to turn by baby Toddlerina into a baby whore.

    What would I do? If it passed w out me sticking my foot in my mouth, I might sit on it. Document it so I had the exact details and have a one on one w school leadership if I saw it happen again.

    I think.

    Dear Manny, you give good witness to your Momma by clarifying the whole thing! Well done.



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