Hello, Mama Bears!
If you are like me, you were THROWN back into work already hurtling at about 180 miles an hour this morning after the crazy/idyllic Thanksgiving family fest. I woke up at 4am, packed some groggy kids in pajamas into a rental car, flew back from Palm Springs (WOO HOO! ALASKA FOR AN ON TIME DEPARTURE!), grabbed them McDonald’s breakfast on the way home from the airport, brushed Evie’s hair (which hadn’t happened in about a week…) and then Paul got them into uniforms and to school (very late) while I raced to a 10am meeting.
I had a lot of fascinating conversations and thoughts about motherhood while I was spending a week doing nothing but mothering. I’ll write about a few of them this week.
But one happened when my kids got into an argument in a hot tub with a younger boy who insisted—pretty indignantly—that “girl power wasn’t a real thing.” I can’t imagine how this came up, but Eli and Evie were shocked at this. Horrified even. It was like someone saying Santa didn’t exist.
That kid’s mom explained to me that his preschool teacher had taught him that there was no difference between genders, and that’s why he was so insistent in telling my kids again and again and again (and again) that it wasn’t a thing. I shrugged it off externally saying it was very much a thing in our house, but I understand the idea.
But internally, I thought about this for the better part of a day. We’ve had a lot of discussions on Chairman Mom about gender and kids—this is clearly something so many of us are trying to navigate. And in a sense, I admire what the teacher was trying to do.
But I guess, for me, saying there’s no difference between genders is like saying you are “colorblind.” Both tend to be said from privilege, for one thing. Girls and children of color are generally well aware the world views them differently, and frequently from a young age. Every breath we’ve all ever taken is in a patriarchy that is fueled by that belief.
I can’t change that. I can change how my kids think about it. How empowered they feel to fight against that injustice when they encounter it.
I think there’s tremendous power in raising my kids and flat-out telling them that women make less than men in this country. Let’s talk about how crazy that is? Because kids have such a clear sense of right and wrong and equality. The same way I educate them about gay rights, the same way we talk about race.
There is a world of difference between telling a girl she can do or be anything, and pretending there is no inequality girls will ever face, simply because you announce in a classroom that gender is equal.
I’m not totally consistent on this type of thing. Sometimes I want to raise my kids the way I want the world to be, not the way it is. For instance, I tried to put off Eli having any awareness that the world might judge him for liking clothes and toys marketed to girls as long as possible. I wanted him to feel free to be himself as long as possible, without any suggestion that there should be any shame associated with that.
But there are certain topics around which I think they need to be raised aware that there’s inequality, aware even of their own privilege as white kids from the very beginning. I can’t imagine telling my kids there’s equality between races in this country simply because I wish that were the case. Why is gender different?
I think believing in “girl power” can be an empowering, internal force for Evie to tap into when she inevitably runs into bias…which of course like any five-year-old girl she already has hundreds of time.
I’m curious if I’m missing something about the “gender-blind” appeal, so I decided to ask it as a question today.