Tag Archives: girls

What gender lines?

A couple months ago, J Crew touched a nerve among conservatives everywhere with an emailed ad that showed a 5 year old boy having his toenails painted pink by his mother. It even inspired an article by the Culture and Media Institute titled “JCrew Pushes Transgendered Child Propoganda”. Last November, the blog Nerdy Apple Bottom became an overnight sensation as she relayed the story of her son who decided to wear a girl costume for Halloween, the parents who were appalled by the decision, and the school that finally told her it would be best if she just left.  And Mom Author Cheryl Kilodavis chronicled the life of her young son who loved to wear jewelry, sparkles, and anything pink by writing the children’s story book “My Princess Boy” – a tale about a 4 year old boy who loved things that are traditionally girly, and the teasing he endured because of it. In doing so, she not only taught others about acceptance and awareness, she also helped many other families come out with their young sons who leaned more towards dresses and make-up than trucks and war games. And she inspired a rampant debate about the appropriateness of little boys dressing as little girls. Even the Jolie-Pitt clan have unconsciously sparked a revolution on “gender-neutral” parenting when consistent photos of their ultra tomboy daughter Shiloh emerged, and the proud parents stated that Shiloh would rather be a boy than a girl – and that is was more than ok with them.

A J Crew ad sparked debate over gender lines being crossed, and is only one example of the diminishing lines concerning some parents

The truth is, while it appears the majority of the population doesn’t even bat an eye when it comes to boys who want to “act like girls”, or girls who want to “act like boys” (especially here in California), there are still many who are very uncomfortable with the idea of gender lines being virtually erased. The schools are no exception. Kids, who are used to a certain mold for people to fit into, might not be so easily accepting of those who are different from them. This includes boys who want to dress like girls, or girls who would rather play with boys, and other behaviors that blur those gender lines – and could get them seriously hurt by someone wishing to teach them a lesson about what’s considered “normal”.

This is what caused an Oakland school to take on a very unique lesson in the classroom to teach about differences in others – specifically about gender characteristics and how it differs in everyone.

Were you aware of animals that can actually change their gender when it proves to be more convenient? How about the fact that some genders of animals actually take on the characteristics of the opposite gender? Redwood Heights Elementary School in Oakland has pioneered a program developed by Gender Spectrum. Using the animal kingdom, as well as a discussion about colors, clothes, toys, and other things that might be dedicated to only boys or only girls, the school is giving lessons in gender identity and expression – and hoping to tackle stereotypes and prejudices. The underlying lesson stressed is that “color is color”, “toys are toys”, and “activities are activities”. This program was introduced at the kindergarten level to help quash future bullying, as well as to help students thrive in an environment they may have been teased in otherwise.

However, some parents are voicing their concern over this, stating that this program is actually creating gender confusion, and even that these lessons are something that should be taught at home – not at school. And many of these parents were outraged that, while sex education requires a permission slip from parents, their children were being taught about these kinds of differences without any kind of permission needed. The Pacific Justice Institute (a law firm that specializes in the defense of religious freedom, parental rights, and other civil liberties) even encouraged parents to keep their kids home on the days these lessons would be taking place in an article they placed on their site, warning that the program was teaching that there are more than two genders, and that the teachings are not in line with the values of most Oakland families. While the school maintains that there are no lessons being given in sexual orientation, it’s insinuated by those opposing that introducing topics of boys wearing girls clothing or playing with dolls appears borderline on discussing transgendered individuals – and moving into topics of homosexuality.

On that note, have you heard about what’s going on over in Tennessee?  Students and teachers are prohibited from talking about homosexuality from kindergarten to 8th grade. Dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, legislators claim that since homosexual unions don’t naturally reproduce children, it’s an inappropriate topic for the classroom and should only be discussed at the family’s discretion. And while I can see that topics on any kind of sexual activity might not be a discussion to introduce to a kindergartener, I still find this rather disturbing. What of the 6 year old who has gay parents? What kind of message is this sending to them if they are not allowed to talk about the fact that they have two mommies or two daddies? What about the 7th grader who knows that it’s unsafe to come to their parents about their curiosity or knowledge that they are in fact gay, and are being told they can’t go to their teacher either?

And what kind of lesson are we giving to kindergarteners when we aren’t teaching them tolerance – that some boys like to wear dresses, that some girls like to cut their hair really short, that boys in ads wearing toenail polish is actually ok? When this world is built on diversity, when we’re doing our damndest to tackle the rising epidemic of bullying that is plaguing our schools, when it’s a major concern that there are students who have killed themselves because of the natural differences that lie inside them – why would any parent fight a program that teaches acceptance of those that are different than you…or that it really is ok to not be cut from the same mold as everyone else.

When did teaching about tolerance become wrong?

Thank god parents like Apple Nerdy Bottom, the mom of the “Princess Boy”, and the mom of the pink toenail polish wearing kid exist – so that they can put the message out there that being unique and unwilling to live by everyone else’s standards isn’t so uncommon after all.  Perhaps lessons like the ones being taught at Oakland’s Redwood Heights Elementary School will be deemed normal one day, as well.

Going on a Girl Date

“I’m thinking you and I should catch a mom’s night out at some point…we seem to have a lot in common.”

It was the text I received from the mom of one of my son’s friends. I had known her for a little over a year, and it was true, we did have a lot in common. I had been thinking the same thing about her as well, how we seemed to be a perfect match for friendship. But I didn’t know how to broach the subject. I’m shy when it comes to friendships.

Yes, me – shy.

Truth is, it’s easy to sit behind a computer screen and spill my life secrets for everyone to read and dissect (and, as some of you may have noticed, been at the mercy of a few trolls….). I’m not actually looking at you when I type. And therefore, I can pretend that what I’m writing is merely a long letter to none other than ME. But it’s nerve wracking to be face to face with someone else, offering more of myself than common pleasantries. You will not see me hosting any huge awards night (I’d be much more James Franco than Anne Hathaway). You won’t see me throwing the party of the century. And in social situations, I am more likely to see how the food is holding up than looking someone in the eye and casually gabbing about the latest and greatest in my life. For someone who has a lot to say in typed word, I have nothing to say in person. So obviously, making friends is not my forte.

And making friends with girls, even more intimidating.

I think it stems from my school days. I was not the most popular, but I definitely had friends in elementary. Of course, elementary is easy. In those grades, everyone is friends. If someone gets mad over something, it’s forgotten by the next day. It doesn’t matter if you’re overweight, if you don’t own the most expensive clothing, or how your hair is cut. Your classmates are the very people you grow up with. But it all changes in Jr. High, sometimes a little before. Girls I had been friends with suddenly sectioned off into an elite group, and me and my chubby self were not allowed. Of course it hurt, though I pretended it didn’t. I hung out with a much smaller group of girls and made different friends. But the awkward shame of being outcasted by the very people I loved as my friends hurt me to the core.

In high school I finally had a redeeming moment. At a football game, a girl I had been friends with in our younger days got into conversation with me. She had surpassed the Jr. High social mountain, climbing her way to the top thanks to her beauty and parents’ wealth. And here she was laughing at all my wisecracks, a defense mechanism I had perfected in my nerdiness.

“Why haven’t we been hanging out?” she asked me. And we planned a sleepover that very night in her elaborate castle of a home. We spent the night giggling and gossiping, and the morning making crepes in her huge kitchen. And the Monday after the weekend, I ditched my usual friends and meandered over to the group she hung out with, quietly hanging on the outside of the circle. She waved to me, and I smiled, making my way closer to her. But my presence didn’t go totally unnoticed.

“What is SHE doing here?” one girl hissed, sneering at me through narrowed eyes. And my new friend smiled apologetically as I sheepishly exited the group and went back to where I belonged, wondering what the hell I was thinking in the first place.

Why are girl friendships so hard? My 7th grade daughter is discovering the perils of girl friendships in her first year of Jr. High, suffering at the hands of some mean-spirited cattiness. Veronica, the P360 mommy blogger at “Adventures in Mommyhood” describes her own conflicts with girl friendships, as well as her fears for her own three girls, in a recent blog titled Mean Girls. On the Santa Rosa Mom boards, moms have lamented over friendship loss that occurs when babies are born. And as I sat over lunch with my new friend, she also described the loss that happened when she started having children, noticing that her friends were disappearing one by one, and how making and keeping friendships with girls now seemed harder than ever.

And in this new friend, I suddenly saw a fellow sister – someone who was describing what I have gone through, and what many women were experiencing all over the place.  Trust issues, shyness, friendship loss, and the phobias that enter each time a friend abandons us – leaving us to check out the food table rather than meet new people.

I’m happy to say that our Girl Date was fabulously successful.  We started out shyly, but warmed up to be true pals by the end. She’s even called my back so we can go out again.  I think this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Have you experienced difficulties in friendships with girls?