letters to the editor… April 6 issue
We shouldn’t force children
into ‘gender behaviors’
I found Lee Adams’ ‘Cinderella’ commentary both enjoyable and annoying. His description of his relationship with his four-year-old daughter is a sweet one. Hard to swallow is the contention that her love of pink, acting like a princess and so on, are ‘“God-given’” characteristics.
Lee, perhaps your daughter in particular is genetically wired to play wedding all day, but I cannot say that this can be attributed to all girls. Before you keep on with the assertion that these behaviors are ‘naturally born,’ look AROUND you. Been to the mall lately? Watched any TV? Our environment provides plenty of guidelines for how boys should be tough and girls should want to be pretty for the toughies. Also consider how you have nurtured your daughter. Mock-wrestled with her? Told her she was the prettiest thing you’ve ever seen? Which would you do with a son?
Don’t get me wrong; I think that your daughter’s behavior is adorable. Relish the days when she loves being Daddy’s little girl; they might fade out during puberty (only to return at a later date). Just don’t fall into the trap that all girls should play the damsel, while boys should be heroes. How is life for those who don’t fit these stereotypes? A male who likes to dress stylishly or who is sensitive rather than stoic may be characterized as ‘in touch with his feminine side’ or a ‘fop’ at best. Females who are competitive athletes or play hardball in debates can hope for ‘she thinks like a man’ or ‘tomboy.’ I began life as a prissy little thing who adored her brothers. This led to playing basketball, army and other games with the neighborhood boys and girls. I wager my machine gun imitation would get your sister to die right the first time, every time.
My career revolves around playing and teaching the flute. Aha! A girl’s instrument! Nope; half of my teachers have been men, and as recently as the 1800s, it was considered unseemly for women to play the flute because of the face made while playing. In ancient times, flute was generally considered a man’s instrument, and there are still some non-western cultures in which the flute is taboo for women. Why prattle on about this? I suggest that our notions of what constitutes appropriate masculine and feminine behavior are mostly cultural, thus subject to change.
Lee, I happen to agree with you that it’s okay if your daughter wants to stay Cinderella. She might also become a shutterbug or butt-kicking drummer, although decked out in pink. There are a variety of reasons for children’s and adults’ behaviors. It would be a happier world indeed if the folks would look inside their hearts and follow their personal inclinations. Eldredge touches on this notion, but seems to inject his own view of life as the natural order that each gender should seek to imbue in themselves. Being true to oneself will illuminate a person’s masculinity or femininity, not following societal norms or some anecdotal evidence in print.
Happy Easter, Leslie Marrs, Greensboro
The writer responds:
I’ve never encouraged my daughter to be ‘“girlish.’” In fact, as someone who once was a boy, I began playing with her in the only ways I knew how. I’ve played cars and trucks with her, hunted for bugs and animals with her, taken her hiking, taken her to look at Harley Davidsons and then to the Honda shop where she could sit on a bike her size. Yes, we even wrestle, believe it or not.
I never said girls weren’t adventurous. If they weren’t I would have never gotten my first kiss from my wife while hiking a mountain trail by the moonlight after park hours. Amelia Earhart would have never flown; Annie Oakley would have never gotten her gun. Who said there’s anything wrong with girls playing sports?
Eldredge himself says girls have a sense of adventure.
Furthermore, who said anything about playing the flute? Herbie Mann was one of the greatest flutists to ever have lived. I’ll never forget watching him from ten feet away when I was in college. Who in their right mind would tell Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson he’s playing a girl’s instrument? He looks and sounds pretty manly to me.
It was my daughter’s idea to play Cinderella and, again this morning, to get married. Did I not say I hope to teach her to become a good photographer or drummer?
Too bad you missed the main point of the story: to enjoy our children as they are, to be willing to be a prince when the challenge is given, to savor these sweet moments before they pass away. This ought to have been a light, pleasing read. Not the initiation of a nature verses nurture debate.