Gender Matters – Sugar and Spice May Not Be So Nice

Does a Child’s Gender Affect Parents’ Expectations of Them?

I received a CD of children’s songs when my daughter was born. As I was watching her jump up and down to one of those songs in her Jolly Jumper, the lyrics made me wonder – do parents have different expectations from their girls than they do their boys? Does gender really make a difference? As the song continued…”What are little girls made of? Sugar and spice and everything nice….What are little boys made of? Frogs and snails and puppy dog tails…”, it seemed almost inevitable that we would.

158 - Master Griller

Although history has certainly carved out different gender roles for females than males, we are living in 2011, an age when it’s supposed to be acceptable for girls to be athletic and boys to cook. If that’s the case, why do I feel like not much has changed over time? Whether we like to admit it or not, a child’s gender has a direct effect on what parents, including myself, expect of them.

Score! But Not If You’re a Girl

My husband plays hockey and recently told me about a conversation he had in the locker room with a few other dads. He and another friend who had also recently had a girl were discussing whether or not they would ever encourage their daughters to play hockey, a sport they themselves are very passionate about. A third friend, a father of two boys, quickly chimed in that they were crazy for even contemplating that, and that if he ever had a daughter he would never consider putting her in hockey. Dance was a much more appropriate activity for a little girl. This only reinforced my husband’s long-lived belief that if we never have a boy, all his “skills” will be wasted because he will have nobody to pass them on to. Despite the Canadian Women’s Hockey Team winning gold at the Olympics, girls just don’t play hockey.

Boys, Get Out of the Kitchen!

A girlfriend of mine brought her son to a birthday party and observed that he was having a great time playing with the toy kitchen belonging to the birthday girl. When she arrived home, she mentioned to her husband that she would like to buy him one, and barely finished the sentence before her husband angrily remarked that that was a toy for girls and there was no way he was buying one for his son. Gordon Ramsay may be a world-renowned chef and a millionaire because of it, but boys just aren’t supposed to cook.

My daughter happens to be a calm, well-behaved child. Almost everyone I know, including myself at times, attributes this to her being a girl. I am constantly hearing statements such as, “you’re lucky you had a girl first, because if you had a boy first, you would stop at one!” or “girls are so much easier to handle than boys.” After a while, does this simply become a self-fulfilling prophecy?

It Has A Lot To Do With Pink Or Blue

Gender difference research was conducted whereby female babies were dressed as males and vice versa. Immediately, people began treating the babies dressed in pink in a much gentler, sweeter manner than those dressed in blue. The expectations placed upon the child, and the resulting behavior towards them, had nothing to do with who they actually were and everything to do with the gender people perceived them to be.

Gender Bender – Betty Crocker Astronaut

Although there are inherent physiological and psychological differences between girls and boys, this research is a shining example of how what parents expect from their children stems from generations of gender stereotypes and socialization patterns that are difficult to break. We are quick to point out how great it is that a female astronaut makes it into space, but she better be back in time to cook dinner.

4 thoughts on “Gender Matters – Sugar and Spice May Not Be So Nice”

  1. My daughter has played soccer, softball, and is now a brown belt in mixed martial arts! She also took ballet for a while, and tumbling. I think children should have a good mix of activities so that they can decide what they want to do. :)
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    1. I completely agree with you and also plan on enrolling my daughter in a variety of activities. I think it’s so important to encourage diversity and provide options. I am also intent on breaking down the stereotypes I so often encounter and hope to empower my daughter by encouraging her to do the same. Your daughter is lucky to have a moomy who is broadening her horizons.

    1. I would love to have a boy next, despite what I’ve heard! I am so interested in observing the differences. My daughter is such a good baby that I think I would appreciate the challenge. Then again, perhaps I should be careful what I wish for! ;-)

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