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

Life & Style Weekend - - WELCOME // INSIDE TODAY - Email sue.clo­[email protected]­re­gional­me­dia.com.au. MUM’S THE WORD with Sue Clo­hesy

“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’.

PHOTO: THINKSTOCK

A sim­ple plea­sure in life that shouldn’t be re­duced to a stereo­type.

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