A fresh look through a gendered lens – About 6 months ago, our daughter gave birth to our first grandchild, a boy. She and her husband knew they were having a son and promptly named him after his father – a full four-name moniker, the second. How to raise a boy is a hot topic, but one about which they are both sensitive. Their clothing choices and book requests and bedding designs are not boy-centric. Rather, there are lots of neutral colors, animals, foods and abstract designs. Same for the toys they have chosen.
But what about the grandparents, especially the grandma? Having worked in a school, participated in a Gender Equity study group and analyzed my own attitudes about how I treated the issue of equity in my classroom, I was sure I was open and ready to promote equal opportunities for all to my grandchild.
One day in prep for the new baby’s arrival, I was going through some stored baby items and came across a box of my daughter’s stuffed animals and dolls. (Yes, I still had them all; her brother’s too – that’s another blog!) In the mix was a small Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy doll. Perfect! Soft and cuddly, I would definitely wash Andy and send him along. But, what about Ann? Should I save her for a possible granddaughter down the road? I caught myself. My daughter had been given both the dolls and they always travelled together. Was my hesitation because it might be considered more appropriate for a girl to have a “boy doll” than for a boy to have a “girl doll”? If these are the questions about dolls I’m struggling with now, how will I really be able to guide my grandson when he is with me? Will I fall into old mindsets? I decided to wait on the dolls.
However, during two visits and many Facetime calls, I was able to observe my daughter and her husband raise their son. I realized they certainly would not have problem with the slightly outdated, but still classic dolls such as the Ragggedys. I did wash them up and they were part of a Christmas package that included a large stuffed fox, a small finger puppet fox, a Hess truck (the beginning of a collection! I know a 4-month-old can’t really play with it yet!), neutral clothing and books.
The issue of Gender Equity has so much more depth than just color, toy, design and book choices, and yet, the biases are imparted at an early age. I will have conversations with the grandchild about who can be what (why is this still even an issue?) and who can wear what (may be less of an issue as fashion definitely becomes more androgynous) and who can play with what, or play what instrument, sport, and so on and on.
And if there is a granddaughter, she will “inherit” the Raggedy dolls but hopefully we won’t need to have all the conversations!
Do you have something you’d like to share about the role gender is playing either in your life or in today’s politics?
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