Introducing stereotypes?

What is the appropriate age to let your little one know that the world thinks there are things she can’t do based on her demographic identities?

Herm. When I say it like that, the answer is clear! And yet, I know I’m doing my best to ideally prepare my kiddo to live in the world, not preparing my kiddo to live in an ideal world.

This idea has really been on my mind because of Legos. For real!

Her female scientist set was delivered today. She spent the remainder of the day painstakingly constructing the paleontologist and dinosaur (shock, I know!). Before she began, I was telling her the narrative of the set. I told her that a woman decided there weren’t any paleontologists or astronomers, so she decided to make a set. I showed her how Ellen Kooijman proposed the idea, got support, and eventually Lego decided to manufacture it. I read her the intro page from the book that comes with the set. My husband mouthed a question, wondering if I should introduce the idea of the gender of the minifigs being important. I decided to decline.

I can’t help but wonder if it’s fair to tell my four year old that some people think that scientists don’t look like her. She doesn’t know that, but I know the world will tell her.

She’s a girl.

She’s biracial.

She’s adopted.

She’s adopted by White people.

Her birth siblings are not with us.

She’s brilliant.

I think she’s going to receive a number of socializing messages about who she is and who she ought to be.

I want her to be able to stand up for who she is, and raising someone concerned with equity and social justice is really important to me. It’s why we talk about same-sex marriage rights and poverty and homelessness and a host of other issues.

I can’t seem to bring myself to tell her that these issues apply to her directly, though. Not yet. I don’t know when the “right” time is – I don’t even know if there’s a “right” time, or if the “right” time is when it comes up. I don’t want her to be oblivious, but I also don’t want to introduce stereotype threat before I have to.

I don’t want to tell her how unusual it is that her world isn’t ONLY pink and purple and glittery (don’t worry, there’s plenty of that in our home, too), that we’ve had people (seriously) inquire about whether or not we’re crippling her socially by not introducing her to the princesses.

I don’t want her to think that what she likes is noticeably different than what it “should be”. I just want it to be what she likes. I don’t want her to become self-conscious about her choices and interests and clothes and… well, everything else I’m self conscious about as an adult woman!

I just want her to be four. I want her to be unencumbered by all the crap adults create and perpetuate when we turn our pattern-making intellects on the social world for as long as she can be. It will all come soon enough.

So, for today, I didn’t talk about how cool it was that the three Lego scientists are girls. Someday I will, but today just wasn’t that day.

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4 thoughts on “Introducing stereotypes?

    • I realize now that I’m much more comfortable exposing some one else’s children to their own realities than I am to my own child! It’s so hard when I am reminded of how much more I used to know was “right”… Where’s the balance between keeping them in the bubble and letting them see outside the bubble, without it (well), bursting their bubbles?!

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  1. I live in a very small town, and married a man I met while in the peace corps then brought back to the US, so our kids are faced with being biracial, bilingual, and individual thinkers. I’ve definantly put effort into sharing books about different ethnicities, which share the concept in a gentle way that doesn’t necessarily say that it is about them, per say. My daughter would also rather play with cars than Barbies, and wears boy monster truck shirts. She likes “girl” toys sometimes, but mostly we just validate her and her interests by allowing her to have them. I don’t see any reason to push growing up and all the confusion it brings. I guess I’m just trying to let you know that you are not alone, and the other stff will come. I think it best to let her have her interests and support her in them than to invalidate her by pushing girly stuff on her. If it were me getting the female science dolls, I might merely comment on now having equal male and female dolls now, which in my mind, teaches equality, there’s time for women’s rights in the future. Good luck to you, i love reading your posts about all the neat things you do. It sounds like you are doing a great job!

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