See, girls ARE different

The first time I met the woman who babysits my kids our conversation went like this:

She: Girls and boys are ssoooo different.

Me: What do you mean?

She: Well, boys say “abracadabra” and girls say “bibbity boppity boo”

Me: ?

The only explanation I could think of for this particular ‘gender’ difference was the the mother of allowed her older boys to watch action and magic movies, while her baby girl spent hours watching Cinderella.

At first I didn’t think much of this, but every conversation seemed to have some comment of how boys and girls or men and women were sooo different.  Was I just too sensitive?  Or was she doing this on purpose?

Most times I didn’t actually say anything.   I often get annoyed when people have 2 children and attribute every single difference between the two to gender.  One grandmother told me that all boys just liked to read, while girls were good at sports.  Her children were that way, and her grandchildren were that way, therefore everyone was like that.  At least she wasn’t saying anything too harmful that her kids would carry with them forever.

However, when I hear statements that put down nearly half of the human population, I often feel compelled to speak up.

The babysitter has made a few comments on how men are not good at certain things.  Well, maybe her husband and sons aren’t good at _____, but my husband often is.  In many cases, he is better at them than I.  Or one of my brothers is.  If you haven’t had the pleasure of eating my baby brother’s gourmet meals, you really have missed out.

Sometimes the babysitter will make a comment about girls that I don’t relate to at all.  I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve painted my toenails.   I don’t wake up early to put on make-up.  I don’t usually wear make-up.  I hate shopping, decorating, and housecleaning.  I can’t multi-task.  I don’t think I’m any less of a woman.

I still wasn’t sure if these comments were on purpose to try and teach me something, or if that was just how she talked.  Now I suspect the former.

We were outside with my kids, her kids and her nephew.  She told me that her preschool attending nephew was only 6 weeks younger than my kindergartener Lil’T.

I looked at the two of them.  My Lil’T was a good 6 inches taller than this little boy, and she is not particularly tall.

Me: Really, only 6 weeks?  (comparing their heights in my head)

She: See, girls really are different from boys (a look of triumph over her face)

As we were running to catch a bus, I did not mention that what surprised me most was the height difference.  I assume she was talking about the difference in school placement.  However, her little girl is a year older than mine and they are in the same class, so that doesn’t even make sense.

I’ve never said that there is no difference between male and female.  I have gotten upset when differences were manufactured or caricatured to make someone look bad.

I’m not sure what bugs me more, that she thinks we have such huge differences that we can’t even share a silly magic word, or that I think she thinks she won this last ‘debate’.

Next time I hear another “well, you know how men are…” or “girls are sooo much different” I am tempted to respond with:

You know, it really bothers me when you constantly bring up differences between boys and girls.  I am not saying that there are not differences, but often it is in a context where I feel like one or the other is being put down or too rigidly defined.  It especially bothers me because our children are listening and learning how to relate to each other from us.  I think we can be more respectful and open.

I’ll never do it.


8 thoughts on “See, girls ARE different

  1. Ahab says:

    Maybe it’s time for a new babysitter?

  2. I have never said “bippoty boppety boo.” However, I have said “abracadabra” many many times. : )

  3. graceone says:

    I think it does depend on the individual child’s temperment, and we can’t make blanket statements. But, from my own experience, between my husband and I , he was married before, we had five boys, and only one girl. The boys were more physical, but easier to raise. I definitely feel that in many areas the little girls tend to mature before the boys.

    Of course, it can be difficult to discern how much of this comes from cultural expectations, and how much can be attributed to actual differences in biology.

    I’m another one that is not into make-up, and painting my nails. Another thing that can set me crazy are the crafts done during some lady’s meetings in the churches. On no, I think to myself. I’d rather a rousing theological discussion, or hike in the woods. 🙂

  4. I’ve said bippoty boppety boo and abracadabra. No wonder I am so messed up! 😉

    Maybe she just doesn’t do well with small talk, so she keeps going back to this topic, like a guy might constantly circle back to football or hockey? (To be fair, some women do that too. :-))

    If she is obsessed about it, there may be deeper issues she is struggling with. Perhaps homophobia and/or religious underpinnings? I don’t know.

    But, hey, you can use it as a teachable moment with Lil’T after the sitter is gone home. You can show her how some people prejudge what a person is like, and what a person should or should not do, but really it is up to that person to decide for themselves.

  5. prairienymph says:

    The sitter is really great with the kids; I don’t want to replace her. I can really learn a lot from her.
    It does seem a point of small talk to make gender assumptions. I’m sure the fact they bother me means I have a problem.

    I think what she is trying to do is small talk and connections. People bond over a shared like or dislike. My lover tells me of the horrific wife jokes that he hears on the construction sites, even from men who really love their wives. Likewise, husband bashing is an easy way to make group solidarity, but the babysitter isn’t in that category at all.

    I wonder if she thinks I think there are no gender or biological differences and she is gently trying to correct me?

  6. I am an equal opportunity basher. My jokes insult everyone. A witty put down is wonderfully funny regardless of who is the target though I will admit I like it best when I can be the target. With my kids, I usually am.

  7. Lorena says:

    Would it be too condescending to affirm that the woman isn’t smart enough to understand your point? Is this one of those losing battles when 2 ppl are almost speaking different languages?

    I discussed with my counsellor that my mother believes I should server my husband hand-and-foot, asking him constantly if he wants water, or food, or juice, if he is comfortable.

    The counsellor said that treating guys like that was patronizing them, assuming that they’re unable to take care of themselves, treating them like children. I think she’s right. My mother, by serving my husband constantly, didn’t allow him to show what good a cook he is, and how resourceful he can be around the kitchen. She “cut his wings” so to speak.

  8. prairienymph says:

    Lorena: I refuse to let men off the hook by treating them like children. Part of my ability to do this however, is that my identity and self-worth is not tied to my traditional gender role. My husband can make a delicious meal and clean the kitchen, but I don’t feel in danger of replacement. I wonder if women like your mother and mother-in-law cut wings so they feel needed or superior in at least one area.

    BlogFodder: a witty put down must do more that regurgitate harmful stereotypes. If/when you do/say something stupid, you invite mockery on yourself, but it shouldn’t boil over to all men. I know you know this, but I like to rant (in lieu of being witty)

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