Friday, April 4, 2008

Role Modeling

While the boys were bathing a few nights ago, we got into yet another discussion about gender roles. Since they've begun full-time school, this has been a much-talked about topic. P and I find we have had to follow up on comments that they've heard, and sometimes repeated, about what boys 'cannot do' or what is 'just for girls' or vice versa.

A few months ago, my fellows became enamored with a chapter books series about fairies that is clearly marketed to girls with one set even coming with a sparkly pink star pendant-- which F particularly loves to wear and looks quite smashing in, I must say. I've been somewhat annoyed that this relatively benign beginning fantasy/magic series couldn't just be gender neutral, although not enough to stop the guys from reading them. It does bug me a bit that all the characters are female (although I am for strong women and girl characters) with the exception of a dad in the periphery and the 'bad guys': goblins and Jack Frost. However, S and C were so excited by the series and it was their first real foray into chapter books that we've supported their habit as each new fairy book appears. However, when they took their love for these stories to the playground, hoping to act them out, they had certain peers tell them that playing fairies is only for girls. S tried to make sense of this, saying to me, "Well, it's OK for boys to read about fairies, just not to play fairies." No, no, no-- P and I both insisted-- anyone can play fairies.

So during this bathtub conversation, I found myself sounding, yet again, like Marlo Thomas, circa 1972, as we talked about what boys and girls both can do. As P prepared supper in the kitchen, one of the guys looked up and said, "Girls can sometimes cook, too. Right?"

Words can be powerful, yes, but you can't argue with that role modeling.

1 comment:

Andrea said...

Yeah, sometimes girls can cook, if we feel like it.

Isn't this a maddening issue? And it gets more entrenched the older they get...(and the more exposed to peers in school). When M started kindergarten, he was convinced the principal was the boss, because he was the man, and that all teachers are women (all but one teacher at his k-8 school are women).