Request for help - Kids & sexism

Carla Swift swiftc at LIGHTSPEED.NET
Tue Oct 3 04:07:27 UTC 2000

I think honest discussions -- and perhaps a bit of humor -- goes a long way
in helping kids understand gender and sexism issues.  But I must tell you,
from the point of view of a parent who raised both a boy and a girl, it's
more difficult to educate boys.  When you're the "beneficiary" of sexist
attitudes -- e.g., a member of the "privileged class" in a society -- it's
very difficult *not* get enticed to participate in the cultural belief
systems that bestow that privilege upon you.  I tried to help my son
understand how the sexist attitudes handicapped both him, as a male, as well
as his sister.  I really like Marlo Thomas' book, _Free To Be You and Me_,
and I bet there are many more children's books out there today (my children
are now in their 20s).
      One last thought.  I used humor whenever possible:  A couple of
examples:  When my son (who is older) started using physical violence to
control his sister, we "made fun" of the behavior -- calling his punches
"eight year old kisses."  Then, when he punched, we'd make a big fuss... "Oh
look. He's 'kissing' his sister."  It ended the behavior very quickly.
       An example with my daughter:  When we read fairy tales with sexist
behaviors, we'd make fun of the characters for being so 'dumb' in their
behavior.  My favorite memory is the story of Rumplestiltskin.  Everytime
the girl cried because she couldn't spin straw into gold, my (preschool)
daughter and I would turn to each other and say "dumb girl" and laugh.  Then
we'd name all the clever thing we could think of to do if we were in that
situation.  And we'd laugh some more at how silly it was to be helpless when
there were so many clever solutions.
    I believe sexism -- on TV, in books, on the playground -- presents an
opportunity for critical thinking and creative discussions with kids.  If
it's brought out into the bright light of day and subjected to scruitiny,
even little kids "get it."  Start early.
Carla Swift
swiftc at

----- Original Message -----
From: M. J. Hardman <hardman at UFL.EDU>
Sent: Monday, October 02, 2000 8:17 AM
Subject: Request for help

> A foreign student in my Language and Gender class reported to me that her
> little 4 year old boy is learning sexism at an alarming rate.  He is in
> preschool.
> Do any of you have suggestions on how to protect him from his environment
> here?
> MJ Hardman

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