I’ve read that children are most fully immersed in gender stereotyping between the ages of 5-7, and children start over-applying gender rules much younger than that, trying to get the whole thing sorted.
As a consequence, the three-year-old and I have been having numerous inane discussions about what girls and boys are and are not supposed to do.
We’ve also been through a list of our relations and acquaintances and made a two-column mental inventory about which of you have penises and which vulvas. Don’t be surprised if it comes up in conversation next time we meet.
Our conversations go a bit like this:
Me: No, that’s not a boy. That’s a girl. Girls have short hair too, sometimes.
3y/o: No, it’s a boy. Girls have long, pretty hair.
Me: Nope. It’s a girl. Is Nana a girl?
Me: Well, does Nana have short hair?
Quite often, these gender bending discussions have something to do with the colour pink.
At The Supermarket
3y/o: Can I have these lollies?
3y/o: Oh, okay. Because they’re blue. Only boys can have blue lollies.
Me [considering whether to let this go, just this once, for the sake of peace, deciding no]: Actually, girls can eat blue lollies. And boys can eat pink lollies. Anyone can eat any lollies they want. [I decide I'd better stop there.]
Or else she has gotten gender roles so completely wrong that it’s laughable:
3y/o: Ha ha! I farted like Dad! I’m a boy!
Me: Er, no, actually girls fart just as much as boys. [Though probably not quite as loudly and proudly.]
So, as you can see, I go out of my way to mow down gender stereotypes. The preschool is doing a good job too, and they’ve been making a concerted effort to challenge the girls vs boys culture, which frankly, has only gotten worse over the last ten years. I blame Princess Culture and the pinkification of everything.
Anyhow, I must be doing a great job.
This morning I watched Monster House with the 3y/o (for the umpteenth time) when we get to the part where the boys (Chowder and DJ) are trying to impress Jenny:
Chowder: Well, hello there…
DJ: [to Jenny] This is… Chowder…
Chowder: Charles, to the ladies…
Jenny: [interrupting] Um, Jenny Bennett. Two-term class president at Westbrook Prep.
DJ: That’s a tough school to get into.
Chowder: Yeah, I got in but decided not to go.
Jenny: It’s a girls’ school.
At which point, the 3y/o turns to me and says, “But boys can go to girls’ schools too, Mum!”
Indeed. Boys can do anything, right! This confusing life!