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”
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.