Bias Against Boys

29 Oct

I feel like I’ve always been very progressive and open-minded in the way I raise my kids, but something happened recently that really disturbed me.  In fact, it completely shocked me and stopped me dead in my tracks.

My son asked me to paint his nails.

No, it wasn’t the fact that he wanted his nails painted that shocked me, it was the fact that when he asked me, I hesitated.  I didn’t come right out and say, “Sure, honey, sit up there next to your sister and I’ll do yours too.”  I, who consider myself to be so tolerant that I don’t even like using the word “tolerant” because it implies having to tolerate something (which to me, has negative connotations), hesitated because getting a manicure felt like something boys don’t do.

I have to admit, I was kind of disgusted with myself.  I’ve never had any problems letting my son play with toys that are considered “girly,” and fortunately, my husband is not the macho sort to have a problem with that, either.

I’ve never been the kind of parent – or person – to impose gender stereotypes on my children, or any children.  My son wanted a pink ball once, he got it.  A glittery unicorn?  No problem.  Try on his sister’s hairbows?  Sure, why not.  He also loves dinosaurs, his fire trucks, and sword-fighting.  So does his sister.

But this nail-painting incident made me realize that all of us, even me, are pretty biased towards boys, particularly little boys.

No, you might say, it’s always been girls that haven’t gotten a fair shake.  Haven’t you ever heard of women’s lib??

But think about it – most people I know would never think of telling their daughters, “No, you can’t play with those cars” or “No, pants are only for boys” or “No, you can’t be a fireman for Halloween.”

But that bias is exactly what some people impose on little boys who want to play with dolls, or watch a Barbie show, or…paint their nails like their sister.  We tell them that they are not allowed to explore certain little-kid things, because we as adults have too many hang-ups about it.

I truly believe that when you’re a little kid, colors are just colors, toys are just toys, and putting paint on your nails is just plain fun.

I haven’t painted my son’s nails…yet.  But the next time he asks, I know what my answer will be.

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3 Responses to “Bias Against Boys”

  1. Stephanie October 29, 2010 at 6:31 pm #

    Interesting, Jen. Hey, I bought Hagen a little Ariel doll one time because he wanted it. It didn’t cross my mind that he wanted to BE her, or dress like her or anything; the kid likes and appreciates pretty girls!! 🙂 I might feel weird painting his nails if he were going to school, but for fun…who cares! I can see where you would have been a little sidelined by that!

  2. Jen October 29, 2010 at 6:44 pm #

    Yeah Steph, I can see what you mean about not wanting to paint his nails if he’s going to school – I would hate to cause him ridicule!

    For me, there’s just something so unsettling about telling your child they can’t do something just because of their gender – except when I tell my daughter she can’t pee in the backyard!!!

  3. Lisa Martin October 29, 2010 at 7:06 pm #

    My 5-year-old son hasn’t asked me to do that…yet. I’d probably hesitate more because of his dad (who probably quite as progressive as Nate’s). We have the opposite problem with Chip right now. He wants nothing to do with “girl stuff.” So I’m trying to point out that boys can play with dolls and the color pink (which up until the 1930s was associated with boys rather than girls) isn’t like Kryptonite! Sigh.

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