Before I had children, I believed that gender was a construction and that the ways in which boys and girls relate to the world, design their play, react to stimuli, and spend their growth energies had more to do with nurture than nature.

Boys, I knew, could play with dolls and nurture just as girls could play with trucks and be rough and loud and scatalogically amused. These are equally true of men and women.

My first son bore out this hypothesis, adoring ladybugs and glitter, talking incessantly, and nursing his dolls.

My second son tends toward trucks, physical over verbal games, and enjoys rough play way more than I ever thought possible.

They both like pink, dancing, and music, though. So we spend a fair number of hours leaping around the living room. For science.


Yesterday both boys had earned new ballet slippers (by growing, not by any particular behavior; I’m trying not to base our family’s existence around rewards and discipline) and put on their leotards for a dance party. After I helped the little guy into his, I went to the kitchen to get something and heard:

“Now that you have your leotard on, try to hit me.”

I reminded everyone that dancing in our house means hands to yourself. (I’m thinking very clearly with every parenting choice about the rules we’ll have in high school, so dancing with hands to yourself starts now, with your brother. Otherwise, Kevin Bacon wins.)

“Okay okay, okay,” my oldest reassured me.
“Butter. Use your ballet slippers to try to kick me.”

I’ve spent a lot of time during my life with a lot of ballerinas, from tiny rec center trainees to honest-to-goodness professional metropolitan company members. And I have heard a lot of sentences begin with “Now that you have your leotard on…” and “Use your ballet slippers to try to…” but these particular hitting and kicking constructions are new to me.

Let me note the obvious caveat about sample size and repeatability of results. None of this is enough for an actual hypothesis yet.

But the evidence is leaning me toward a “ballerinos are an entirely different group of artists” theory.

Awesome children’s books

After reading this AP story on gender-biased children’s stories, and after hearing a compelling feminist reading of the Berenstein Bears books at the Southwestern Popular Culture Association conference a few months ago, I’ve redoubled my efforts to find rocking children’s books. (I’ve already posted about how, in our house Ming Lo’s wife has a name, not just “Ming Lo’s wife” and dads appear in stories that are only written about child and mum.)

One new title in our library, after hearing friends’ laments about princess bullshit and distress over the Barbie dilemma, is The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch. The short version? Princess rescues the prince, and when he criticizes the paper bag she had to wear to get there, she heads into the sunset without him.

Between thid princess and finishing Flux, which reminded me that, though Spouse and I negotiated roles before¬† getting married and before having Peanut, we need to revisit the discussion to readjust the “default” setting of mom doing everything related to anything. So I’m going to hand off all the domestic duties to Spouse (haven’t told him that yet) because I’m trying to raise a feminist, and that can only happen if I do more of my freelance work and less housekeeping. (You may TOTALLY borrow that justification for yourself. It’s genuinely why I’m slacking on housework [starting now; before this I was trying desperately to do a decent job because of social expectations] but intentional transition of work avoids being shirking and will teach the whole family a lesson *only* if Spouse actually picks up the slack.¬† Otherwise we just become a penicillin experminent gone awry. I’ll keep you posted.)