The Gender Paradox
Updated: Apr 2
A few summers ago on a walk with my parents, my son found a worm. “I will name it! Hello, ‘Great Falls’”
As they continued down the dirt road that ran along the shoreline, they ran into a set of neighbors. Turner told them all he knew about worms and introduced them to his worm named ‘Great Falls’.
He had just turned three.
My folks run into these same neighbors often on their daily walks, and these sweet people still remember Turner and ‘Great Falls’, the worm.
My son has always been Precocious.
Our lives are filled with these stories. Everyone who talks to him notices his uniquely strong verbal acuity and his active imagination.
As soon as he opens his mouth, hearts melt.
Lately I have been noticing a deeply unfair paradox.
Our 2nd born is Nia.
Nia loves to laugh, loves to fight. She loves to cuddle, loves dance. She is a very physical person. She is the opposite of her brother in almost every way.
Turner is just like his mama, sensitive and careful.
Nia is just like her daddy, a warrior spirit.
Turner experiences the world through feeling everything.
Nia experiences the world through challenging everything.
This last summer, Nia spent the afternoon with my dad. They returned from their outing and my dad was glowing and kept chuckling to himself.
“Its funny, when I walk into a store with her the world stops.” he reported, “ Usually I am just an invisible old hippy, but with her, everybody sees us. We get so much attention.”
I have noticed the same effect when out shopping with Nia, and so has her dad.
As soon as she walks into a room, hearts melt.
Every parent wants their child to be seen. Every parent wants their child to be, dare I say it, popular.
Here is the BIG problem. Here is the paradox that haunts me.
My son is noticed for being smart. My daughter is noticed for being cute.
This is unfair for both my children.
This is unfair to my family.
This is unfair to society.
My daughter’s worth is so much more than her blond hair and blue eyes. She is worth so much more than her smile and her skirt. But people gush before they know that. Slowly she has started to learn that her worth is as a decorative object. The message reinforced is that it does not matter if she is funny or smart or strong, because she “sure is cute.”
My son’s worth is so much more than his precocious antidotes, his extensive knowledge of science. He has learned that he must prove himself by being funny or smart or strong. The message reinforces is that worth is not based on his just being, because he “sure is smart.”
These messages are detrimental to all people, big or small. Male or female. But given the temperaments of my children, these gender stereotypes are especially at odds with their personalities.
Turner, being the feeler that he is, should not have to prove himself. He needs to know that he is a divine being of light and love just because he is.
Nia has these instincts already (and she will fight anyone who says otherwise). What I wish for her is that she knows the importance of deep and compassionate connection with others, through humor, intellect and empowerment.
And don’t ALL children deserve to be gushed over and told they are beautiful people?
Don’t ALL children deserve to be heard?
Don’t ALL of us?