There’s a theory that we inadvertently raise our children in sexist ways, treating our boys differently than our girls. Boys are praised for displaying physical prowess and courage; girls are praised for displaying delicacy and fragility, and for being good.
Boys are raised to become aggressive go-getters as men, and when they indeed aggressively go-get society praises them. But women are inhibited in such behaviour by a fear that they will be seen as acting in a selfish or unfeminine manner, and when they do take the iniative in the workplace, they are often condemned as being selfish and unfeminine.
So will I, a proud follower of progressive politics and thought, do the same when I have the children? Will I treat any boys I might have differently from any girls, purely because of their gender. Well the answer to that question is… dammit… yes. Why do I say that?
Because I’ve realised I treat my dog differently because she’s a girl.
The picture at the top of this post shows @4pawsnexus together with a friend’s dog, who we’ve dogsat for some extended periods over the last few years. She’s probably twice the size of him and far more athletic; she’s bred to herd sheep for hours at a stretch on cold Cumbrian hillsides, he’s apparently bred to kill rats, but I’m pretty sure that that was then and this is now, and that he’s now bred to look cute on laps. (Which he does, very – he’s like a miniature four-legged wookie).
But he’s a lovely little dog and I fell in love with him when we were looking after him. I used to take him to work on the Tube, so I spent quite a lot of time with him, and thus spent quite a lot of time talking to him. Now we have @4pawsnexus, and I spend quite a lot of time with her, and as with him, I find myself saying one particular phrase to her, over and over again, when I praise her – except that I only recently realised that (completely unconsciously) it’s a different phrase I use.
With him, I would always tell him that he was a “big, brave boy”. But I always tell her that she’s a “good little girl”.
Big and brave verses good and little.
Yep, looks like I’m as unconsciously sexist as the next man.