on how gender-stereotypes can damage our children

 

 

we are sitting around the fire, pronging hot-dogs and smokies and children licking mustard from fingers and the smoke curling like an exotic dancer. we hear the coyotes strike up a chorus across the road in a forest blazing with autumn color and we all pause a moment to listen.

our neighbors are over, with their three children and their youngest, kasher’s age. he is chewing a cob of corn, his hair the color of the tassles, and us commenting on how big he is.

“but that’s okay,” says trent. “because he’s a boy.”

i stop mid-mouthful, a meal i wouldn’t have eaten 10 years ago for fear of gaining weight, and i say, “it’s okay if he’s a girl too. if he was a girl, and she was big-boned, that would be okay because that would be how God made her.”

we are silent as the smoke dances and the sisters chew their hot dogs and their mother nods with me. “that’s right,” she says. “i catch myself saying that too, that it’s okay because he’s a boy, but that’s not right…”

“i know, i’ve done it too,” i say. “it’s part of our culture, that if boys are big, it’s okay, but girls need to be petite, and it’s what breeds eating disorders.”

i have to force down the rest of my meal because i’m remembering me as a seven year old girl, and the neighbor who came over to visit and commented on “what a big girl” i was, and just by her tone, i had known it wasn’t good. i had known i’d failed somehow.

but i hadn’t. society had. (has.) with its fast food restaurants and size zero models and we need to re-evaluate how we define beauty. is it measured by the airbrushed dimensions of a fashion magazine, or is it innate in the sinews, in the laughter lines, in the curves of the miracle of flesh that is our child?

do we subconsciously feed our girls less, for fear of them being fat, or do we trust them to know when they’re hungry and full? do we teach shame, or pride? the good kind of pride, the kind that says i’m a daughter of a heavenly father, and i have no reason to be afraid of what man can do to me. because i’m loved.

we’re sitting around the fire and the girls are done their plates and going back for seconds, and the boys are jumping on the trampoline and there’s a lot of color, here, with autumn all around us, and in us. the falling away of old thinking and the dawn of a new kind: a kind that is careful and pure and holy, a kind that teaches an intrinsic sort of value, one that cannot be found in the mirror.

because our children need to know just ONE thing: that they are perfect. just the way they are.

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One thought on “on how gender-stereotypes can damage our children

  1. I agree. I think it is sad how parents do not know what messages they are unconsciously giving their kids. It worries me when I think of what possible negative messages I will give to my own children in the future. It really just takes one comment…. to realize how you have failed society.

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