August 12, 2009
(fuzzy photo of Playmobil gender warriors from my iPhone)
It’s pretty interesting going from taking care of two girls to working in Boyland. As much as this opinion has been challenged, there is a huge inherent difference from little boys to little girls. Of course, depending on the boy and the girl, the “gendered behavior” will vary and blah blah blah – but I’m just saying. I knew up front that two boys is a different ballgame from two girls – the fact that these girls liked Barbie Princesses and my hunch is that the boys probably have not watched Dora & The Snow Princess more than once is not the point.
In the first three days in Boyland, the differences have been quite noticeable. The boys’ parents are much more fluid about gender expression than the girls’ parents were, but that’s not really all that hard. The girls genuinely liked pink and purple and dresses and sparkles, which is fine, and their parents totally indulged that – also fine. But certainly, it’s not hard at all to find households with less stereotyped gender models. I was pretty psyched when I offered Thing 1 a toy from my car (my mom compulsively saves Happy Meal toys for me – the weird part is probably that my mom buys the Happy Meals in the first place) and he chose a sparkly bracelet with Belle on it instead of the plush dog. I’m also really psyched when he wears the bracelet.
Still, the Things are 100% boy, and it’s just their nature. When I sat down to draw with Thing 1, I asked him what he wanted me to draw. His first response: “A spider!” Oh boy. It’s been so long since I drew a spider, I could have almost forgotten how many legs they have! A few hours later, he got out some Play-Doh and made me a snake. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I really, really hate snakes.
The BIG differences though are in energy levels and where the energy gets directed. Boys get distracted easily and aren’t terribly emotional… but man, do they ever run circles around you all day long. If you could bottle the energy of a four year old boy, you could solve peak oil. Girls on the other hand, are much more person-focused. Schmoopelina and Thing 1 are both great artists and draw all day long. One of them draws monsters and train tracks. The other draws pictures of her family, specifically to give TO her family. Thing 1 has oodles and oodles of sketchbooks, but the drawings don’t hold meaning past his creating them – they’re not sentimental to him the way that the object of the drawing was as an object of Schmoopelina’s affection.
Anyhow, these are just some initial observations. I see that my Hampshire education is leading me down the path of Subject v. Object, so I’m going to go and try and rot a few brain cells with some quality programming. (The Wire really is pretty high quality, I must say.)
March 4, 2009
Photo by amaz
My Schmoops live in a Barbie Princess wonderland. Both of them wear dresses 99% of the time out of choice. They own all (or nearly all) of the animated Barbie movies and their dollhouse is populated by the Disney Princess dolls. Their coloring books are full of Disney Princesses. The elder Schmoop even has Disney Princesses on her shoes. As a dyed in the wool gender-activist, I try to do my best to work with what I’ve got. The best I’ve been able to do is I got the Prince Philip doll to wear a nightgown. I’m not trying to totally rock their world over here, just show them some other options now and then.
Schmoopette, the younger Schmoop, is far more malleable than her older sister in terms of gender expression. She’s put Prince Philip in a ballgown once or twice, though she was feverish at the time. She’s just now starting to identify who is a girl and who is a boy. Yesterday, after her “Mommy & Me” (or in this case, “Nanny & Me”) music class, she was talking to a little boy and announced “I’m a girl!” When I affirmed that yes, she’s a girl, she went on to announced that her sister is a girl as well. I then asked her, “What about me? Am I girl or a boy?”
Her immediate reaction was to look at me as if this was a stupid question, shake her head, and say “No.”
In her world of pink and purple and sparkly dresses, my jeans and hoodies must be seen as more “boyish” whereas my earrings and scarves (and, y’know, boobs) indicate girl-hood. I didn’t correct her or assert that I’m really a girl, I just kind of laughed as I hadn’t expected the response.
Fifteen seconds later, she decided that I am a girl, but I find it kind of reassuring in an odd sort of way that she thought about it for a while.