Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Gender politics, the preschool version

"This is what I wear to work... like Daddy.'"

Now that Allie has a little brother, she has been very interested in the differences between girls and boys.  We often list off people we know and Allie tries to determine if the person in question is a girl or a boy.  For a while, she had a hard time figuring out why there was a difference but she's pretty good at correctly identifying girls and boys now.

She and I were sitting at the dining table while she very slowly finished her dinner the other night and Jonathan was taking out the garbage.  She watched him and declared: "Boys do outside jobs.  Girls do inside jobs."  I was flabbergasted.

I reminded her that she helps Daddy mow the lawn and that is an outside job.  And that she helps to plant flowers and take care of the yard, which are outside jobs too.   So, girls can do outside jobs and be really good at them.  Similarly, Daddy does most of the laundry and cleaning around the house and those are inside jobs.  Inside and outside jobs don't come with assigned genders.

Her comment really hit home for me because years ago I attended a workshop on how women can better advocate for themselves in the workplace, specifically with respect to pay equality.  One of the speakers gave the example of indoor versus outdoor chores for children.  She argued that boys typically get assigned outdoor chores, such as lawn mowing.  The neighbors see the boys mowing the lawn and can hire them to mow their lawns.  This gives the boys an appreciation that their time and efforts are worth something to others and also gives them a chance to put a dollar amount on that transaction.  Girls, however, are indoors washing dishes and miss out on that character forming transaction.

After Allie made this comment, I started looking around to see if this is a real phenomenon.  I found a few articles on the topic, like this one from the Wall Street Journal.  Jonathan's solution is that I take on the lawn mowing and yard work.  I think he has ulterior motives in this suggestion.

So, this is something that we'll be keeping an eye on.  I really dislike this type of messaging, especially so early in her life.

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