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‘Don’t Cry Like A Girl’…Whether Raising A Boy Or Girl, Sexism Starts In The Playground! 

My son N jumped from the swing & fell flat on his face. His friend said, 'Don't cry like a girl' & that made my blood boil!

Parenting is a roller coaster ride. There are challenges, questions to deal with everyday, guilt and decisions, with the excitement and pleasure of playing a role in shaping another human being.

But what does one do when you child is faced with a sexist remark on the playground? R and S discuss on how this ride looks for them…from a gender stereotyping perspective.

Raising a boy means dealing with  THE comment– ‘Don’t cry like a girl’

(R says)

The other day, N was practicing jumping off a ‘swinging swing’, and on one of his jumps, he fell flat on his face.

Thankfully the play grounds have become ‘fatal hurt’ proof these days, with wood chips for flooring rather than cement. Nonetheless, the impact was huge and he did scrape his face in places.

Leaving intrinsic details of the wounds aside, the shock and hurt itself, made my otherwise subtle ‘crier’ of a child, wail out loud! Loud enough for everyone around to stop whatever they were doing and turn their heads to him.

As if the embarrassment of the unwanted attention was not enough, his pal who up until then was challenging N to swing higher and higher before the jump; started nudging him with THE comment — ‘N, don’t cry like a girl!’

In an instant, my tear-filled eyes were almost bloodshot with rage. I dropped the sulking N from my arms, to turn to the boy who dared to throw around such a ‘sexist’ comment.

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I am a forced feminist. Forced because as we all know, the right to equality where women are concerned, is called feminism. Again pretty sexist I think; but that’s for another day.

Facing some tough questions– would I really be ok if my son wanted to play with dolls the whole day?

Back to N and his pal – well, I have no comments on the pal’s parents or parenting because a child is a product of his/her environment, parents being just a part of it. I sat and pondered whether I am making the right parenting decisions while raising my boy.

And over a cup of tea, I managed to console myself. I thought that if I don’t stop him from entering the kitchen, rather encourage him to do the ‘kitchen tasks’ appropriate for his age; if I don’t stop him from pretend-playing with dolls over a play date with his friends who are girls. If I let him choose music and/or books over sports when he wants to; if I let him cry his heart out, when hurt, physically or emotionally and not ask him to ‘man’ or ‘boy’ up. I am doing my part of not letting gender stereotypes get in the way.

 However, I decided to put myself in the not comfortable zone of questions:

What if all he wants to do is spend time in the kitchen and has an ardent love of baking? What if he hates playing with trucks or pretend play to be a super hero, and only loves playing with dolls? What if he hates soccer or basketball, but loves playing the piano and that is all he wants to do?

Would I not nudge him towards interests’ boys usually have? Would I not fear his acceptability in his circle of friends and society at large if he does not conform by at least some of the standards laid out? The answer to both the above questions is a ‘Yes’.

As much as I would want him to pursue all that he loves and not pressurize him towards what he doesn’t, my fears of the fights which he might have to put up with at every step would compel me to at least show him the path which would make his life easy.

Parenting, like any other role that we play, can never be black or white.

I bought only gender-neutral toys for my daughter!

(S says)

I think I might’ve been one of ‘those’ moms who only bought gender neutral toys for my daughter when she was a baby. As much as possible, her clothes weren’t necessarily pink or purple. I think in hindsight it hardly mattered because a) she was a baby and b) by the time she was two she definitely wanted everything pink at the princesses and the unicorn stage!

It didn’t help that the girls aisles in shopping stores handily sold just that.

I suppose that’s something many girls go through. Once she grew out of it, she was ready to explore other options. Some days she wants to be a superhero. Other days she is a princess. We alternate between dance and karate classes, and both are thankfully deemed ‘fine’ for girls. Some days she bakes muffins, some days she enjoys kite flying.

 

Whether raising a boy or a girl, kids are their own people and deserve freedom

Eventually kids are their own people – even as a two year old my daughter showed me that. So why make them feel guilty for that?

We do come from a background where girls are encouraged to take interest in cooking and boys are encouraged to play outdoors. 

And even now there is a stigma attached if boys try their hand at ‘feminine’ pursuits such as dolls or express themselves through tears. That is balanced with certain ‘perks’ of masculinity such as being exempted from cooking and cleaning up after themselves which is typically relegated to the girls of the family.

I am painting everything in a broad brush here, but my point is that this has been a trend and it unfolds ominously and even dangerously as they grow up with that baggage.

I think our job as parents is only to make sure kids grow up healthy emotionally and physically. They should be decent human beings. And if they can, try to ‘give back’ to society.

The rest should be up to them!

Image source: YouTube

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About the Author

R&S

We are an author duo who love writing together. We have written a couple of books together, Tete a tete with R&S and Anu and Isha. read more...

13 Posts | 11,180 Views

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