My eldest daughter often comes out with statements like “I like boys”, and “I don’t like girls”, and “all my friends are boys”. She’s three for reference. There is very little if any internalized (or otherwise) misogyny in our house, and she loves princesses and mermaids and skirts and shoes and other traditionally girly pursuits so I’ve been trying to figure out where this attitude comes from. I was hesitant at first to go down the pink and purple rabbit hole of having a girl, and honestly I still drag my feet on some designs and accoutrements, but I do accommodate her desire for pretty things. Seems a little early to be feeling down on the female gender.
We had some struggle initially, thanks to the failure of children’s book writers, getting her to understand that she was a girl and not a boy, but she seems happy to be a girl now. She also likes having a sister, and has requested that any future babies also be sisters (though she wants them to be black, as in the colour, not the colloquial term for racial characteristics, so who knows). It’s not coming from home, so this has to be coming from daycare. I have also noticed that other little girls at daycare are interested in her, greeting her and wanting to play with her, but when she talks about other kids at daycare, she talks about the boys. I think that it’s simply that the things she likes to do are the things that some of the boys like to do as well. The girls have impressed on her that bugs are yucky so she gamely tries out screams at the sight of them (but she likes bugs, and snakes and spiders), but the boys have no such compunctions. Similarly she likes rough and outside play within reason. The other girls do not seem to, so again, the boys are her natural companions.
On the other hand, she’s also bossy. I guess for maximum female empowerment you are supposed to say that girls are good leaders rather than bossy, but no. She’s just bossy. She orders people around and doesn’t take kindly to people not doing what she wants. She rarely asks why about anything. Instead she decides how things are going to go, or how she thinks they should go and informs you of this. Bossy, see? Perhaps that’s why she prefers boys over girls. Who knows, perhaps the boys submit to her orders and the girls argue back. Hence: I like boys.
She’s also an extrovert in a house with two introverted parents. Bad luck, eh? Well, I guess. I mean she is really bad about entertaining herself and desperately does not like to do things alone. Even Thing 2 is more of an introvert than Thing 1. So instigator of activities, bossy, requires constant social interaction, physically active. We were only half-joking when we thought she might grow up to do something totally unrelatable to us like human resources, or corporate team builder. It’s going to be rough for her I think. Possibly just because I’m not telling her what she should like, but I see the parents of other girls determining what their daughters like. In some ways because the ways she is and the activities she likes are unrelatable for me.
All this consternates me. I feel like she’s going to have a hard time because of just existing as a girl. Though I think I would think that no matter what type of girl she was. I remember intensely disliking being a girl, but I was seven or eight and had already been bluntly encountering anti-girl sentiment and I remember feeling how intensely unfair it was to be a girl. How I would much rather be a boy because they could do anything and I couldn’t do what I wanted to do. I want her to know that there’s as many ways of being a girl as there are girls and not grow up thinking she is different/better than the other girls because she doesn’t conform to some female ideal. My husband is often frustrated at traditional male pursuits, and feels like he doesn’t belong to the boys club as he doesn’t know about sports or cars and wasn’t taught to throw or catch a ball. I never felt like I fit in as a girl, not being thin, or looking right, or wanting to do the right things. For me my troubles with girlhood were more external or appearance based, but for her I worry that they will be more internal. So she can get along until she has to struggle with herself about what she thinks and believes.
I sort of feel because I’m purposefully leaving things open-ended for her that things are going to be harder figuring things out as she goes, rather than at some unspecified point later. I think it upsets me that now that I sort of have this whole being a female thing sort of figured out, knowing what is mostly bullshit, and what is useful, that I’m unsure how much, if any, of what I know and can teach her will be useful to the kind of girl she will be. Seriously though, it’s likely that no matter what it’s just hard. Being human can be tough.