Mum’s the Word columnist Sue Clohesy takes aim at male and female stereotypes
Social stereotyping shouldn’t have any place in conversations between little kids
“Painting your toe nails is gay.”
I took a deep breath and did my best not to kill the visiting seven-year-old with my stare.
Then I exhaled and said “what did you just say?” in a hope I had misheard. But alas, this young boy had just told Master Five, in my house, that painting your toe nails was gay.
Master Five looked a bit confused, unsure what his friend actually meant, but he understood it wasn’t a compliment.
I snapped that it definitely was not, that anyone could paint
their nails and it was cool to do so, watching the seven-year-old crumple in front of me. I then finished with the big one. “And you should not say anything is gay. That is mean. It is
not the correct usage of the word.”
“Oh, okay. What does gay mean anyway?” was the reply.
I wanted to beat my head against a brick wall. Enough adults in society have trouble not stereotyping, demeaning and believing that everyone is equal, but now kids are joining in too, and they don’t even understand.
Master Five has always loved painting his nails and I’ve always let him. It’s a simple pleasure in life that shouldn’t be
reduced to a stereotype. He wears nail polish to school all the time, and none of his classmates say anything. They either haven’t noticed, or don’t care. Hopefully the latter,
which gives me hope for his generation to grow up in a world where differences don’t matter. I have brought my kids up in that type of world at home.
Master Five understands he’s a boy, and Miss Three knows she is a girl. However I have not elaborated on what that means, beyond explaining to Master Five that he can’t give birth to a baby.
Any more and it would be a whole heap of stereotyping. Miss Three loves Captain America, her favourite colour is
pink, she poos on the lawn sometimes, runs around naked with the boys, pretends she has “peanuts” and loves playing with Barbies. Master Five loves Spiderman, his favourite colour is green, he
wants to have long hair, he loves playing with Lego and cars and enjoys helping me cook and clean.
They like what they like. Not because they think they have to,
not because I’ve told them to, but because that’s what they like. I still hear many friends say to their kids, “only girls wear that”
or “you need to toughen up, stop being such a girl”. I then watch their child’s face, as the realisation that being
themselves around their parents isn’t good enough, they must conform to some greater ideal.
I use to ignore this sort of thing, thinking it was their
business, they could parent how they liked and I’d take note that I was not going to be like that.
However, I’ve had enough. I can’t stand on the sidelines anymore. My new rule is if it’s said in my house, I will comment.
If it’s said in someone else’s house, I keep my mouth shut and vow never to return.
I still hear many friends say to their kids, ‘only girls wear that’ or ‘you need to toughen up, stop being such a girl’.
A simple pleasure in life that shouldn’t be reduced to a stereotype.