Let’s talk about sex. Well not that kind of sex but the sexes – male and female. Let me start with the short back story.
My son, who just recently turned two, watches very little tv, not because I’m the kind of parent who is trying to keep him away from the big bad evil entertainment box that babysits but because he doesn’t care much for tv and loves instead to run around, kick balls, and play with his toys. That said, I do have PBS Kids or Disney on in the background often but it’s more just for background.
So the other day I was at a friend’s house who has a son and daughter. The son is going on four years old and the daughter is not even a year yet. When my friend was going through one of the streaming services there popped up Disney’s Sofia the First. If you’re not familiar, it’s a cartoon where the lead is a young girl who was once a villager but now a royal princess who goes on adventures and often she, or those around her, learn important life lessons from such adventures.
When my son saw Sofia on our friend’s tv he said, “Princess Sofia! Princess Sofia!” My friend who’s a mom said, “I hope [my son] will share the tv and let [his sister] watch things like Sofia when she eventually wants to.” I didn’t think much of it at the time and all continued on as normal.
However, the next morning my son was playing in the living room and Sofia the First came on. For a split second I had the thought, “Maybe I should put something else on.” But then something kicked in and told me to shut the hell up and leave it on. All of a sudden I was seeing this cartoon in a different light. Instead of seeing it as a main character who goes on adventures learning important life lessons I saw it as a girl who was a role model for other girls. But fuck that!
Why do I think that? Because she’s a princess? Well so is Princess Leia and she’s more badass than anyone I know in real life, man or woman. Would I keep him from watching The Princess Bride because it’s about a princess? NO WAY IN HELL! That’s one of the greatest movies ever!
So what was it that made me want to change it? It was a small voice in my head that thought about other boys who would make fun of him in the future if he still liked Princess Sofia because they’ve been taught that it’s a cartoon for girls. It was the potential of another parent saying something innocent in front of him that could make him feel insecure that he watched things like Princess Sofia.
Sure, Disney and other company’s purposefully create characters to market to specific genders but does that mean we as parents have to make it an either/or scenario? Either a girl watches this specific cartoon or a boy watches it and he’s made fun of. Either only girls can like princesses or a boy who does is a sissy. What if my son likes Sofia because she’s nice and welcoming? What if he likes her because she’s like the sister he doesn’t have? What if he’s crushing on her? All of those things are more manly than any boy who hides his feelings in fear of being judged, if you ask me.
I myself played with my sister’s barbies (albeit throwing them in the tree to get them stuck so I could climb and rescue them) but I was always afraid a neighbor kid would see me and make fun of me. I would listen to pop artists like Madonna but was afraid someone at school would know I liked her (and even found her kinda hot). I even let my sister dress me up, when I was very young, because I loved to spend time with her, but was always afraid when I got older that a friend of mine would find out. And then something profound happened when I was in my high school years, a friend died in a car crash, and I realized life is too short to give a shit about what anyone else thought.
So that takes me to the title of this article? Are we making our kids sexist? As much as I hate to say it, I think we are. Even in a time where we are trying to have voices of equality heard louder than ever, I still think we are the pot calling the kettle black and if we’re not more careful we’re going to create the problems in this world rather than raise our kids to be the solutions.
In the words of the wise Louis C.K, “I’m not raising children, I’m raising the adults they’re going to be.”
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