Feminism, Parenting

Such a typical boy!

20 June, 2014

I have the child that people use to make a point about how boys and girls are just *so* different, even as babies. “I hate to stereotype but my child is SUCH a typical boy! Completely different to my daughters!”

ME TOO! Look:

My child is unstoppable, a thundering, prowling, into- everything child.

My child is a clambering climber, and has always attempted to mount every piece of furniture in a room, even before crawling.

My child is so, so brave- falling down without a peep and getting straight back up to tackle the challenge again. Two bruises gracing the forehead just now.

My child loves to throw. Balls, ornaments, shoes, knickers, everything must be tested against gravity. Often thrown with force at my head.

My child is immensely strong- an item grabbed will never, ever be recovered from those intense, grasping fists.

My child is physically aggressive. I was given a small black eye when my kid was only 9 months old. My elder daughter cowers before her fisticuffs loving young sibling.

My child loves anything with wheels- zooming toy cars and trains about as if on some kind of advert for toy cars and trains.

My child is passionate about construction- building up towers and knocking them down (and throwing the blocks at people’s heads.)

My child even hides for a poo, and you KNOW boys always hide when they’ve got to do their business.

But you know what? My child is a girl.

Juno is so, so different to her older sister, Ramona. She exhibits so many of the behaviours and character traits associated with boys. Instead of proving the rule, she disproves it.

You know what? Children are different! They show different personalities not because of their gender but because they are different people!

It’s a funny thing, but people communicate with Juno in a much more masculinised way. Ramona was always Sweetie or Honey where as Juno is nearly always called Buddy, Lil Fella, even Brute by one particularly nice stranger. It’s almost as if people can’t reconcile this quite physical disposition with a little girl.

How about, instead of ring fencing certain behaviours go specific genders, we give freedom and space for our children to become whomever they are? Where instead of a subtle rejection of our son’s love of dolls, we welcome it as entirely natural. Where instead of being shocked at our daughter’s physicality, we give her ways to express it fully. Where we let research debunk gender myths, rather than allow anecdotes to perpetuate them .

We will eventually create a world where all character traits belong to all children, where they can follow their passions with gusto, and where not one child feels oppressed by someone else’s inaccurate expectations.

Bring that on.


Have you ever addressed “typical boy/ girl” remarks? How has that gone? Any tips?

PS- This book, How Gender Myths are hurting our relationships, our children and our jobs, looks FASCINATING! And I really enjoyed this blog post from a mother of farting, naked girls!

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  • Emma 20 June, 2014 at 7:05 pm

    My daughter, 20 months, was told she was ‘such a boy’ by a kind friendly old man we passed in the street when she was walking along a wall, I remarked she was a girl and he said ‘wow, well I never, I didn’t know girls could do that’. So sad but I’m glad we opened his world. Because she’s dressed neutrally and hasn’t grown hair yet I love that she is greeted by men quite often saying ‘hey dude’ and ‘alright mate’ who often will say nothing at all when she is dressed all girlie, apparently thinking it is not their place to greet little girls, sad again. Women greet her in either gender and don’t seem to change much if I correct, they just think ‘adorable baby’. I’ll have different experiences when her hair gives her away 100% I guess but at the rate that’s growing she’ll be 3…

  • sarah 20 June, 2014 at 7:14 pm

    We often receive comments like “you can tell they’re both girls”! (We have a boy and a girl). My son has long (ish) hair and a beautiful face, so obviously he is a girl??!! If you observe my kids you can see ‘boy’ traits and ‘girl’ traits in both… They are unique and beautiful 🙂

  • ThaliaKR 20 June, 2014 at 7:21 pm

    Great post, Lucy.

    I see shoes are the new battleground in the UK: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2014/06/16/clarks-sexist-posters-shoes-children-petition_n_5498203.html

  • Mo 20 June, 2014 at 7:55 pm

    Great post – I think some of our family have struggled with us not being so gendered about our son as many are. For example. in winter, I would buy him tights as a practical measure for keeping his legs warm as they poked out the sling. My mother-in-law said “we just won’t tell his future wife”. At the time, I bit my tongue from pointing out that my husband and I would be equally happy if, one day, our son has a husband – or doesn’t marry at all! (or has a female partner who’s not hung up on gender stereotypes!!)

    However, even though he still gets mistaken for a girl at 2 and 3/4 (I think it’s the long-ish curls and the fact that he’s got a few items of clothing I’ve bought 2nd hand but were originally from the “girls” section), he adores things he can throw, climb or that has wheels. And he’s very strong! But I love it that he’ll also cuddle and care for and his very pink doll, and dress her in her very pink dress. And look for fairies in the woods. And that the first time we asked him to chose a new toothbrush in the shop, he chose a dinosaur one but the second time we did this he went for a pink one.

    We really strive to give him opportunities to explore all different kinds of toys. clothes, activities and roles (a difference between his childhood and mine is that he sees his dad doing housework and his mum using a hammer!) so that HE can figure out who he is and what his talents, tastes and interests are, not have society dictate them.

  • Vic 20 June, 2014 at 8:23 pm

    Talking about gender inequality, my 7yr old (boy) was talking to my 10yr old (boy) this morning and asked the following question: “Noah, why are girls called Miss until they get married? Why do they change to Mrs when they get married, but if they don’t they stay Miss for ever?…..Boys should be called Master then….that would be fair….Master until we get married then we should have to change to Mr……*sigh*….if we never get married we would be Master forever!!!”
    ….Good social observation Jed….and a good question I think….

  • LKD 21 June, 2014 at 12:06 am

    Yes. Yes. Yes. My daughter reminds me so much of The Little Prince — that dual sex/androgynous creature of whimsy who is equal parts “feminine” and “boyish.” I have a soft spot for the character as I played it on stage in a ballet when I was ten, and I remember so clearly finding the postures that needed to reflect both sides of the human condition and of human behavior. Human. Not male or female. There well may be differences, but even gender differences are on a spectrum, a huge long one, and there are many boys who like conventional “girl” things and vice versa. But most children, when given the chance to be free of corporate marketing and social tyranny, are celestial hodgepodges of humanity! I loved this post! Keep it up, thank you!

  • Mama Bec (@becb1984) 21 June, 2014 at 12:11 am

    I remember a friend saying his son was “a typical boy, just wants to run around and climb on everything.” My daughter is slightly younger and at this stage wasn’t very mobile yet, but a few months later, guess what? She just wanted to run around and climb on everything! People call her a ‘tomboy’ these days because she’s very active, adventurous and destructive – I just respond by saying, “nah, she’s just a toddler!”

  • Tim Bulkeley 21 June, 2014 at 10:16 am

    No useful experiences I can think of, just encouragement, kids are so different, individual, themselves, until (it should be “unless”) people hammer out the differences and replace them with stereotypes. Keep it up!

  • RachaelW 22 June, 2014 at 2:51 am

    Lol, literally just before I read this article my 6 week old boy had paused while breastfeeding, done a fart, then flashed me a grin (a real one, not a windy one) before going back to his food. My first thought was ‘what a typical boy!’ Followed closely by ‘I wonder if girls do that too?’ I’m guessing from your article that they do!
    I do remember my younger brother being into toilet humour way more than my sister and I though when we were kids, but do you think that’s purely because of the response he got from my parents? From my own initial response I could imagine it was likely ‘oh what a cute cheeky boy,’ whereas perhaps with us girls when we were small the response was possibly ‘oh that’s kind of cute but not very ladylike’?

  • Becky Brown 23 June, 2014 at 5:15 am

    When both my boys were babies they were considered ‘pretty’ and once when one of them wore pink someone actually thought he was a girl. If we’re being stereotypical I have one boy boy and one boy girl. One (2 years) will run round pretending to be a racing car and the other (4 years) just this afternoon brought me two scarves which he was pretending were his babies and recently stole all my necklaces and hid them under his pillow because they were pretty. I’m struggling to the views of society at the moment because he comes home from school having clearly painted his nails with paint/felt tip and while I don’t have a problem painting his nails I know many others would. Children are all different, they explore, and we should support them however ‘different’ they are.

  • Anna 24 June, 2014 at 9:03 am

    Totally agree, as usual. Today, I had another nausea inducing trip to Clarks, as it happens, Thalia. When will they learn that I want them bring me a selection of ALL shoes, rather than visibly recoiling at the suggestion that my daughter can wear orange trainers “for boys” rather than impractical pink patent? Anyway, afterwards I had to check myself because I realised that I was digging my own heels in so dang hard against (eugh) pink, that I was potentially starting to limit my own daughters choice by accident! The distress that all this pink and gender stereotyping causes us, eh? She’s only 18 months, and today she was delighted with all the shoes on offer (typical girl – ha! Only joking!) But I realised – one day she might *gulp* go. through. a. pink. phase. The horror. And if she does, I don’t know – will it even be her choice, or will she simply be embracing something that has been suggested to her by the messages of marketeers and media because she is afraid of seeming odd? *mind scrambled*
    p.s. Grey trainers with neon orange laces won today. She loves them. They are scuffed and muddy already 🙂

  • Teeny 24 June, 2014 at 12:23 pm

    My children are wildly different, my boy fit the boy stereotypes of active, exciteable, hands on….and my daughter was quiet, enjoyed just being near me, didn’t require so much external stimulation that my son did. I had originally thought that my boy was “such a boy” and my daughter was “such a girl”. I’ve since realised that my boy is actually an extrovert and my girl is a little introverted and can be shy. She has been just as physically confident as him (if not even more capable) and his favourite little baby doll became hers as he no longer wanted to play with it as he got older. We didn’t discourage him. In face we encouraged him with his baby doll – but his interests went elsewhere. Even my daughter isn’t really into her dollies – she prefers art and building blocks, but does like to make dolls clothes. They are who they are.

  • Teeny 24 June, 2014 at 12:24 pm

    *fact….that was meant to say “in fact we encouraged him with his baby doll”

  • Cat 25 June, 2014 at 11:01 am

    My 4yr old and his best boy pal, left to their own devices yesterday, played at ‘mum and dad’, putting baby lion in the pushchair and taking her to the dentist. And then segued into a Romans v Vikings sword fight. And then held hands walking along the street. I felt quite chuffed! My impression so far watching my son and his friends is that for boys a lot rests on Dad and how comfortable he is letting his son be himself without passing comment. Ooh and grandpas too!

    • Cat 25 June, 2014 at 11:29 am

      Oops main thing I meant to say – reading a Quentin Blake treasury just now most nights – of his own stories as well as the illustrations which are so perfect – it’s a treasure trove of the whole spectrum of how children can be – appearance, interests, personalities, all the quirks and funny juxtapositions. His illustrations of groups of kids are how I want my son’s childhood to look! I think would appeal to lots of readers of this blog. So much freedom depicted!

    • Tim Bulkeley 25 June, 2014 at 2:25 pm

      I have to say my experience has been different, and maybe it’s an age thing, but I’ve found women more often reinforcing gender stereotypes than men. This both enforcing them on children and refusing to “believe” that men can/want to care for kids and babies. It may be that now most women are post rather than pre-feminist, and the issue is resolved, but I don’t think so. For example at the Theological College where I taught when mothers brought their babies for Wednesday mornings I was far less likely to be offered a baby to hold even when I explicitly asked than a woman student or staff member would be. We had one woman staff member (even older than me!) who was brilliant, after she’d had her “go” she would often pass the baby to me 🙂

      Gender stereotypes in NZ seem strongest around babies and cooking…

  • becky 29 June, 2014 at 4:18 pm

    Lisi climbed a tree yesterday. She’s 7. Am I a tomboy she siad (shes been reading the famous five) No i said you are a girl who likes adventure. Doesn’t that make me like a boy mummy? No it makes you like a girl who likes adventure. Okay she said. Bloomin Enid Blyton!

  • Erin 19 August, 2014 at 3:18 pm

    I swear you’ve just described my wee girl! I’m not sure she has ever been referred to as a girl. As someone else said – she wears mostly gender neutral clothing and has very little hair at 14 months. And, she’s amazing!

  • Oldmom 29 October, 2014 at 7:00 pm

    Interesting topic! I raised my son alone and he’s now an adult and a Counselor. I got so much push-back and most of it was from “Family.” I gave him a doll among other toys when he was young. After all boys are expected to parent as well, right? and why not cars and such for little girls, they will be driving someday after all. He wasn’t really interested in dolls or cars, more a puzzle, blocks, Legos kinda kid, but it was HIS choice. My family make some very crappy comments, such as “you’re going to make him into a fag!” I have nothing against the gay lifestyle, once again it should be HIS choice. Tells you a little something about my redneck family though huh? He turned out to be an accomplished athlete in HS, a 3 time All American in College and the first person in the Family to get a college degree. They love him to death these days and I know if I ever mentioned the things they said (and did) in the past selective memory would be right there “I would never say that!” Yadda, yadda…kinda pathetic that I’m still angry after all this time. Kudo’s to the other folks here, you know whats right. One last thing, my mom always asks him to fix her car, no matter how many times I tell her he’s not a “car guy.” She still believes since he has a penis he automatically knows about cars, lol.