Family / Kids

Toddler-driven classification systems

I rarely ever Kalgoorlie cross-post a piece from my personal blog, but today I am making an exception.  On the one hand, I am having many proud parenting moments when my daughter questions people’s anatomy.  On the other hand, I am at a complete loss to help her respond to gender norming and gender shaming in terms a two-year-old can understand. Read on …

800px-Big_Day_Out_stalls,_Cambridge,_July_2010_(03)The thing about toddlers is that they live to classify stuff.  Is it a truck?  A car?  A van?  An SUV?  A pickup truck?  A bus?  My daughter could go on for hours!

Of course, this is also the age where kids start to figure out girl vs. boy.  In our neighborhood, somehow, Little Elephant is the only girl toddler.  Lots of boys, but just one girl.  We have always encouraged her to do what all the others do and refused to repeat stereotypes about “girls should” and “boys should.”  Admittedly, I can’t really say that our Albanian nanny does the same.

Recently, Little a Elephant has started to ask who has a penis and who has a vulva.  (Side note: I personally love that she has never asked who is a girl and who is a boy.)  It is turning out to be difficult as she sees few people naked (clearly I am doing something right).  We have explained that anatomical parts are generally the definition for boy and girl.  But that pretty much everything else is fair game.  Still, I struggle with (well, she struggles with) non-absolutes.  Why does having a penis not always make you a boy?  Why does having a vulva not always make you a girl?  Why can’t you have both?  Why do some of her dolls have none?

She usually lets go of the anatomical connection to gender pretty quickly.  However, the gender norming and gender shaming she can’t wrap her head around.  When told by her nanny (again! sigh!) that cars are for boys, she simply laughed, responding “that’s silly!”

And she is right.



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