On Thursday my attention was drawn to a new part of the daily routine for the girl’s kindergarten class. As soon as I saw it I knew I had to do something to have it changed. Today was my first chance.
A simply drawn boy wearing a baseball cap, and holding a bat and ball, coloured blue with the word BOY. His counterpart in pink with a pretty dress and holding a flower with the word GIRL sits beside him. Both on the bulletin board next to the calendar, a counting chart, and other simple items used to subtly teach the kindergarten class basic numerical skills.
The teacher touches the head of each student she deems as “boy”, counting as she goes. “Seven boys.” The number gets written on the wipe off board under the picture representing “boy”. She then touches the head of each remaining child, counting. “Five girls.” That number gets written on the board too. An addition sign gets added between them, and everyone counts on their fingers. “Twelve kids. Seven boys and five girls makes twelve kids.”
Now, my ideal kindergarten is gender neutral. At this age there really is no reason at all to discuss “boy” or “girl”, what each means, and how we each fit into societies gender binary – at least not at school. At the very least, if it can’t be a neutral space, it should be a equal space. And these disgustingly stereotypical figures are far from that. If we must count girls and boys, we need to ask the children “Who identifies as a boy?” Then count the raised hands, marking the result under the word (no picture) BOY. “Who feels like a girl?” Then count those raised hands, marking those results under the word GIRL. But I think we can do better. Why reinforce a false binary by bring gender into question at all? After all, there are more than two sexes, more than two genders (and the terms boy and girl can refer to either gender or sex, which just further muddies the water).
Why not ask “Who likes baseball?” and “Who likes football?” and add those two numbers. Switch it up, and the next day ask “Who likes veggies?” and “Who likes fruit?”. Every day of the week could be a different pairing of questions. After all, we don’t need to come up with the same answer every day. Some kids may vote yes to both, some may not raise their hand at all. This way we practice our early math skills, learn something interesting about our friends, AND we don’t reinforce any false notions about gender or sex – which have no place in a kindergarten class to begin with.
I spoke to kid kid’s teacher about my concerns today, and I’ll be honest. I’m not sure she understood my concerns at all. She thanked me for bringing them to her attention – but it was very much a canned response… what one could expect from someone who has never really given much thought to their own gender or sexual identity, someone with CIS privilege, who has lived in a very small, heteronormative box, their entire life. While I don’t hold this against her, it does mean it may be time for a little educating. Issues of gender and sexual identity are vitally important to the health and safety of our young people (and the adults they will become), and even something as simple as being told they are BOY… simply drawn with a baseball cap, bat and ball, coloured blue… can hurt, when that child knows -inside- it’s not right.
I am often astonished by ignorance. I shouldn’t be. You’d think, at some point, I’d get used to it… but I don’t. Ignorance always astounds me.
One of my friends recently posted a picture on her profile, she looked absolutely smashing! Yet one of the first comments posted insisted that she was “not a girl” and went on to list all the reasons why she’d never “pass” as female. This particular friend, despite the ignorance displayed by this commenter, held her head high, and exhibited more poise than I’d have mustered. She knows this individual may not ever truly accept her for who she is, yet she still shows nothing but kindness and love towards them… and THAT, above all else, screams of Womanly grace.
Why must we hold Women, and girls, to such high standards? Are we not all people? Do we not all have faults? Why must we be bombarded by the tabloid version of feminine beauty? And why, oh why, must there be jerks out there who feel that is the way it SHOULD be???
What makes a person a Woman? Is it her uterus? Is it her breasts? Is it her soft facial features? Or is it her strength?
Women are powerful, women are beautiful. Women are amazing. And there is no definition of “Woman” that you can give that would be acceptable to me.
I am a proud third-wave feminist. And I believe that Women cannot be boxed up, put on a shelf, and slapped with a definitive label… And anyone who tries to do just that does a greater harm to themselves than they could ever do to us.
Gabrielle? This post is for you. You are beautiful, you are strong… And he’s right, you’re not a girl… you are a WOMAN!
BTW, when my daughter saw this picture she said “Wow! She looks like a girl from the movies!” 🙂
On our way out of my parents place, Lily-Ann showing Jewles where we were parked. I know photos like this may be boring to many… but seeing her from the back always blows my mind a little. Gone are the baby, and even toddler proportions. And when you aren’t distracted by her face, you just see it all the more clearly. She’s very much a little girl now. I don’t know when it happened, but it did.
Damon will sometimes put a diaper on the wee girlie before putting her pajamas on. As soon as he leaves the room she’ll strip down, take off the diaper, then put the pjs back on without it. She’ll then look at me and explain how her Daddy still thinks she’s a baby. Lily will then hand me the diaper and say “I don’t need this”. But, the next time her dad gets her ready for bed, she’ll let him put the diaper on again… and wait until he leaves the room to take it off.
Seriously… could I have a more sweet, more wonderful little girl? Sure. She has her moods too. She’s awfully headstrong and determined (remind you of anyone?)… but she cares a whole lot about those around her. Makes me feel awfully awfully lucky. 🙂
The Lentil Ladies (our collective kitchen group) met today. We made all sorts of wonderful dishes: curry with cauliflower and sweet potatoes, tomato soup (from scratch), and wonderful organic filo pastry apple desserts. But something happened that made me stop and think…
Lily-Ann was wearing her baby doll (whom she calls “baby suzie” and who is sometimes male and sometimes female depending on the day you ask her) in a sling I made for her. When she plays with her doll she wears her constantly – like I wore her. One of the mom’s in our group commented to me that “She’ll be a good mom some day.” This filled me with great pride, because I understood what was behind her words, but also made me grieve a little too.
Lily-Ann will be a good mom, if that’s the path she chooses. And my friend’s compliment means the world to me, because she knows our children learn by example. But, the idea that someone would assume for my daughter the role of mother does bother me. What I hope for her is strength, compassion, love… And while these traits can be found in the best mothers, they can also be found in the best business people, the best artists, the best politicians, the best teachers, the best activists, the best of us.
Seeing a girl child holding her doll close to her heart brings about dreams of the future and what it holds… and for many all they see are stereotypical gender roles. Instead, I see a girl with endless possibilities. A person who is not afraid to love, openly, outwardly, fully. One who will hold children close, for they are precious – but that doesn’t mean she’s destined for motherhood.
With passion I see her building with blocks. With enthusiasm I see her painting. With zeal I see her “cooking” for anyone who’ll sit for even a moment. With joy I see her performing song after song for us, her captive audience. I see her doing all these things, taking on all these roles and so many others… and then I see her stripping down and declaring that she wants to be “nekkid” and doesn’t want to wear anything but a legwarmer and a bracelet. 😀 She is, after all, only two.
So… I implore you… next time you see a little girl playing with her doll, don’t assume she’ll grow up to become a mom. She may become a boxer. She may become a novelist. She may become a mechanic. She may become an architect. An engineer. A vocal coach. A custodian. A playwright. Just because she’s a girl, don’t box her in. She has enough on her shoulders just trying to grow up, without having to grow through your expectations.
And you know what? There’s no reason she couldn’t grow up to be ALL these things… AND a mom. 😉
Okay. I’ll get down off my soap box. Here’s todays picture. Nothing special. Nothing inspired. Just a girl, taking a break from play, having a drink of water. Just a girl with endless possibilities.