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Zer Netmouse
September 11th, 2013
10:34 am


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Her default is "she"
Some things we learn at a young age. One that I learned, and am now struggling against, is the base assumption that a character, person, stuffed animal, or generic example is male.

Rosie's isn't, you see. Some of her stuffed animals have been given male personas, but Baby bear is a female bear, and the baby bear in Goldilocks and the Three Bears became female when Rosie referred to it that way, and I thought, "Why not?"

Why not, indeed.

What surprises me is that this is a struggle for me. Rosie just got a new stuffed Pony for her Merida doll to ride (with thanks to Magnus & Fam for the gift card), and Rosie adores feeding _her_ carrots. And just this morning I had to correct myself on what pronoun I was using for the horse.

I get extra practice, though, because now I arbitrarily turn otherwise unsexed characters female when I'm reading to Rosie, and then try to be consistent whenever I read the same story. So that her storyworld can be at least half female. The big one is "Harriet and the Purple Crayon." That has a lot of pronouns. But she loves it. Purple is her favorite color, she says.

Some day she might be disappointed, once she learns to read and finds out that character was originally a boy. But hopefully by that time her default "she" will have grown solid in the back of her mind.

All my life I've hated that the "generic" or supposedly neutral term for a person was the male. "mankind" and all that. So I'm really enjoying this and will hate to see it go, if it does. Thankfully kids and YA lit now has plenty of actual female protagonists to read to her about, so... here's hoping her imagination continues to assume that nearly any type of character or animal could be a "she".

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[User Picture]
Date:September 11th, 2013 02:53 pm (UTC)
When Brit was small, her pediatricians were two female doctors who worked together in an office that was part of a bigger collection of offices. When she was 4 or 5, we had to go in on a Saturday for something or other, and on Saturdays, they rotated which office was open, and also which doctor was on staff. So on this particular Saturday, "our" office was open, but it wasn't either of our doctors who was practicing that day.

The nurse saw to her, and then we busied ourselves coloring in the room, waiting on the doctor. In walks a man, who introduces himself to her. She looks at him for a minute, looks at me, and then announces:

"You can't be a doctor. You're a BOY."

After a bit of giggling we explained that no, really, both girls AND boys could be doctors.
[User Picture]
Date:September 11th, 2013 03:09 pm (UTC)


When I was a kid, my favorite TV show was Mr. Dressup. I never noticed, the entire time, that the puppet Casey had no gender. I arbitrarily decided Casey was a boy, but I later learned that the show was very deliberate about never using gendered pronouns for Casey so kids could decide for themselves which one Casey was. Growing up in the early 80s, I probably thought that Casey was a boy just because s/he wore pants and not dresses due to my own bias. But learning about that was just SO COOL to me.

We read so many books to the kids that gender-flip the main characters of traditional stories and it seems to balance out the male-dominated stories. We point out the ridiculousness of gender roles in things like toy stores and halloween costume flyers and for the most part I think they get it.

I love that you made "Harriet and the Purple Crayon". We mostly use improv while reading stories to avoid violence and words like "stupid" but we've never thought to gender-flip. Lovely.
[User Picture]
Date:September 11th, 2013 04:01 pm (UTC)
The one that got me was when I was playing with my elder niece, when she was about 2, and she had one of the Fisher Price Little People, I think the farmer. And when she wanted to make sure she had it when we went for our walk, she said, "I need my pusson."

Because for her "person" was the default for human-shaped toys. When I was her age it was "guy." You would have your Lego guy, your Star Wars guy, whatever. And as much as I'm comfortable with "you guys" as gender neutral, "that guy" is not gender neutral in my speech or the speech of anyone I know. If you point at my mother and say, "That guy wants a piece of pie," I'm going to be confused. So it's not neutral, and while it was slightly harder for the two-year-old to enunciate "person" than "guy," it was worth it for how it balanced out things in my niece's head. For how it didn't tell her automatically that women are the marked case.
[User Picture]
Date:September 11th, 2013 04:55 pm (UTC)
While we have always read stories the way they are, characters with no genders have ended up being the gender of the child we are addressing. So Alex's baby doll was a boy baby and Jessie's baby dolls are girl babies. Alex's stuffed animals are male and Jessie's are female. Since the cultural default is male, I was more particular about bringing in female pronouns where there was no reason to favor one or the other, but at this point (they are 8 (today!) and almost 10) it is as natural as it used to be to make everything male.

The generic term "you guys" took some work. I detest it. My daughter is not a "guy." I do not refer to my children collectively as "you guys," except occasionally by accident, and even then, I hear myself say it and ALWAYS immediately correct myself and follow it with another call. I generally refer to them as "IJ kids," as in "IJ kids... time to go!" or whatever. At least at home, I will give my daughter the respect of being female, and my son the example of honoring his sister's gender.
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