On “Studio 10” this morning, they were talking about an article “Don’t call my daughter a tomboy” – Meredith Hale, January 17, 2016). She was lamenting how her 8 – year – old girl called herself a “tomboy” because she liked sports and science. Now, when I was growing up, girls played sports. The difference, and what’s changing more, was the types of sports that boys and girls generally played. In Winter, girls played netball, while boys did football (Aussie Rules, where I am), while girls played netball. In Summer, boys played cricket, while girls did tennis and swimming (both boys and girls did tennis. It was the only one that I can think of in the Summer where both genders played). Now, more and more sports, including AFL and cricket has become less gender – oriented and more girls, for example, are openly talking about playing cricket and football.
So, yes, women and girls play sports and always have (well, except maybe Ancient Greece). In terms of gendered toys and school items, according to an episode of ABC’s “The Checkout”, much of it is marketing. According to a small sample study they did, the “feminine products”, (deodorants. razors, etc) generally costed more. Toys, probably for marketing purposes as well, have always been gendered, including when I was a kid. Generally, anything to do with dolls, princesses and fairy-tales were aimed at girls, where as cars, trucks, trains, Lego, etc, were aimed, primarily at boys. It was just the way it was. But, of course that doesn’t mean boys can’t play with dolls and girls can’t play with Thomas the Tank Engine!
I’ll be frank, something concerned me about the article itself. To be bluntly honest, I think Hale ended up promoting what she said she found so loathsome:
Of course my daughter’s a person. But she’s also a girl. And like it or not, girls reach a certain point where they become young women. I remember those awkward adolescent years, when I began worrying about appearance, and fitting in, and, of course, boys. I wanted people (boys) to see me as a girl. I wanted to be feminine – even if I wasn’t yet sure what that meant exactly.
Call me over – analytical, call me politically correct, but the parts of the quote I highlighted above is what I have a bit of a problem with. So, Hale grew up with wanting boys to notice her? What about those who don’t? What if her daughter never has a boyfriend (or even shows an interest), in high school? Now, this may be for a number of reasons, not because she’s gay or anything, but what about those girls who are not interested, whether it’s because of being gay, or being a (non – hetero – romantic) asexual? What if she likes both? Or none? What if it turns out that she’s just hetero – romantic?
Secondly, what about if her gender expression (not necessarily identity) changes? What if she becomes a teenager or young adult and doesn’t give a stuff about make – up, dresses, etc because she just doesn’t find them comfortable? Will she still be “feminine” enough?
I’m not saying that Hale will love her daughter any less if any of what I wrote above comes true (she is only eight, after all). My argument was, why don’t we drop gender stereotypes all together, for all ages, so that ALL women, regardless of who they are, can be included? Aside from that, I say let her be a kid. Whatever happens, happens. And let’s stop the gender stereotyping for all ages, shall we?