Girly Arms & Other Insults

5 years ago

My friend is the mother of two beautiful, bright, creative boys.
And she is a great mom (and friend).

But the other day she insulted my daughter.
Unintentionally, of course.
(this isn't about what she said, but the important issue that was raised, 
so please don't read this as a criticism of another mom... just a learning moment for us both!).

My daughter and her son were in swimming lessons together.
The kids were working on swimming the front crawl
from one end of the pool to the other.
My daughter got there 1/2 a length ahead of the 2 boys in her class.
My friend called out to her son to improve his arm movements, ending with
"No more of those girly arms!".

And that struck a nerve.


"Excuse me? He wishes he had 'girly arms'!  The girl just kicked his BUTT!"

It is so easy to throw out gender based insults for our children, and I know that it goes both ways.
This was just a perfect example of how readily we give our children
the impression that the other gender is inferior...
weaker, slower, messier, whatever....

The problem is that we communicate to them that it is undesirable to be like the other...
distracted or messy or loud like a boy....
weak or cautious or bossy like a girl....
as if those qualities were somehow connected to one's gender.

Or we use these insults to control the behaviour of our children,
to herd them into acceptable gender territory.

I doubt most of us would tell our daughter's
not to climb a tree, because it isn't ladylike.
And I hope we resist the urge
to prevent our sons from picking up and cuddling a dolly.
But when we tell a boy not to demonstrate 'girly arms' 
we are telling him that being a girl,
or like a girl is something shameful and weak.

Iggy Pop, photo snagged from 7Wonderlicious

 (And I know too well the tendency to flippantly say things like "girls rule" or "it's because he's a man that [insert negative]").

Words matter.
{{as do small things}}

I read this week that the "voice we use to speak to our children becomes their inner voice".
(And having just had my mother here for the weekend, I give that a big ol' AMEN).
I hope the voice that speaks to my daughter is one that respects all people~
one that acknowledges gender differences do exist (but do not define us)...
as gifts to one another,
rather than as weapons or walls to divide. 

I know I will be watching my words more carefully.

And now we're off to swim with our boy friends, strong and healthy together! ♥

Lori @ Beneath the Rowan Tree

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