12 February 2014

A family for universal equality

We've had some pretty heavy discussions in my house about gender with Puck (and Tink). Puck is very into labeling right now, which includes assigning what people can or can't do based on characteristics.

For example, I can't be Hulk because I'm a girl. He thinks one of his friends at school is a girl because he has long hair. Tink can't play with his tool set because "it's a boy toy." Boys can't wear skirts or fingernail polish.

I know and accept that there are people in society who still cling to "traditional" gender stereotypes roles. And some of these people are those who influence my son when he's not with me. I get it. So it's my job as his mother to make sure he knows that these differences don't really exist.

I can be Hulk if I want. His friend is a boy because sometimes boys have long hair. There's no such thing as a "boy toy" or "girl toy." And sometimes boys wear skirts and fingernail polish.

And that's okay.

Most often, I address this by gently correcting Puck when he makes comments that show gender discrimination, and emphasizing that it's okay. ("That boy likes to wear dresses just like Mama likes to wear pants. Isn't that great?" or "Those two girls love each other so they're getting married. They'll be so happy together.") And that seems to work.

I know it will be a battle at times, especially since Puck is in public school. Unfortunately, we still live in a society in which people think the most effective way to raise themselves up is by putting others down. But it's by teaching our children--and ourselves--about the damaging effects of discrimination that it can change. The people who are stuck in the way things were are going to die. And the next generation will be stronger for their compassion.

Right now, Puck is very into superheroes, and that's okay. Tink is all about pink and princesses, and building things. And that's okay, too. While I will strive to teach them to be compassionate and advocate for universal equality, they are individuals with personal preferences. I will never encourage them away from something because it fits a traditional gender stereotype. I will help them make their own way.

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