A friend asked me if I had any thoughts on innate gender differences, seeing as I’ve a toddler boy and girl, and I’ve written about trying to keep things gender neutral before.
I had to say, I can’t tell any innate differences due to gender so far, but my kids have very different personalities (surprise, surprise!), so who’s to know what’s innately a gender difference and what’s just personality?
My boy is very inquisitive, physically active, and enjoys a lot of stimuli. He’s always trying to figure out why things are the way they are, and how they work. But as much as he can be go-go-go, he also really needs his rest, loves his comfort toys, loves sleeping, and is a deep sleeper. He’s all go or all stop.
My girl is more even stevens. She’ll be active, but at a slower pace. She watches and then makes up her mind how she feels about something, rather than diving in and reacting with a range of emotions as she goes. She’ll come over for a hug and to sit on my lap, having a mini rest, then she’ll be off again. She’s more of a light sleeper.
The gender differences that society continues to push, however, never cease to blow my mind. I’m prepared for the ones I know – that my kids will be bombarded with images of sexualised / objectified women in the media, but the men aren’t portrayed that way; that people will tell my daughter she’s pretty and comment on her clothes, whereas they’ll tell my son that he’s clever and busy; that there are more books with male protagonists than female. Yeah, I knew all those would happen. I try to counteract them as much as possible.
(It’s not something I like talking about, because I find it depressing.)
Recently, a couple of extra punches to the gut:
- In kids’ TV shows, female protagonists/characters are rare (see below)
- I bought a range of boys’ (blue blue blue) and girls’ (colourful!) clothing for my boy, so my girl is now wearing his hand-me-downs, and I’ve noticed how much the cut of the clothing differs, and how they are treated differently because of it. Boys’ clothing is straight cut, girls’ clothing is skinny and fitted. I didn’t notice this when my boy was wearing the range of styles, although I did remember thinking he looked a bit hipster sometimes – but when my girl wears the boys’ clothing, I see how “unusual” it looks on a girl – the baggier style makes her look older and tougher than she actually is, whereas when she’s wearing form-fitting girls’ clothes, she looks more dainty, tiny, fragile, younger, sweeter. Imagine that – just the cut of their clothes is making people assume one child is sweeter. Oof. It all starts right here.
C’est ça. I try my best.
Kids’ shows that my kids watch, and gender of characters
Male protagonist(s) (13)
- Baby Jake
- Daniel Tiger
- Shaun the Sheep
- Giggle and Hoot
- Peter Rabbit
- Thomas the Tank Engine
- Little Roy
- Dinosaur Train
- Hey Duggee
Group cast, mostly male characters (5)
- Go Jetters
- Sesame Street
- The Wiggles
- In the Night Garden
Equal female/male (6)
- Charlie and Lola
- Ben and Holly
- Play School
- Sarah and Duck
Female protagonist(s) (4)
- Peppa Pig
When our birth rate is about 51% boys and 49% girls, you’d expect that the characters in entertainment would reflect this. But nope, we are still the second sex. That’s what my son and daughter are learning. And as for the representation of any other peoples…
P.s. In related news, Fathers pay more attention to toddler daughters than sons, study shows