Gender Biases

Luna’s been asking for a doctor’s bag. So today we went looking for one and she decided a big pencil case would be perfect for it. The store had them in purple, light blue, pink, and black and red. The purple pencil case had a picture of Skye from Paw Patrol and the black and red one had an Avengers one. I told her to make her choice, thinking she would grab either the pink or the purple one, but instead, she yelled “HULK SMAAAASH” and chose the black and red Avengers’ pencil case.

Other than Frozen and Moana, we haven’t really exposed her to too many princess stories. Somehow, though, she loves crowns, high heels, and puffy dresses. But she also loves cars, trucks, Pokémon, and zombies. We’ve been mindful of exposing her to all types of toys so that she feels free to play with whatever she wants, leaving behind the traditional girl’s/boy’s toys. 

It’s interesting, though, how even though I make a conscious effort to leave the gender biases I was raised with behind, they come back at me when I least expect them. So today I caught myself thinking that she would either choose the pink or purple pencil case. Why? Because my unconscious gender bias tells me that those are “girl's” colours. But Luna with her “Hulk smaaaash”, smashed my bias and made me bite my tongue as I was about to suggest she chose the pink one instead.

In the past few years, I’ve trained myself to recognize sexism (explicit and hidden) in the media, language, at work, on social media, in movies, etc. But I have to say that the most difficult sexism I’ve been fighting with, is the one within me. The one I learned because I was raised in a sexist society. It’s the sneakiest one. Sometimes it’s hard to recognize and I don’t always catch myself in time.

But I’ll continue to do the work. It’s my hope that Luna won’t have to grow up with the same gender biases that I did. I want her to always be her true self; free, wild, and happy. I want her to know that colours are colours, and they don’t belong to a gender. I want her to know that she can choose it all: the princesses, the zombies, the Hulk, the dresses, the cars, the heels! And as she learns all that, I’ll also be learning by her side.

Lourdes Smith
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