In Depth or in Distraction > Rainbow Families

My 5 yo son laughed at / called a girl for picking daisies. Advice pls

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angel_on_top:
Tonight my 5 year old, who is in reception, came home from school and told me that his friends were laughing at him and making fun of him. When I asked why he said it was because he was picking flowers (daisies) and they were telling him 'he was a girl'. It was a group of boys AND girls doing it.

On the one hand, I shouldn't be surprised. Misogny and gender stereotypes have changed little in society, not when you dig beneath the surface anyway. But I'm still furious and incensed. I did the whole 'there's no such thing as boys things / girls things, flowers are just flowers etc'. But then I also said that the children were ignorant, as indeed their parents probably were too. I told him that if they say it again then to tell them they are ignorant and walk away. He then said he'd tell their mummies that they were ignorant, but I advised that might not be such a good thing  ;D

I know that this is the tip of the iceberg and there will be many more situations like this ahead of us, but I am still incensed. Should I talk to his teacher? And / or the head? Is the telling his 'friends' they are ignorant the right tactic? Have any of you encountered similar and how have you dealt with it?

Thanks

Artist:
As they are 5 I wouldn't worry too much. They tease each other for anything and they forget it quickly.
But depends how they are directed.
But then there are going to be people like bullies and misogynists but we can't change how other families function, what is their wisdom, rules, norms and so on. What we can do is put our own boundaries and stay authentic.  We can say to other children when they come to playdate what is not allowed in our house, what doesn't work for us.  And at school  your son can say that everybody can pick flowers and that they did it before and to stop being mean. He can call their behaviour mean or naughty to point them their behaviour and how they mistreat him. If that teasing escalates then he should inform teacher. I wouldn't use ignorant because that is labeling them not their behaviour and it is offensive.

nic:
i just had an evening full of talking about gender and stereo types with 3 7-8 year old girls -
there are a few girls in my daughter's class including her who dont wear skirts or dresses but trousers and shorts exclusively - mine also wears jackets she picks up from the boys area in shops -.... some of her friends are very girly - there is teasing in the play ground and today they were not happy about it  we talked about strategies of walking away but also talking to the class teacher about it and how to persude others that it is ok to be themselves - and not judge others - they are quiet clever in the way they know so much about each other.

my tip is keep talking about it - it will come up more and more as the seperation between boys and girls starts - we talk about little people rather than constantly name them boy or girl - one girl said today that she loves coming here because the toys are more exciting, basically we have soooo much lego and she has barely any because the parents both thought she would not be interested in it - infact she builds amazing stuff
i am just glad they talk to me about all this stuff - at least i know whats going on and we can talk about ways to deal with it - it can be frustrating at times because when you see the parents then you know exactly were it all comes from - but you just have to keep an open mind with them and not judge but advise and discuss their feelings

good luck

Sherpa:
That's sad Angel on Top, hope your son hasn't been OK at school since?

We've had this quite a bit with my daughter - being told that things she liked were for boys. She's quite girly in her dress but also sporty - a fast runner and good climber. We actually used the joke that I'd seen circulated on facebook - how to tell if a toy/activity is for a boy or a girl - do you need a willy/vulva to do it? (the original is followed by the fact that if you do it's probably not suitable for children, but we didn't get into that). She really liked is as it's rude, of course.

I also showed her the video of that girl complaining in Tesco about the girls and boys clothes and their slogans. Now when we go clothes shopping she asks for a pens so that she can "correct" the labels - luckily she decided that just moving the clothes to different sections was a better idea! We've had discussions about unfairness - the "suffragette oak" is just outside her school gate - and  the school is pretty good about not judging people/excluding people because of being different , and basically pigeon-holing people. Of course, she's also had this with some people not understanding that she can have two mummies/two women can be married. So I guess she's already coming from a place of understanding that just because someone says it it doesn't mean that they're right.

Of course, one issue in all of this is that for girls, doing something male-identified may be transgressive but it can be in positive, powerful, whereas for a boy, it's generally belittled and much less accepted. Which of course says soooo much about society's attitudes to girls, but is particularly restrictive for boys.

animalnitrate:
This makes me sad. I hope your son is feeling ok, and still confident to do what he wants rather than what narrow-minded people think he ought to do.

I would talk to the teacher I think - not in the spirit of 'I want these children Spoken To', but with the hope of some sort of low-key whole class anti-sexism work. Because frankly this isn't just about your child, it's about the pernicious context these insults exist in - as Sherpa says, the implication that "girl things" are lesser and to be mocked.

My (also 5yo, sparkly long-haired theatrical) son likes logic, so we tend to talk through the lack of reasoning underlying people's weird gender rules. Help him feel able to dismiss them as silly and wrong, which they are. Counter example is also good, and there are usually plenty around although sometimes you need to look for them - in your example I'm imagining distinguished male horticulturalists and so on! We talk about how pink has previously been considered a boy colour, things like that.
Ignorant is possibly not the word I'd use (I encourage 'silly' and 'wrong' mostly), but that's partly just because I don't think it's a word J really gets and so for him it would be less impactful - yours may be altogether different. Also though J can be a bit prone to fits of smug superiority about what he knows (like his mother...) and so i'm also trying not to encourage that. "Well, some people do think that, but I don't agree with them. It was unkind of them to say something hurtful to you."

Because I am nothing if not over-earnest and thorough, I also do quite a lot of acknowledgment of sŤxism generally - he gets the suffragette story every time we go to the polling station and so on, we've talked about inheritance traditions which privilege sons etc. So hopefully at some point all of this will mesh together into a vaguely coherent understanding of sexism and how it harms us all. I have to be honest - he takes great outrage at the idea of women not being able to vote, or being paid less than men for the same work, and so on, but he is mainly motivated by his own self-interest and being able to defend his right to dress up as a princess etc. He seems to be hanging in there robustly so far, but he is a stubborn bugger who marches resolutely to his own tune - I imagine it must feel that much more fragile for children who are more concerned to fit in.

Ramble ramble blah. I think a boy who can shrug off sexist expectations is a wonderful thing.

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