Saturday, September 20

Cultural Fights

In a list I belong to, the topic about culturally-defined gender preferences came up. While most parents are all gun-ho about stomping the socio-cultural influence on our kids, I’m a little more relaxed about it - from a parenting point of view. This was my response to one member who first brought forth this other pov.

When I was young(er) I butted heads with almost everyone. I was very unconventional and was very anti-anything that forced me to think or act
according to someone else’s ideas. While I’m still unconventional, and retain the stance that I will not be told what to think, I have mellowed out a lot. That is, I no longer see it as beneficial (culturally, mentally, emotionally, spiritually) to meet the world as if it is an enemy.
Yes, I am not content with how women/girls are portrayed in the media, or how labels are forced down children’s throats, or how we hold on to so many behaviours, attitudes and ideas that are really more banal than anything else. However, I AM still a part of this society/culture, and my child will be too (despite living up a mountain and home educating, etc).
I don’t want to raise a child that meets society with anger and suspicion. If my little girl decides one day that blue is for boys, I will share with her my thoughts on that. Yet if she chooses to retain that belief, I feel that it is her right to do so, but also that it isn’t a big enough deal to make it into an issue.

When my mum-in-law picked up a pair of Barbie shoes for my DD, I took the opportunity to kindly let her know that no Barbie or character merchandise would enter our home while I had a say in it. I detest Barbie! HOWEVER, if one day my DD wants one, I refuse to make it an issue, although I will share in her playing, keep an eye out for stereotyping, and use appropriate and gentle opportunities to discuss body image if I felt my daughter was interested.
Many parental experts suggest that we ‘pick our battles’ with our kids, well, I feel it is the same for society/culture. It seems to me that some parents get very hung up on the cultural issues, forgetting that, the fact that they are creating issues is an
issue! lol That is, they are imparting an attitude that may be more harmful than
a colour or doll.
If we feel anxiety because of a belief our child shares, surely that has an effect. Possibly a harmful one that the actual belief itself may never have had.
If my DD says that blue is for boys, I can choose to feel anxiety and make it into a lecture about how it’s for everyone. Or, I can choose to find it developmentally interesting, make a quick comment, and then allow my DD to keep it. Because perhaps the belief is a small way forher to make sense of her world, for now. It needn’t be a life-longbelief. If today wearing blue makes her unhappy, for me it’s moreimportant to allow her the comfort of not wearing it.
Isn’t bringing up a strong, happy, confident child, whilst they are so young, more important than individual issues?

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