Rachael loves dinosaurs. No, not, The Land Before Time that’s a longneck…and that’s a three-horn…and they eat tree stars kind of love. We’re talking a brachiosaurus is a sauropod, quadruped, herbivore, which lived in the Jurassic time period kind of love. I just asked Rachael to confirm for me that a T Rex is a theropod. She can also name a dinosaur for each letter of the alphabet and will correct your mispronunciations of each species.
Thanks, Dinosaur Train! High 2!
So you can imagine my shock when she declared that she didn’t want to read The Magic Treehouse: Dinosaurs Before Dark. Moreover, I was horrified when she gave her reason for not wanting to read it: It’s a boy’s book.
Now, we are a household of princesses, fairies, and dress up. We are also a household of Legos, gaming, and outer space, (real and both Star Trek and Wars.) All of these are things in which Rachael has expressed interest. Never have we labeled things as “boy” or “girl” toys/interests. We have never discouraged her from something because of her sex. Hell, I even tried to get her to be Iron Man for Halloween because she thinks Marvel superheroes are cool. (She ended up choosing Rapunzel.) So where was the labeling coming from?
(For the full effect, i.e. how I hear it said in my brain, say it in a German accent and like a hero has just discovered that the villain behind the jewel heist is his arch nemesis.)
She was learning this drivel from fellow classmates. Thanks, public school!
This was confirmed for me at a classmate’s, (and her twin brother’s) joint birthday party. Blue and pink sunglasses were laid out on the party table as favors. (Rachael chose blue.) Blue and pink cupcakes were distributed. A boy received a pink frosted cupcake. That’s when the teasing began. One of Rachael’s male classmates, (we’ll call him Rambarzenegger Van Damme) started jeering at the other boy, saying he had a girls’ color cupcake. The boy with the clearly effeminate cupcake didn’t seem to notice or care about RVD’s taunts. So RVD changed his focus to a girl with a blue frosted cupcake. Two guesses as to which gender he believed blue to belong. The girl did notice RVD’s taunts, but did not respond. With a slightly fallen face and crouched shoulders, she continued to eat her cupcake. So I did what any other parent would do; I antagonized a 5 year old. I asked RVD why blue was a boy’s color. He looked at me, stunned. His eyes flitted back and forth as he fidgeted in his seat, desperately searching for his answer. Finally, he deflected, saying that he was busy eating. He promptly shoved his gender appropriate cupcake in his mouth.
I know most of us are participants, consciously or not, in perpetuating gender stereotypes. I certainly am guilty of decorating the girl’s rooms in pink, purple, ruffles, and butterflies. But I try not to purposefully perpetuate the stereotypes. I never want my girls to believe that there are things they can’t do, simply because they have vaginas. I don’t want them to believe lies like: they are biologically predisposed to not be as good as boys in math and science; that they can’t share in an equal partnership if they have a relationship/marriage with a man; that they are bitches if they are strong, ambitious, and stick up for themselves; that they aren’t allowed to like dinosaurs.
The night Rachael refused the dinosaur book, we talked. I explained that it made me sad that she didn’t want to read the book, because I knew how much she loved dinosaurs. I explained that there is no such thing as a boy thing or a girl thing. And, when all else failed, I told her that one of her best friends liked the book. We read the book. I “quizzed” her on boy things versus girl things. I couldn’t manage to trick her. Her answer was always “both”. I told her to never believe someone if they tell her she can’t do something because she’s a girl.
That’s when she related a story. Boys in her class, (I’m sure RVD was involved) told her she shouldn’t color with a black crayon because it’s a boy color. I asked her what she did. She said she just ignored them and continued coloring. I wasn’t surprised. She’s not confrontational, but she’s also not one to be told what to do. Quiet and stalwart, she colored with a boy color. That’s my girl.