Gender to a three-and-three-quarters year-old

“Why are there no boys in my dance class?” Sophie asked. She has a lot of questions like that lately.

Knock on wood, I think we’ve passed through the phase of “I don’t like any boys and I only wear pink.” Even in that phase, Sophie still played with lots of boys. But lately, Sophie has started to choose to wear purple or rainbow stripes. She has started to play more often with the superhero cape and firefighter hat that I put in her dress-up box, alongside all the princess dresses there. She has even taken out the trucks that she had told me she would never play with. All through her extreme-girliness phase of the middle-threes, she still played with legos and balls (partly because I got her pink legos), but her cool train-set gathered dust for a while. Now it’s back in play again, threading around the feet of her toy-kitchen.

And now she’s asking lots of questions. “Why don’t any of the boys in my school like pink?”

So we’ve been talking about the ways that there are lots of pressures about how to be a boyish boy or girlish girl, but really there’s a whole range of different ways to be. I told her that girls are always girls, since I read that some of the passion for pink princess stuff comes from a phase in developmental psychology when toddlers assume that girls might turn into boys, if they don’t vigilantly manifest their girliness on the outside. I point out to her all the slightly gender-non-conforming friends she has. And I told her that the only real difference between boys and girls is the shape of their pee-pee bottoms.

She thought about this, then told me:

“You know what? In my Hawaii, girls don’t stay girls. Sometimes they become boys. Nothing really changes, though. If they liked the color pink when they were a girl, they’ll still like pink when they’re a boy. They still like the same colors and the same things to do. The only thing that changes is the shape of their noses.”

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2 responses to “Gender to a three-and-three-quarters year-old

  1. I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately too…Noah will be learning about “being a boy” very soon, and I expect he’ll start rejecting all kinds of things he loves now.

    • elewinnek

      Heather, I suspect that Noah won’t reject too much — and even if he does, he’ll come back to it soon enough, as Sophie just did. You & Dave are too cool an example, so Noah won’t be falling into traditional gender stereotypes easily.

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