Chewing on Gender

We spent some time with the in-laws over the last few days in a lovely mountain location.

They have very strict gender roles and patterns.  Women cook and clean while men leave the kitchen.  Women watch children and go shopping.  Men go skiing and visit Princess Auto and museums. 

The father packed his own clothes, a rare event, and no one believed he hadn’t forgotten anything.  The mother and daughter went for a long drive and no one believed that they hadn’t gotten lost but actually chose to drive to a scenic location for a hike.

I hate shopping, I wear hand-me-downs, and I like museums.   M-i-l (Mother-in-law) decided that she couldn’t go skiing with the guys because it was her job to “stay back with the girls”.  Hearing her explanation, I asked if I could take her skis and had a marvelous time by myself cutting paths through fresh snow on abandoned hiking trails.

There were two babies for everyone to be entertained with.  Two 9 month old kids, my girl Minor C, and her only boy cousin, Baby Monster.  (A sweet, calm, round baby)

I watched as F-i-l handed Baby Monster a small car.  F-i-l made car noises and showed Baby M how to drive it.  Baby M promptly stuffed the little car in his mouth and chewed.  I suggested that they give him a chew toy instead.  They rolled their eyes at me until they noticed the metal bottom of the car getting further into his mouth.  They replaced the toy.

Minor C was crawling all over the floor.  Her aunt immediately handed her a soft dolly.  Again, I suggested a chew toy might be more appropriate.  The aunt gave me a glare and immediately I felt chastened.  I always feel like the gender role trouble maker, but I just do not fit theirs and I feel resentful when I try.

I was about to apologize when my baby planted her face into the soft belly of the doll and tried to chew, nearly suffocating herself.  The doll was replaced with a smaller plastic toy.

Much to my vengeful delight, both babies’ favourite toy was a bright green car.  They fought over it and so another green car was handed to Baby Monster which he ignored. 

Minor C loves to climb.  She climbs over and into anything she can.  She crawled right over her cousin who hasn’t yet mastered the art of crawling.  Everyone was cheering and telling the boy cousin to do something about it.  Why this pressure for the 9 month old?

Minor C also scratches deep and hard.  If she can reach your face, you will leave with scars.  She crawled over to Baby Monster and reached for his eyes.  He began to howl as I heard his dad say, “Toughen up, little man.”

My husband grabbed Minor C and moved her away.  Baby M’s dad tried to explain that his son needed to learn to take things. 

This makes me mad.  Minor C is strong and can do lasting damage to an adult face, let alone another baby.

Not everything is so rigid, however.  M-i-l babysits children and knows what children like.  She gave my 3 year old a toy tractor and some building blocks.  Lil’T loves tractors (I don’t, this is not my influence)!  She was also given a pretty dress, which she also loves.  I was glad that Lil’T was given permission to be herself and freedom to delight in tractors and pretty clothes.

4 thoughts on “Chewing on Gender

  1. Ahab says:

    Sheesh! Talk about old fashioned!

    Do you think your in-laws religious beliefs have anything to do with their rigid gender roles? I’ve found that conservative Christians tend to embrace very traditional gender roles, while progressive Christians, non-believers, and eclectic types tend to have more fluid notions of gender.

  2. It must have taken all your self control not to torment those poor in-laws of yours just for the sheer joy of it. Like the time your oldest cousin told her Grandma L she was never getting married, she was going to become a Lesbian.
    Rigid gender roles just make me want to choke people for stupidity. There is enough of it hardwired into us without encouraging it.

  3. I hate shopping. I love skiing and being out in nature. I’m very resistant to gender stereotypes and always have been. No wonder my family thinks I’m crazy.

    • prairienymph says:

      CD: It is much more fun to be crazy! And more fun to be skiing than shopping.

      BF: I am often tempted. Which is probably why they react to my suggestions. I even heard one of them complaining that they would have to include the girls on one of the boy’s sports events because the other daughter-in-law hated being left out. I then had to remind them that the sporting event was one I planned for myself and my husband and that the ‘boys’ had invited themselves along.
      The hard thing is that I find myself both disgusted and tempted by their women’s constant new wardrobes and accessories. I don’t want to go shopping, but I don’t want to be looked down on by them. At the same time I am tempted to look down on them for medicating with new shoes/furniture etc. I feel like I would be betraying the women by not joining them.

      Ahab: My mother is getting more rigid and narrow gender roles as she ages and continues to listen to Focus on the Family and other such American ___ like Al Mohler. :p I know it is related.

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