In a sexist world, commenting on gender differences you notice is NOT HELPING

28 July, 2016

There’s something strange in the neighbourhood. It’s a resurgence in the belief that boys and girls are innately different. It has crept into modern parenting lore and it is driving me round the bend.

In the last few months I have had at least 8 different conversations with parents along the lines of “Ooh! You are so lucky to have little girls and not rambunctious boys!” – one of these conversations moments after we’d ducked away from a small tribe of girls covered from head to toe in mud intent on slinging it at everyone around them.

How has this happened? In 2016? With all the science and things?

I wonder if it hitched a ride on the tails of “natural parenting.” Perhaps the commitment to allowing children to bloom into whomever they are and the desire for mamas to be in touch with their own ancient feminine powers got all jumbled up together and out popped “Boys and girls are innately different!”

I’ve heard so many variants on it, many from parents with children of both genders. And it is tricky to have that conversation with a mama who swears she never believed in gender stereotypes until she saw proof in her own children.

When I do address it, it’s all rolled eyes and knowing chuckles. Like I’ve a bee in my bonnet and I am denying something blatantly obvious.

This is what I want to say to all the mamas out there who say this shit.


(Taken from Pink Brain, Blue Brain, a huge book by Lise Eliot but worth the read if you are interested in this stuff. That link hooks you up with a summary.)

  • The actual differences in the brains of boys and girls are minor. MINOR.
  • We treat boys and girls differently the second they are born. YES- EVEN YOU DO THIS. In gender-disguising experiments we describe boys and girls cries differently, and we judge babies crawling abilities differently. (Unconsciously underestimating girls’ physical scope.) We all do. It’s just disturbing residue of a sexist world.
  • Gender stereotypes are intrinsically woven through our entire society. You have not bought up your differently gendered children exactly the same, despite your best efforts. They have picked up from strangers, teachers, books, movies, shops, everywhere, the fact that boys behave a certain way and girls another. Not only this, but there are certain rewards for sticking to that or disincentives for stepping out of it.
  • Throughout childhood the minor differences observed in play grow distinct distinct because of all the things they have picked up.
  • However, this is not always the case. So you still very much have boys and girls not performing according to these norms. (I think unschooled children can be a good example of this.)
  • In places where gendered roles and experiences are not highly valued the differences in adults are MINUTE. I often think of a bit in Ten Years of Slavery where it mentions as an aside how one of the most efficient group of loggers was a group of women. It stuck out for me because we go on and on about the physical differences between male and female, and there you have this female logging team being renowned for their strength and tenacity. (Kind of a sad example, but a good one as there are not too many examples of societies with records where gender hasn’t been a highly prescriptive thing.)In a misogynistic world, observations about children's gender differences are not helpful

So, if you have noticed gender differences in your children, PLEASE KEEP THEM TO YOURSELF. Here’s why:

  • Commenting on gender differences perpetuates gender differences. Every time you say “boys are boisterous and girls aren’t” boys learn to be more boisterous and girls learn it isn’t really a desirable trait. Your words actually add more strength to the little boxes that boys and girls are slowly pushed into.
  • Commenting on gender differences makes the boys and girls who don’t fit those stereotypes feel stink. It makes them feel abnormal and it asks them to squeeze into a shape they are not feeling.
  • Commenting on gender differences from your experience and treating it as fact is not a good way to live. Saying “I was against gender stereotypes until I had one of each and then WOW the differences I observed, you just can’t deny it boys and girls are SO different!!!” is like saying “I ate some custard and it gave me the runs so WOW don’t eat custard if you want solid stools!”
  • Commenting on gender differences sets up our children for exclusionary play. If you are so convinced that boys and girls are innately different then your children will pick up on that and will be far, far more likely to want gendered playdates and experiences and the exclusive, gender based discrimination women have to put up with their whole life is begun prematurely.
  • Some of the most traditional form of gender commentating is actually totally toxic – the “boys will be boys” line of thought could well be contributing to rape culture. More on that.
  • Commenting on gender differences without recognising the misogynistic, sexist, patriarchal society your children are raised within is akin to watching someone put red dye in your washing machine and then, when all your clothes come out red, saying that all fabric is innately red.

Sure, you are allowed to comment on your child being rough and tumble – just don’t bring gender into it. Create room for your child’s boisterousness but don’t, with your hapless words, deny him room for other parts of his personality to develop. Notice how different children are and say “Isn’t each child (as opposed to boys/ girls) so different and unique?!” Celebrate your child’s strength and sense of adventure but recognise it as part of who he is, not a gift of his gender. Do not limit the scope of another child’s play or experience by skewed observations you have made in your home.

Phew! There was my bee! It’s out of my bonnet now…

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  • Dawn 28 July, 2016 at 6:57 pm

    Totally agree with you! Heard a conversation recently between a father and a woman who was running a kids activity class the other day. When the father complained about how bossy his daughter was, the woman told him “that’s girls for you!” Then in the next breath the father described how his infant son hadn’t even cried when he got his immunisations “he took them like a champ!” He declared. I honestly wanted to throw something!

    • Lucy 28 July, 2016 at 7:17 pm

      Ugh – it is really infuriating! People forget how powerful words are.

  • Shelley Tester 28 July, 2016 at 7:23 pm

    Oh come ON. Contributing to rape culture? Really? I don’t frequently distinguish between my two based on gender but I hardly think that recognising their differences based on their sex is harmful or frightening. I would like them each to grow up proud to be who they are and their gender is very central to that, and important in their role in their community too. Men and women are fundamentally different. It’s a hormone thing. Sorry, I usually enjoy reading your posts but this one seems a bit, well…

    • Lucy 28 July, 2016 at 7:27 pm

      Sorry, I usually enjoy reading comments but not when they refuse to acknowledge the scientific research my post is based on.

      • Shelley Tester 28 July, 2016 at 8:11 pm

        I apologise Lucy, my comment was a bit rude. I just feel a little riled-up by the tone of your post. Yes their brains are similar at this young age but their personalities are massively different and not in the traditional sense of pink and blue either, my girl loves to be muddy and my boy is a clean freak. On the other hand, she is kind to animals and he is fascinated by fast machines… but that is just part of who they are. I am glad to celebrate my kids for who they are as individuals, including their genders, in a positive light. I don’t feel acknowledging their gender differences is wrong, in fact I think there should be more room for us as a societly to embrace them. Perhaps i am old-fashioned in this. This is my personal opinion, really I’m not trolling here. I felt I had to say it, sorry if my first comment causes offence.

        • Lucy 28 July, 2016 at 8:32 pm

          Thanks Shelley, I was a bit offended by your comment! (You could probably tell.) This latter one I have loved, I loved hearing your perspective on it and it is a good challenge – we must not fail to celebrate all the difference of our children! I just struggle when it comes to saying certain attributes only come with a certain gender – how do we know that? Serious question? Why do we think boyhood = fast car loving?

          • Shelley Tester 28 July, 2016 at 9:23 pm

            The fast car and boys thing is simply tradition… a cultural thing for sure. I can’t say he has ever been steered in that direction, but he has opened up in that way and we encourage him to follow his interests in the same way I will play with my daughter in mud to our knees (well, her knees = my ankles!) as long as we are having fun :-). I agree that some attitudes regarding boys v girls can be restrictive to them as people. That needs to change. But each to his or her own… if my boy loves to do things which are culturally seen as boyish, then good for him, good for him to have joy in that. I can’t bring myself to see it as a problem, to make room for each other in that way. I guess what I’m trying to say is gender differences can be good too.

          • Lucy 28 July, 2016 at 10:16 pm

            I’d love you to head to my Facebook page and see some of the comments there from mamas whose children do not fit these strict roles. For me, I feel that putting so much stock in certain behaviours and interests being “for boys” or “for girls” means there is no room for the millions of children who do not fit into those prescriptions. Imagine being told that you have to “toughen up” your tutu loving boy? Surely you can see that restrictive stereotypes are harmful.

    • Megan 28 July, 2016 at 9:48 pm

      Maybe not as much rape culture, but certainly the acceptance of domestic abuse-when people say things like “boys are mean to girls when they like them” you can see how this off the cuff remark can normalise violence against women. Whichever culture it is influencing it isn’t a positive one

      • Lucy 28 July, 2016 at 10:17 pm

        I would say that “domestic abuse” is a firm part of “rape culture”

  • Amy 28 July, 2016 at 7:31 pm

    Hehe, i like your points about dont mention it if you do notice. Cause im one of those larents who really didnt expect it and actually really did not want a gun tooting, bow and arrow loving, cannon bombing, shoot em up boy. My hisband and i hate guns. Our 5yo son has had mainly girlfriends as they were mynfriends kids. Yet, he just gravitated to it. His voice is deeper than his girlfriends, and they just dont play like he does. He can play woth them. Cause we dont push the girl amd boy thing. But as theyve hit five, they appear to be heading in different directions. The girls are flowers and dresses, my son pirates, guns etc. my daughter is only three and im a tom boy so really really didnt want a ballet loving girl, but im starting to learn to aupport her interests in girls and dancing and notcing pretty flowers and clothes. It could well be that the culture that surrounds us where we live, that despite my best efforts, theyve learned those roles. Its prevalent at our playcentre. But what do i do.. Resist? And risk them thinking i dont approve of the interests? Or embrace? Its a fine balance and i feel like im on a tightrope, constantly aware i could someasily go over the edge into gushing gender bias. But goddammit, it still happened to my kids. Luckily, my boy is highly empathetic and kind, and my girl can climb trees and ride her balance bike (aka wobbly bike) like a pro. 🙂

    • Lucy 28 July, 2016 at 7:36 pm

      😀 😀
      I think it is totally cool to acknowledge it but also to recognise that they are a product of our deeply stereotyped society – despite your best efforts! I think not locking them into the things they experiment with is REALLY important – between 2 and 6 they are really experimenting with what gender is and they think it is to do with activities or dress – I imagine, if given the chance, they might not continue in those fairly stereotyped roles. My own daughter has worn dresses every day since she was 18 months, but this last month has opted out and chooses sweatpants and hoodies every day! I would celebrate and encourage and create heaps of space for those things they love that don’t comply with gender stereotypes – perhaps overly in order to balance out the intense feedback they are getting that tree climbing is not for girls etc

      • Amy 28 July, 2016 at 8:07 pm

        Hehe, yes, i do tend do that naturally! 🙂 I love seei them both climb trees and ride their bikes. My daughter will go shooting her fingers like a gun one minute then want to be a princess the next. My son went to the neighbours housewarming in his party dress .. And then had the 13yo boy’s friends comment meanly about him wearing it. He no longer wears dresses. I saw his confusion with that. That boy and his friends, my dad. Comments designed to control and hurt and push him to not wear dresses. It broke my heart. So many cultures around the world have roles for females and males. And whilst i loathe the idea of having to be stuck with one role or the other as dicatated by someone else, it must be a whole lot easier for kids navigating the world if there are some gender guidelines with an understanding that they dont have to stick to them? Thats how we have tried to operate. Explaining that most boys will choose to wear shorts and t-shirt, but he is welcome to wear a dress. I even offered to make him one the other day. He used to love the idea, this time he just scoffed and didnt answer. He told me the other day that baking was for girls. (Despite his daddy baking regularly).

  • Jem 28 July, 2016 at 7:37 pm

    Dashing out the door to go to a meeting but YESSSS.

    Nail on the head, as always.

    • Lucy 28 July, 2016 at 7:49 pm

      Thanks Jem x x x

  • Jill 28 July, 2016 at 8:24 pm

    It is JUST. SO. INFURIATING. On a pretty much daily basis I get annoyed by this. I have two boys. Both different. Shocker. They’re different people. Currently my 3 year old still likes to kick stereotypes out the window but sadly I’m guessing it won’t be long until societal messages affect him. Recently a friend took him to build-a-bear for his birthday. At the end the woman asked if he wanted a drawstring bag to carry his bear in and when we said yes she reached over to her two boxes (one of pink bags, one of blue) and pulled him out a blue one. At this point, my awesome friend jumped in and said, oh what colour do you want Toby? Pink or blue? And, because Toby sees no difference in colours yet and because he likes to be contrary and always wants the “other thing that wasn’t offered to him” (gah) he said, Pink please! I honestly thought the girl serving us was going to collapse. It was like we had made the most insane request in the world. And she works in a shop that sells hairdryers for bears, so you know, she’s seen crazy!

    But seriously, why can’t people just STOP saying these things to our precious children? My son loves diggers: oh he’s such a typical little boy. My son loves handbags: no comment.

    When my niece went though a handbag-loving stage, she was bought about 20 little pink or purple sparkly, flowery handbags… Just saying.

    • Lucy 28 July, 2016 at 8:38 pm

      “Both different. Shocker.” Did actually lol at this. Oh, your awesome friend! What a legend! So great to get your story x x x

      • Jill 28 July, 2016 at 8:43 pm

        Oh and another thing, my 3 year old is totally into separating everyone into categories at the moment. This mostly consists of discussing whether they have a penis or a vagina. This is literally the only way he categorises the sexes. I love it, because really that is the only difference between them…oh he is so wise

        • Jill 28 July, 2016 at 8:47 pm

          And now I just asked him what the difference is between boys and girls. He didn’t answer. I asked if he knew what different meant and he said no. So I said different means when you are not the same, are boys and girls the same I asked? Yeah. Is there anything that makes them different? Yeah, they have baginas and they have penises. Brilliant. Great chat. Shall we just get Toby to give seminars around the world about gender differences?

        • Lucy 28 July, 2016 at 8:48 pm

          Hehe – perfect! I often gender switch the characters in books and if the kids notice I say “well, technically we don’t know if the Big Bad Wolf and the little pigs were all boys”

    • Caroline 29 July, 2016 at 7:26 am

      My son had a fluorescent pink teddy which he pushed around in a fluorescent pink pushchair when he was that age.

  • Alexandra Friend 28 July, 2016 at 8:25 pm

    Hi Lucy. I love your posts, I learn so much from them, but this one left me feeling shouted at… IN CAPS!

    • Lucy 28 July, 2016 at 8:27 pm

      Yes! it is a rant! It was time!

  • Francesca 28 July, 2016 at 8:25 pm

    I feel like I have this conversation a lot! Interesting the link between natural parenting and reinforcing gender differences – feminine powers only work if something intrinsically different about male and female. There are in fact no structural differences between male and female brains, hormones are another matter but they have variable influences. I talk a lot about my boisterous girl and tutu loving boy but I don’t want to trap them in reverse stereotypes – they’re all just kids after all!

    • Lucy 28 July, 2016 at 8:39 pm

      Yeah, any box is a bad box! hehe 😀

  • Alex 28 July, 2016 at 8:34 pm

    Been thinking of a variety of different comments to accompany my reply. I should start by saying that I agree with you, that painting people as being something from an early age has an impact on who they become.

    My thoughts come from two distinct angles:

    1. In making us who we are, do the labels of others matter? Surely it’s our immediate social society will impact more on this. I think your post could be widened to cover all sorts of unnecessary distinctions: disability, sexuality, class…
    2. I suppose I’m commenting today to challenge the social norms. Maybe I’m wrong but your post suggests that boisterous, mud-slinging, rough play is good. I would suggest that you value these attributes Yourself and your children will naturally learn from you?

    I’d be better at articulating my mixture of support and challenge if I wasn’t on a tube!! Hope it makes vague sense.

    • Alex 28 July, 2016 at 8:56 pm

      Sorry Lucy, just read this and it doesn’t quite make sense… Another time I’ll try to write it up properly. Alex

    • Lucy 28 July, 2016 at 10:23 pm

      Nope this makes sense- missed it in my weirdly set up comments section in admin. Yes, hopefully immediate culture will impact more than anything, but it is the insidiousness of the gender role strictness that I find most disturbing.
      Regarding those traits- I chose them because they’ve been specifically spoken to me as being “for boys” over the last few months.
      I do think that what parents model and value has a huge impact on children, and so perhaps in a way it is okay for my kids! But I hoped this post challenges the parents that really believe in the innate differences between boys and girls as they are perpetuating stereotypes for their children 🙂 gah, hope that made sense! X

  • Jess 28 July, 2016 at 8:46 pm

    Oh it makes me sad! My delumptious boy is 2 and a half. He loves dresses and bags and high heels and cuddles and kisses and animals. If my 4 year old daughter loved these things people would be gushing all over it but with him people LAUGH albeit in an affectionate way and give him the blue thing or the car or whatever is boy-y and he is completely bewildered and seems to feel PUNISHED. And the worst bit is that when in around them I think I maybe join in a bit, not much but a bit of a chuckle here or there or a shrug. I’d never do it at home. This patriarchy shit goes deep!

    • Lucy 28 July, 2016 at 9:19 pm

      It is so sad and so unfair 🙁 good on you mAma for advocating for your child x

  • Megan 28 July, 2016 at 9:42 pm

    Clearly that bee has been doing the rounds as it is very firmly in my bonnet too.

    • Lucy 28 July, 2016 at 10:17 pm

      Strange aye?! Where’s it come from!

  • Jem 28 July, 2016 at 10:31 pm

    This is so well written, I completely support everything you’ve said. I have had boy after two girls, from the moment he came out I have constantly heard “he’s a real boy isn’t he” (are there fake boys out there?!) when he:
    Banged things together to make noise
    He eats a lot
    He is loud
    If he looks at loud cars or trucks when they drive past
    Opens and shuts draws (boys want to know how things work apparently)

    So are ‘real’ girls supposed to eat very little? Be quiet? Not care how things work?

    It makes me so angry that so many intelligent and educated friends make these comments. I really feel society has taken a step backwards in this regard, even since my own childhood in the 80s and 90s everything is so gendered now.

    Keep up the great work, I feel we deserve to rant about this one.

    • Lucy 28 July, 2016 at 10:34 pm

      Thanks Jem! Good to know it isn’t just me spotting it, well sort of good but also hugely depressing. Far better if it was just my own sorry experience. Wah. Conversation by conversation, we will challenge them!

  • Carrie 29 July, 2016 at 12:31 am

    I’ve been thinking about this article all morning. Maybe I am missing the gist (?) but I fundamentally think there ARE differences between men and women, boys and girls. To deny that would mean we are all gender neutral?!
    Where I think I agree with you is that the differences between us are things to celebrate – they don’t need to be compartmentalised as to why we’re different. I agree that sweeping statements of ‘all boys are X and all girls are…the opposite’ is not helpful. But surely we want to release our children to become all that God has created them to be. Being a girl is not a put down, neither is being a boy!

  • ThaliaKR 29 July, 2016 at 2:31 am

    Thanks, Lu! Excellent post as usual. x

  • Catherine Holland 29 July, 2016 at 3:28 am

    Great post, a while ago now I bought my daughter a garage and a train set, because no one else was going to! The hopeful thing is that it doesn’t take much to make the difference. Just allowing a question in there throughout their childhood has given them permission to be who they are as adults. I had 2 girls then a boy and the difference in the way people around treating him was astonishing, as well as the fact that then people said I didn’t need to have any more children now, as though the aim all along had been to have a boy. Interesting that it took me 4 decades to realise that I wanted a motorbike of my own (my brother had one). I just didn’t ask. And it’s very revealing to be treated as a man because people assume I am.

  • Mel 29 July, 2016 at 4:53 am

    I have 2 boys, both very loud, active and rambunctious – exactly like me as a child! My oldest is 4 and he also plays with his dolls and babies (including feeding them and playing giving birth), is very caring and can be very sweet and gentle. His best friends have included a sweet and sensitive girl, with whom he played Mummies at school. I try to encourage all parts of his personality. (His brother is only 1 and I’m still seeing his personality emerge). A while ago I asked “what would do if you saw someone telling a girl she should play with a doll instead of a train?”. His face got red and angry and he replied “that’s my doll and I can play with it if I want to!”
    I was a tomboy and hated pink, I only played with “girly” things when others did. I remember being “told off” repeatedly for trying to get the “boy” lucky dip prizes.

  • Fran 29 July, 2016 at 6:20 am

    Seeing the difference between the way my family respond to my nephew compared to my daughter has been interesting. They are similar ages and both loved tractors. With my nephew, this was met with ‘ooo yes tractors! Let’s draw a tractor/get you a tractor t-shirt/go to places where you can see tractors etc etc.’ Tractors and the like we’re pointed out at every opportunity, ‘ooo look! A tractor! He’ll like that! We must show him! Look … a tractor! Ooo you like tractors don’t you?’ His delight at seeing a tractor was met with equal delight by parents and other family members. He was lifted on to shoulders to get a better look at tractors, and whenever one was coming into view, it was important his attention was drawn to it. Pictures of him sitting on tractors or standing near tractors were distributed around the family with the inevitable ‘he’s in his element! He absolutely LOVES tractors?!’ captions.

    Now, my daughter also loved tractors. Her delight was met with silence by my family. There were no tractor-related gifts, no encouragement of her passion, no special outings. And most importantly, no mention of her sheer excitement whenever she saw a tractor.

    This is from a family that would bill itself as attempting to combat gender stereotypes.

    Lucy, I like your bit about “…not locking them into the things they experiment with is REALLY important … I imagine, if given the chance, they might not continue in those fairly stereotyped roles.”

    Sounds like my experience is similar to Jill and Jess above.

  • Candy James 29 July, 2016 at 3:16 pm

    I hear ya, but my daughter never touched the huge pile of lego in the corner of our living room and my son never touched the basket full of horses in the other corner. I honestly would not have minded but that was how it was. I didn’t stress over it but wondered, when they wrote their present list to Santa, where it was all coming from.

    • Lucy 29 July, 2016 at 4:15 pm

      I’m pretty sure my post explained where it’s coming from?

  • kathry 30 July, 2016 at 12:31 am

    Hi Lucy, I am a long time reader but I don’t think I’ve commented before, or if so not in ages. This post has really resonated with me. I am trying so hard to resist gender stereotopying my son and challenging people when they do. But sometimes I am too tired to challenge stereotypes, and even sometimes find myself laughing alongside when someone says oh ‘typical boy, so full of energy, always on the move’ as if having lots of energy and moving is specific to boys! I think I need to re-read this post every so often as a reminder and I think now I might start just saying ‘yes isn’t it amazing how unique every child is’ instead of always feeling I need to go into a big critique of gender stereotypes. Just don’t get me started on the lack of female representation in children’s books!
    Thanks again for another thought provoking read.

    • Lucy 30 July, 2016 at 9:30 am

      Ugh female rep in books – OH EM GEEEEE another thing that drives me wild!

  • Babs Haver 30 July, 2016 at 5:46 am

    Totally agree with you. I have two girls 11 and 8 and a boy 6. The pressure to conform to roles is not nature but most definitely nature. Now my is at school, he hides his amazing emotional literacy and tryst to present himself as his mates do. My 8 year old mucky wild thing of a girl, however, is insisting on long hair and pink dresses that don’t prevent her from looking like stigma of the dump five minutes later because her friendson commented that she looked like a boy when she had a lovely pixie cut and functional clothing.

    My 11 year old girl is being pressured into wearing make up despite being happiest on her bike, swimming or playing spies.

    A strong feminist, I fight daily to balance these pressures and can be often heard saying “unless it requires you to have a front bum or widger, it’s neither a boys or a girls toy/ item of clothing/ game but it sometimes feels relentless.

  • Sarah 30 July, 2016 at 5:58 am

    Unfortunately I think this attitude has been around for a while and can be seen in all sorts of parents. My eldest is 8 years old and, of course, she was treated differently from a boy the moment we received our first birth card. When they were little and I was mixing with Mums most days, rarely a day went by when someone didn’t mention a gender stereotype as if it was a fact (and I still come across this on a regular basis). I still can’t believe this is how sensible, well educated women who believe in gender equality behave.

    Love your writing by the way. I have been reading your posts for ages but this is the first time I have written a comment.

  • Bev Wilson 30 July, 2016 at 6:20 am

    Lucy! this is spot on – thank you. I can’t get anyone to listen to me on this. You have given me fuel for my fire! keep at it Mama!
    bev. wilson

  • Fifi 30 July, 2016 at 10:36 pm

    I’ve been told that ‘little boys give more cuddles’ also as if it was an unalienable fact. And that mother/daughters relationship is always fraught WTF?

  • carol perkins 31 July, 2016 at 6:03 am

    Gender stereotyping has been historically used to keep women and girls in a submissive, childlike, supporting role. I think the minimizing and handicapping of women, is the real purpose and danger or gender roles. It is in most societies, and children need to be provided with information and opportunities to combat these stereotypes. Both genders are compromised by even subtle stereotyping. In my opinion pink should be almost outlawed LOL the whole pink princess culture is sexist as a whole group. No one is going to be, nor should they want to be, a princess. It is a false sense of reality and power that perpetuates the male dominant hierarchy. We don’t want our sons to be pink princesses either because we want all people to be as strong as they can, as confident as they can and as intelligent as they can be, to reach their full potential as individuals. We need a world where all humans can be strong and gentle intelligent and understanding where everyone can lead but can also collaborate with each other. Pink and blue is dangerous. Let your boys have the practice of nurturing with dolls and cook because we should all be able to care for each other, but your girls need to build with Leggos and take leadership rolls, build strength go to science camp and have “boy” experiences and clothing, because they will be handicapped by gender rolls, pulled back and held down, to a different standard than men if we let the stereotypes survive. This is not just science, it is history and our experience.

  • Bjorn 31 July, 2016 at 12:02 pm

    Ironically this was on NZ Herald web site today “Why mums shouldn’t feel guilty about spoiling their girls over their sons” http://www.nzherald.co.nz/lifestyle/news/article.cfm?c_id=6&objectid=11684660

  • Hazel 1 August, 2016 at 11:43 pm

    I agree with much of what you say, particularly the principle that reinforcing stereotypes rather than embracing individuality is harmful. However, I fundamentally disagree with your underlying argument that gender identity and differences are purely a societal convention. I have often wondered whether if we lived in a truly equal society would transgender people still feel misaligned? I beleive so.

  • Lucy 2 August, 2016 at 4:50 am

    Oh Lucy you do have a knack for throwing the cat amounts the pigeons! I wonder why we get so affronted by this? Is is maybe because it strikes a chord somewhere? I don’t know.
    I completely agree that we should try our best as adults to not highlight gender. If the words “boys will be boys” ever leave my lips, the newest person to me has full permission to boot me one straight on the shin! I Hate it!!! It is not acceptable to excuse shitty behaviour with that phrase! Most of the gender stereotypes/sayings etc do actually give boys a leg up or a loop hole and it’s not the same the other way. Girls stereotypes are constrictive and repressive a lot of the time.
    I think it’s irrelevant to argue the biology/science of it anyway as wouldn’t it be wonderful if all children could grow up with the notion that they can do anything?! I wonder if people wouldn’t feel so excluded as adults if our gender roles wernt so strict.
    My 1 yr niece takes after my sister in that she is very physical and brave and doesn’t seem bothered by pain (when her japes inevitably end in a face plant) and my nephew is like me a lot more cautious and careful and needs a lot of comfort if he hurts himself. Kids are just different same as I’m not like every other woman (not even said sister!). Also what are girls who are “Tom boys” (grrr) acceptable even something you’d aspire to be (oh she’s cool she’s like one of the lads) when boys who get called girly is a massive insult? Because to be like a girl is an insult, because girls are crap? Argh! Top down sexism insidious in our homes! Love this post!! Love love love it!

    • Lucy 2 August, 2016 at 9:44 am

      Ahh thanks, you rock, love your comment 🙂 🙂

  • Nina 2 August, 2016 at 5:45 am

    I am 3 months into being a Mum for the first time. Firstly, I massive thank you for writing your blog and sharing your approach to parenting and life in general. This blog (and other’s it’s led me to) is one of the few things I’ve read about parenting thats shared practical ways of doing things that also make perfect sense to me. I pretty much agree with this post and I have a question. When people start saying – girls are easier, boys are lazy, girls are more chubby, boys are more laid-back – what do I say? I want to have a massive rant about sexism but that’s not really appropriate when I’m trying to make friends at the local baby groups. So any ideas for gentle, respectful ways to maybe start a conversation about how we shouldn’t start labelling our little tots and maybe they just are who they are? Thank you.

  • Caroline 5 March, 2017 at 8:09 am

    What about transgender people? If there’s no difference, then why do they feel … different?