It wasn’t until I had daughters that I truly realized how far our society has to go in regards to gender equality. I considered how I would raise them, and what values I wanted instilled in them, and how I hoped they would view themselves one day. It wasn’t until then that the reality sunk in, and I saw so clearly how differently women and girls are viewed and treated. I think I always knew the reality, but it was the life I had always lived. There’s comfort in what’s always been. I knew no different, and the fight to change things seemed too exhausting. There was no fire or passion, but then I gave birth. I had a daughter, and that intense, protective, fierce, powerful love took over. I wanted something different for her. I was not willing to accept that society view her as less just because she was born with a vagina. Suddenly the fire was lit and the passion was there. I knew I would fight for her until she could fight for herself. I would not ever accept those around her treating her different just for being female. Then I had another daughter, and that fire only grew. The flame burned fiercely.
Now when a stranger in the grocery store looks at my daughter, and says, “You’re such a pretty girl.” I calmly look at that person and say, “Thank you. She’s also smart, funny, kind, and creative.” Then as we walk away, I look straight at my daughter and say, “You do know you are more than just pretty right? And that there are far more important things than just being pretty?” She always responds with a smile, “Yes, I know.” I am also conscious to never talk negatively about my body or myself. She will only ever hear me lift myself up. I refuse to be the negative voice inside her head one day saying, “I need to lose weight. My hair is so ugly. I need a tan. I need to wear more makeup. I don’t have a thigh gap, etc.” I refuse to be the voice in her head that says, “I am not enough.” My oldest is almost five. I know I have many more challenges ahead of me, but already I can clearly see how society’s message on what is gender appropriate setting in. My daughter has recently changed her favorite color from green to pink. I ask why, and her response is, “Pink is a girl color.” My response is that there are no such things as girl and boy colors. Boys can like pink, and girls can like blue. It’s okay if she wants her favorite color to be pink, but it should be because she likes it, not because it’s a girl color. She says she knows. We walk through a store. She asks to look at the toy section. I tell her that’s no problem, but we can only go down a few aisles since we’re in a hurry. I ask her which ones she wants to go down. Her response, “Let’s go look at the girls toys.” I sigh, and once again explain that there are no such things as boys toys or girls toys. I ask her where she’s learned this from. She doesn’t remember. Despite my husband and my best efforts, society still manages to tell our girls what is and is not ‘appropriate’ for them, and we are left to fight back by gently reminding them and those around them that they are not to be stereotyped.
One day, I imagine all these reminders will annoy them, but I’m hoping it always rings true in their hearts. Honestly, it’d be easier to just ignore, move on, and hope they figure it out one day. Not risk the looks I get from the stranger with my responses. But the fact is, my daughters deserve far more than just the easy way out. They always have, and they always will. They deserve for me to stand up for them, until they can stand up for themselves. So as I write this blog and address this topic, I’m tempted to take the easy way out, but I won’t. The easy way out would be just to let it go and not risk offending many of my friends and others. I mean, after all, this is just about a hashtag, and my kids can’t even read yet. Really though, it’s about far more than just a hashtag. It’s about the meaning behind it. It’s about the mindset of many of those people using it. Whether they are doing it consciously or not, they are putting my daughters, and honestly their sons too in a box. They are feeding gender stereotypes, and once again labeling actions, behaviors, characteristics, and objects as exclusively belonging to one gender or the other. This puts limits on my daughters, so once again I will speak up. At almost 5 and 2 they can’t do that for themselves, but I can, and I will, because I hope that the society they raise their children in is a very different one.
I’m sure you’re wondering by now, what hashtag I could possibly be referring to. Well I’m talking about #boymom #girlmom. I cringe every single time I see those hashtags. I see #boymom a lot more, but maybe I just have more friends with sons. To be fair, I’ve seen many posts that the hashtag is used just to literally say, “I am a mom of boys”. Those posts don’t bother me. The ones that do bother me is when they are identifying a certain action or object as being an issue or benefit for a boy or girl mom.
Caption under instagram picture:
“He loves to play with bugs. So gross. #boymom”
“She loves to cook in her play kitchen. #girlmom”
“I took my daughter to get a pedicure today. #girlmom”
“My floor is covered in play dinosaurs. It’ll take forever to clean this up. #boymom”
“Helping clean the truck. #boymom”
“She looks so adorable in this pink tutu. #girlmom”
“Adam and Joey will not stop making farting noises, and then they fall on the floor laughing so hard about it. #boymom”
“Brandon will not stop climbing on and getting into everything. He’s just so physically active. #boymom”
“Lucy just LOVES princess movies. #girlmom #typicalgirl”
“Christopher is obsessed with space. He loves learning about planets and stars. #boymom”
“Adam and Joey are always wrestling and hitting each other. #boymom #boyswillbeboys”
And the list could go on.
Here’s the thing, when you talk about how gross your kids are, and then follow it with #boymom, you are implying that your children are gross, because they are boys. In reality, my girls are pretty gross too. The little one is obsessed with bugs. In fact, she often asks me to dig in the compost so that she can play with worms. Sadly, she’s also prone to putting her hand in poop and picking her nose. The older one thinks the subject of poop and farts absolutely hilarious. In fact, in the car yesterday she sang a lovely song all about “toots”. One I would have recorded had I not been driving. When you talk about your daughter playing with her play kitchen and her baby dolls and follow it with #girlmom, you are implying that these are toys specifically for girls. My girls love their play kitchen and their baby dolls. They also love super heroes, their tool kit, their bug catching set, their microscope, their dinosaurs, and their cars. There are plenty of boys out there that if not restricted would gladly play with toy kitchens, doll houses, and baby dolls. Do you know what those boys are learning? Get this, they are learning how to cook, clean, and be a father. My husband does 90% of the cooking in our house. He does the dishes and the laundry. He helps me clean up and do other household duties. And get this, he also parents. I know this is a shocking revelation, but I leave him all alone with our children on a regular basis, sometimes 24 hours plus, when I’m at a birth or training event. I trust him to do far more than just keep them alive, and he comes through. So I would say these are pretty important life skills, ones that not just girls need to know.
I could go on and on with examples. I could continue talking about gender stereotypes, but for now I will trust that you know they exist. All I ask now is that before you label a photo or status with #boymom or #girlmom, consider the message you’re sending. Look at what you’re posting and see if maybe you might just be implying that boys are more likely to play with bugs or be physically active or better at something. Look closely and see whether or not you are limiting your daughter by implying that girls are more likely to perform domestic duties and look pretty. Basically, think before you post. Carefully see whether or not you are sending more of a message than simply, “My children are boys” or “My children are girls.”
Now if you really have the desperate desire to use these hashtags, you know what I’d like to see. I’d like to see you using it to FIGHT gender stereotypes.
“My son loves watching Rapunzel. #boymom #fightgendersterotypes #boyscanlikeprincesstoo”
“My daughter loves her new hulk shirt. #girlmom #girlsarestrong”
“Check out John playing with his new baby doll. #boymom #hesgoingtobeagreatdadoneday”
“My kid is singing about farting! #girlmom #sogross”
“Adam wanted his toenails painted just like mommy. #boymom”
“Isabelle loves building with her new tool set. #girlmom #futurearchitect #ormaybeengineer”
“Amy gets into everything these days. She’s climbing up on things I never thought possible, and outsmarting all the child locks. Ahhhh, help me! #girlmom #ineedadrink #toddlersconquerall “
“Jacob just cooked me this ‘delicious soup’ and ‘cupcakes’ in his play kitchen. #boymom #justlikedaddy”
“Matthew is obsessed with pink lately. We just bought him this awesome pink shirt. He won’t take it off! #boymom #butitsgonnaneedtobewashed #hesgonnacrywhenwedo”
You get the idea. Turn those stereotypes around. Don’t limit my daughter by implying that boys are more likely to play in mud, like superheroes, hit, be physically active, interested in bugs, dinosaurs, space, etc. And really, don’t limit your sons, by implying that girls are more emotional and sensitive, and that only girls are allowed to play with dolls, cook, clean, sew, and like pink. Before you use those hashtags or any words in general think about what you’re implying. Think about how you may be saying more than you realize. My daughters deserve far more than for you to put limits on their abilities and interests, and your sons deserve more too!