A Report From the Trenches: Hump Day Humm 2-27-08

Gender Politics from the eyes of my eight year old.

Written yesterday afternoon while at soccer practice for Thing 1. We were attending practice for another team our coach coaches because our schedules are bit goofy for the next week or so. This brought us to a new park that Thing 2 had never been to and he was very excited to be climbing all of the new trees. So, of course, I had to be the mean, inconsiderate mommy and drag him away for a bit…

Me: Hey! Thing 2! Come here a sec!

Thing 2: (from up high in a tree) Why?

Me: Just for a minute, I want to interview you for my blog!
(Since the kids know I won’t put their pictures on the blog, and they always see other kids on blogs, the though of actually being included in my blog was a huge incentive)

T2: What are we going to talk about?

Me: Girls

T2: Eeeew! Why?

Me: I just have a few questions, and maybe some follow-ups. Is that ok?

T2: I guess, but hurry! There’s lots of trees here! I want to climb them all! (he’s such a monkey-boy)

Me: What do you think about the girls in your class?

T2: Some of them are smart, but one of them is kind of crazy.

Me: What makes you think she is crazy?

T2: She’s crazy because she says she knows everything when she doesn’t.

Me: Why do you say she doesn’t know everything? Maybe she does.

T2: Mo-oo-oo-oo-m, she doesn’t even know her times tables! And besides, nobody knows EVERYTHING!

Me: So, on the playground, who do you hang out with? Boys or girls?

T2: Hang out with both.

Me: Do you play differently with the boys than the girls?

T2: With boys, we play games that are really scary and funny and kind of violent, too. With girls we just kind of talk.

Me: How does your teacher treat the girls and boys?

T2: Evenly

Me: Who gets called on more often?

T2: Girls! Don’t know why!

Me: Do the girls raise their hands more?

T2: No

Me: Do the boys shout out or raise their hands?

T2: Raise hands

Me: Who do you think is smarter? Boys or girls?

T2: Some boys know more than girls and some girls know more than boys.

Me: Who’s better in math?

T2: Boys.

Me: Who’s better at reading?

T2: Boys

Me: Science?

T2: Boys

Me: Music?

T2: Girls

Me: Drawing?

T2: Boys

Me: Writing?

T2: Girls

Me: Writing stories?

T2: Boys

Me: So, why do you think that?

T2: It’s what I think and what I think sticks.

Me: If you had to pick a project partner, who would you pick?

T2: A boy, because girls do all the answering and don’t let the boys work. They get bossy and take over.

Me: Is there competition between boys and girls?

T2: Yes.

Me: Who is it more important to?

T2: Boys

Me: Do you get mad if a girl is better?

T2: No, I just compliment them on a job well done.

Me: Are the girls nice to the boys?

T2: Not really.

Me: Who likes school more?

T2: Boys, by a long shot.

Me: What makes you think that?

T2: All the boys in our class like to work and all of the girls want fun.

Me: How can you say that when you say the girls always “take over”?

T2: The girls take over because they want to do it their way. They think boys do it wrong.

Me: Who is a girl in your class that hangs out with boys?

T2: “Gertrude”.

Me: Why?

T2: She likes things that boys like, she does things like a boy, and she’s nice.

Me: Can you give me some examples? How does she “do things” like a boy?

T2: She’s not as quiet, she reads lots of science fiction that girls normally wouldn’t read. She’s good at math and good at everything.

Me: Are you saying that girls can’t be good at stuff?

T2: NO! I’m just sayin’ that she’s good, but she doesn’t feel like she has to tell everyone she’s good. When the other girls tell you how much they know, they don’t really know that much.

Me: What about boys? Don’t boys brag, too?

T2: (HUGE PAUSE) Yeaaaaah. They do! And they don’t know anything either.

Me: Do you know lots of stuff?

T2: Duh! Of course I do!

Me: Tell me something you know.

T2: I know that we’re finished here and there are a lot of trees to climb. Can I go now?

And off he went…..

So, what does that little exchange tell us?

Here’s what I got from it:

First, that even at 8, he recognized that competition was more important to the boys than the girls. I’m unsure of what that means for future development, but there it is.

Second, he can already call a spade a spade. He’s not tolerating bs from anyone. Although I had to point that out to him, he did realize it when it was.

Third, he recognizes the differences. “Gertrude” isn’t as “quiet” and does different things. He senses differences in inclinations, although these are starting to turn into stereotypes of abilities. But the girl who made an effort to relate to the boys on their terms was welcomed. What does that mean?

Finally, he has an annoyance towards girls who “take over because they want to do it their way”. This is the one that disturbs me. Does he feel this way because the girl has suggested an incorrect approach and is pushing it anyway? Or does he feel this way because it is a girl who is asserting herself? Given the overall tone of the conversation, I am unable to draw a definitive conclusion. This one will bear some watching in the future.

So, there it is. What do you take from that exchange? Anything to add? Am I reading too much into it? What is your favorite tree to climb?

If you have any of your own opinions on the subject, you need to share them! Join us at Using My Words.


9 responses to “A Report From the Trenches: Hump Day Humm 2-27-08

  1. Ah, I see that I have a typical girl who is not always nice and bosses around! Why is it that boys appear nicer? Or maybe just to each other (in my case my son is definitely nicer than my daughter). And my girl needs a few lessons in humility too. Again, falling into the stereotype. It sounds like our boys would get along just fine. You know, we have Super Mario Galaxy if you ever want to visit.

  2. Oooh intriguing.

    I am curious to know if girls become more covert and/or more aggressive because being overt and assertive nets no or bad results. Is it nature or nurture (or not mutually exclusive)?

    I would postulate based on this exchange…well let me ask…do you think the fourth point, “…he has an annoyance towards girls who “take over because they want to do it their way”.” has to do with competition and struggle for leadership, as well as style? So yes, some boy v. girl element, but also something more. KWIM?

    Often, I see girls be either controlling and bossy in this type of situation (aggressive) or attempt too much appeasing and pleasing by trying to consider everyone’s wants and needs and feelings. I don’t see either method as something many boys are going to respect.

  3. I think that this exchange was very educational. First of all, even at age 8, your son noticed that boys and girls were different as a whole. Only “Gertrude” was different from the other girls because she liked what he considered boy stuff. I think that it’s interesting that our society allows for very little cross-over at that age.

  4. anglophilefootballfanatic

    I wouldn’t read too much into it. He’s only 8! But, not calling a spade a spade is a good quality at any age.

  5. My favorite tree to climb was definitely the one with big strong branches behind my house overhanging the golf course I grew up beside. It never occurred to me back them how I could have easily died if those branches broke when I was twenty feet off the ground.

    I can empathize with some of your son’s point of view. I was not the sort of boy who had problems with girls naturally (most of my friends were girls). When I teamed with girls, many of them had a tendency to take over and do everything because they did not trust the boys in the group to do anything. Over time, I broke some of them of that habit because of the quality of my work, but it definitely happened. I’ve definitely met girls who take over who are incompetent, too, and they drive me nuts. I “fired” one from an MBA project team, and before that I “suspended” her because her work was worthless to me and our other three teammates. By fired I mean I did not offer for her to continue into the second semester on the team and by suspended I mean I subjugated her work to the appendix of the project or left it out entirely. I got the approval of the project leader (and often she asked me to do it before I suggested it, after I’d done it once – and yes, I was “working for” a girl on this project who I got along with just fine. I may just have to put all these thoughts into my own post for tomorrow (I’m not coming up with one so far, so might as well).

    Another thing I definitely observed in girls was how they did like to make sure I knew when they knew something I didn’t. I knew plenty of guys like that, and never cared for the attitude in either, but I noticed it most often from girls in this way: I would start talking about something and they would fire back a resume-like list of how much more they knew on the subject than I did. I decided right then I needed to marry a girl confident enough in her own abilities not to be threatened by mine. I’m sure glad I did.

  6. Okay, so Julie’s comment made me want to mention an example of how I learned to manage team leadership situations with girls. When I was in grad school, I was on several project teams. In one case, I chose the team because the project leader was the person who came up with the idea and therefore became project leader by default. I asked to be on her team because I felt she could use my skillset as a “numbers guy” and she agreed (her teammate did not because I was “some white guy” in her words, but I still got on the team). In another case, though, I personally chose the team leader by starting our first meeting by saying this, “I would like to suggest Sarah lead the team for us because she has actual experience in consulting, and because I get the feeling she would make a good project manager.” We were a consulting team, and it simply made sense to me. I also knew Anne, another teammate, would be the sort of boss to drive me nuts because she had a big-time type-A control-freak personality. Everyone on the team (three guys, two girls) besides Anne immediately agreed with me (Sarah did want to be manager). Anne made her pitch, but it was quashed because everyone saw my point. That’s how I managed the situation to my advantage so I could work with this talented group and not feel dominated by someone I knew could have a negative impact on the overall project. I loved both those teams and their final results, by the way. I nearly started the business on the one team (a Hispanic movie theater) and the other made the college’s magazine because of our project.

  7. Here is what I know about girls (my daughter is 8, too) at this age: they are already beginning to clique off and are starting to be mean. When I was young, it was much later than 2nd grade but they are certainly maturing earlier. Freaking TV!

  8. My niece, too, has apparently already learned to ostracize certain girls because they’re not “cool” and respect others because they are. She’s six. SIX!

  9. I do like his observations about Gertrude. She sounds kind of like what we adults wouldl call a “tomboy,” but in a good way.

    I enjoyed this little “interview” and thanks for stopping by to leave a comment over at my place!

    “See” you later!

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