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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

This post if for girls... er... for boys... er... for both!

Maud Lewis

Lately, my two daughters have begun noticing - and commenting on - the gender segregation that goes on in our otherwise "evolved" society:

"Mom, why do they say certain toys are for boys and certain toys are for girls?"

"Mom, why are there no women in the NHL?"

"Mom, why is it always the women who do this, and the men who do that?"

Recently as I was shopping with R for a new jacket, I pointed to her a few from the "girl clothes" section; most of them had at least a little bit of pink or purple or a "girly" belt or sparkle; R dismissed those jackets one after the other, only to set her mind on a green and black checkered one from the sales rack (smart move, daughter!) As she took it of the hanger to try it on, she noticed something on the tag: apart from the size and washing instructions, you could read "Boys".

"Why would a jacket be specifically for boys?, she asked, incredulous. That's ridiculous!"

Which made me realize that I have lost my own incredulity. When she was born and I went shopping for baby clothes, my first observation was that baby clothes are highly gendered. Dressing children neutrally is almost impossible. Soon enough you realize that organizing birthday parties and buying toys is also subject to a clear distinction between what boys and girls (are supposed to) enjoy. Our society has very clear expectations of what is masculine and feminine in appearance and behavior, too.

Is this as natural as we think it is?

Are those distinctions as innate as we like to think, or have they been cultivated to the point where we don't even see straight anymore? Some studies have shown that boys and girls are treated differently from birth; how can we claim that the differences we notice later were created by nature, not by nurture? Some studies show that the difference between genders is not as marked as we would like to think it is, and that our observations are often biased - a self-fulfilling prophecy if you will, where we see what we want to see and ignore what we don't want to see. This is understandable to a certain point: the human brain likes to categorize, and societies need a structure. But...

Is this as inoffensive as we think it is?

Aren't we limiting every one's basic right to be who they want to be by embracing this mutually exclusive view of gender without a flinch?

When I was a swimming instructor I noticed that the boys would categorically refuse to use any flutter board that was pink. When I babysat kids I saw more than one father become upset because his 2 or 3-year old son had decided to put on a princess dress.

What's wrong with us, people?

I advocate the power of choice. You decide what you want to look like, to do and to be, and no one else should have their word on it. To illustrate my point, I found those 2 pictures of me, both taken the same week, during a vacation in Cuba in the year 2000:

The trophy girlfriend kind of look

The trucker look, complete with a muddy 4 wheel drive
 and the elbow sticking out of the window

Yes, this is the same girl, and if you don't mind, she will behave and look the way SHE wants, thank you!

I hope I succeed at instilling that empowering feeling in my daughters. I surely work hard at it. Sweethearts, whatever you do or look like, you'll always be the best to me:

You can be silly...

...Very silly! (look at that bat face on the left)

You can be studious...

... So studious!

You can be strong...

... Just be careful not to overdo it!

You can hold worms...

...And spiders...

... Okay, puppies too!

You can feel at home in the great outdoors...

... Be it on land...

... Or on the water

 You can drive skidoos...

You can climb trees...

... Hang upside down...

... Make a big splash

And when you feel like it,
you can always wear a pretty dress!

To me you're always the most beautiful...
... and strong, and smart, and interesting, and capable...
no matter what!


  1. Well, here is a post that I can't write :-)

    Lovely pictures of you and the girls being 21st century women!!

    Now if only guys could become liberated :-(

  2. Some guys are... especially if you don't give them the choice... haha! :-)
    It's a win-win situation; the "enlightened" ones know it. :-)