Oh, HAIL no.

I just got home from volunteering in Peanut’s first grade class. I’ve wanted to do this all  year, but my schedule hasn’t allowed it. Until now. I’m giving his sweet little face and adorable friends an hour of my time every week. They’re reading to me. I could eat them up.

Most of them.

But right now I’m so freaking mad.

Not at the teacher. She’s heaven and perfection wrapped in a package of cuteness. She might actually be the world’s most ideal first-grade teacher, but I don’t want to sway the judges in case she’s actually second or third best.

I’m not mad at the school, though I always have complaints. Shocking, I know. Naptime Complaining is the name wordpress always offers me when mine’s about to expire.

No, it’s not the institution that has riled me. I’m enraged at whoever is raising those two boys who debated with me today in class.

One came right out, apropos of nothing, and told me that girls can’t play soccer.

Um, yes they can. May I introduce you to the tale of the US women and the 1991 World Cup? I’m sorry, what, punk? Did you just say no to me? How about a little thing called the women’s Olympic team? No? Never heard of it? Hmmmm. Mia Hamm and Brandi Chastain have a little something to tell you, boy, about the four gold medals the US has won playing against seriously talented female soccer players from all over the world.

His tablemate joined in. “Yeah. Did you know girls can’t play with boys’ toys?”

Ah, hello, 1940. Yes they can. “Well,” I said, “that’s not true. What do you consider boys’ toys?”

“LEGO,” he said.

“Girls play with LEGO,” I said. “I play with LEGO, my nieces play with LEGO, our neighbors play with LEGO. Building is not just for boys.”

“Sure it is, he said. “Girls can only play with LEGO friends.”

I’m assuming those are the asinine pink LEGO sets I railed against when they were introduced…until I found out girls loved them and were introduced to building and physics and architecture and spatial relations due to pink LEGOs. So I shut the hell up and found another cause for my feminist-consumerist rage.

Never once did it occur to me during this classroom bickering, by the way, that they were taunting me just to get my goat. First-graders don’t pick fights just to get a rise out of someone, right? That’s what husbands are for, I’m pretty sure.

Who is raising these little misogynists? I told my son, who was reading a soccer book, that the jerk boys at another table said soccer isn’t for girls. I didn’t say jerk boys, since I’ve told him repeatedly to stop calling those two particular boys jerks, a parenting practice I will now cease.

“Well, here’s one,” he said, pointed to a girl playing soccer in his book. “And C, D, and N and O all play soccer.”

“Right,” I said. “And there are professional women’s soccer players and Olympic women’s soccer players.”

“Yeah,” said one of the friends who has been to our house once and now gets a permanent invitation. “Women play soccer really well. All over the world. The American team was even in the World Cup.”

“Damn skippy,” I totally didn’t say. I probably “Yeah”ed him, but I don’t remember. My affirmative replies are funnier when I write them in Jazz-era-colored hindsight.

I can’t stand it. I want to go fight with those six-year-old boys. I want to call their parents. I want to write a letter and a school-wide presentation and host a sit-in.

Seriously. What the hell? Who still believes women can’t play soccer or play with blocks?

Of course this is coming from their parents. But are they isolated cases of ignorance and small-mindedness or are there whole cultures who still believe this? There were four boys who chimed in about grrl power. There were two boys who insisted girls can’t do what boys can. Aside from knowing whose mom I need to take out for drinks and whose dads and uncles and brothers need schooling, how do we change this? Do we hope the four educated boys talk some sense into the misogynists? Do I make it my goal—instead of going back to work, finishing my books, publishing my academic articles, and learning a few foreign languages so that finishing my doctorate is a real option—to teach all of the school district that boys and girls can both do anything they work hard for? To reassure both genders that they don’t have to compete, but to recognize each other as individuals? To build teams that are gender-blind but that reach to cover the whole gamut of talents, from interpersonal skills to knowledge in hard sciences to sportsmanship to verbal acumen to creativity to mathematic excellence?

Do I need to take up the standard that the Third Wave has shrugged off because they have ten million other things to do (and because seriously with the all-or-nothing guilt, First Wavers). Do we need to have more open talks in this country about race and economics and gender and assumptions and hatred and ignorance and teaching your kids some manners when talking to a delightful school volunteer?

The teacher overheard one boy and asked me what prompted his statement about girls being less than equal. I explained. Her eyes widened. “Oh, we have a new book to read after we get back from the library,” she insisted, promising with her tone that the rest of the day would be about grrl power.

Damn skippy, I say.

26 thoughts on “Oh, HAIL no.

  1. #$%^&*(*^%$#$%^ is all I can say right now.

    Nah, I lied. WTF?? This is why I love when my two boys watch My Little Pony or want to play with my purse. They’re entitled to like what they like. Now, granted, they mostly like Legos and Transformers, but every now and then, both kids will ask for My Little Pony and totes get into it. Why would you ever pigeon hole either gender into “you’re only allowed to do XYZ”? That means you’re missing out on a world of opportunities.

    Girls can play sports. Boys can like My Little Pony. WTF world?

  2. Gaah. This kind of stuff drives me insane, but also intrigues me. My daughter has come home from preschool lately talking about some of these boy vs. girl distinctions – only boys like dinosaurs, boys can’t wear tutus, etc. Don’t even get me started on the horrors of the wannabe-princess movement among the girls. We talk it out and debunk the gender myths, but it’s always impossible to figure out exactly where she gets these ideas – definitely not from home. It’s like a hive mentality at school – one ignorant but vocal kid undoes all my hard work! And I know this is only the beginning. blerg.

    • My wonderfully enlightened cousin’s daughter once told my son he couldn’t wear red or pink because those are girl colors. I asked him if he wore red or pink. Yes. Does Dad? Yes. Does the kid’s own dad? Yes. Well, then, she’s wrong. You’ll meet a lot of wrong people. Nice people telling you wrong things. If they don’t make sense, ignore.

      Sigh. To think that red would be unavailable to him…

  3. My own son embarrassed me similarly last year at the fire department’s open house. He was going through a period of trying to figure out why girls and boys are different, and was prone to saying, “Only boys do X” and “Only girls do Y.” Mostly stuff like, “Only boys drive tractors.” No, son. Plenty of women drive tractors. Including your own great-grandmother. Anyway. We went inside the ambulance at the open house and the woman inside was showing him around. And then he announced, “Only men drive ambulances.” To which she replied, “No. I drive the ambulance.”

    At least he got to see a woman who drives one. Maybe that would correct his misconception, since obviously he doesn’t believe his own mother when she tells him something.

  4. This post gives me hope. I love you’re writing when you’re mad. It’s the best. My preschooler says shit like that. I always school her. Yes, boys can love hello kitty. Yes girls can love spiderman. Gotta love consumerism.

    • The most infuriating part is that as we erode gender differences for careers and play, the ridiculous pink/blue split seem more severe. But the childhood differences in clothes (and now LEGO) came about when the baby boomers for infants and they are the biggest enforcers of it. Because the world revolves around the baby boomers and their purchasing power, right?

  5. “Of course this is coming from their parents”? I beg to disagree… I think they are just trying things on for size. Maybe that first little boy is jealous because his sister two years younger has better fine-motor control with HIS Lego. I have two girls, and they can be just as wrong about things. I think some kids want so badly to be right, and to sometimes know more than us adults! Great response from the teacher :)

    • Most of my insistence that the boys’ parents spurred their misogyny was comedy. But in a family with feminist moms and/or dads it would be way less likely that this mask would be something to try on at this age. In high school, maybe.

      Oh yes, girls can be sooooo wrong about gender issues. Of course! Boys can’t be doctors, boys can’t dance, etc. We’ve heard that in our family, too. But such nonsense was quickly corrected. Just like that wonderful teacher tried to correct false gender boundaries later that day.

      Your point about bring right, though, is probably why her attempts fell on the same deaf ears mine did. Sigh.

  6. Just wait until some cretin calls your kid a “sand nigger.” Oh wait. That won’t happen. And because it won’t happen to your kid, it clearly won’t happen to mine. (sorry, still seething over here). I am a professional seether.

  7. A RANT! *hops up and down and clicks hooves* A RANT, really! I live for rants. Canyoutell? A-PHUCKEN-MEN sister.

    I would have smacked the boys silly with a barbie doll! Put some pink Legos in their shoes. Made them wear lipstick and pearls for a month. HARUMPH. Misogynist little shits, lemme at em! *puts up my dukes* I want to watch a women’s soccer team chase their boney little asses across the field for a pouncing. How’s the soccer ball taste now? huh, punks? The phrase “I KICK LIKE A GIRL” will haunt them forever. mwahahaha. Their day is coming.

    I’m starting to wonder who’s worse.. the boomer generation or the me generation. It’s one big shit sandwich for gen Xers. That’s another rant for another year.

    Witch, WTF?, I would have gone all dragon and spit fire. Seethe away, seethe to your hearts content. Big hugs, massively big hugs, and glitter, always.

    • Unicorns can use pink and/or blue glitter, readers, and it ain’t no bidniz of yours.

      So many rants lately, unicorn. So many. None suitable for public interwebz, you know?

      But those twerps wouldn’t even read the articles I printed and brought them to refute their ridiculous positions. Rejecting evidence? Kids these days.

  8. Wanted to click the “love” button but I guess the “like” button will have to do.

    I can’t believe that there is still this mentality out there. It is 2013 for goodness sake.

  9. I love that when my boys play with their girl cousins they play whatever they want to play. Doesn’t matter if it’s Barbies or Legos or Ponies or whatever. Guess we’ve done something right :) So glad you schooled those boys and that they’ve got a rockin’ teacher who won’t let them go to second grade without at least an understanding that girls can kick ass too!

    • Amen, sister! My boys put on tutus and dance, then build LEGOs, then look for ladybugs, then wrestle. I wouldn’t mind if they did all gender stereotyped activities as long as they don’t call them boy play and refuse to do girl play.

      Girls rock. Boys rock. And they’re all their own people who can choose activities, toys, clothes, and careers based on what they like not what’s allowed.

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