girls will be boys

This year, the Bee’s class has a real gender imbalance. There are 14 boys and only 4 girls in her fourth grade class. She’s been coming home and complaining about the fact that ‘the boys’ are constantly getting the class in trouble–and knowing the energy of the 10-year-old boy, I don’t find it that hard to believe. For the most part, I think it’s been good for the Bee to be in this kind of environment, although there are some difficulties about it, from her perspective.

She’s gotten a lot jock-ier this year. She played soccer all fall, and she’s quite a good defensive player, very aggressive in her attempts to take the ball away from the other girls. She’s also gotten involved in a bunch of extra-curricular activities, including writing for the elementary school newspaper, and playing the drums in the band. I think it has definitely helped her to have the ‘norm’ in her class be the boy norm, not the girl norm. At least two of the other girls in her class are athletes as well–the Peony plays three sports a year, and the other girl is the daughter of the guy who coached softball last spring.

We’ve also not had a recurrence of the your-socks-don’t-match-your-outfit moment from last year. I’m happy to report that that girl moved away over the summer. The Bee has been wearing sweatpants and t-shirts every day, with the same pair of sneakers, and yes, the same stained sweater, She’s also refused to get a haircut for weeks, and just tonight I had to practically hold her down to cut her bangs, because I couldn’t stand to look at them for another minute.

I know that it’s just a matter of time before she gets all pre-pubescent, and starts preening herself for a half-hour every morning before school. I know that she and the other girls in her class will start to worry more about getting sweaty, than about how far they can kick the ball in the endless game of kickball that her class plays every single day at recess.

I’m pretty comfortable hanging on to my grubby, stained, awesome daughter for right now, though. If it takes a world of boys to keep her from acting like a girl, that’s okay with me.

November 16, 2008. growing up.


  1. Susan replied:

    Sounds like a girl to enjoy! I hope the self-confidence carries through in later years. I think a lot about how these dynamics will play out for my girl.

  2. jen replied:

    Hey landismom, how do you feel about the implicit criticism of girls & women in this sort of reality? It’s interesting because I personally have rejected some of the more girly-girl aspects of female culture (the obsession with appearance being at the top of the list, but also some passive-aggressive behaviors and the lack of valuing independence). But I often find myself bristling when people say things like, “Girls are harder to raise than boys,” or “I prefer working with men — women can be so difficult.” And I have to admit, my daughters do have more problems with nasty comments from girls than boys, and I have more trouble at work with destructive gossip coming from women than men. How to square these things? Do you ever wonder about the potential anti-feminist message this brings out?

  3. Anjali replied:

    Very well said. But it’s also kind of sad that the “boy norm” isn’t just a “kid norm.” My poor tomboyish girls have lost so many friends to the Disney princess movement. All they want to do is play in dirt and collect insects, and they only people now who will do this with them are other boys.

  4. landismom replied:

    Jen, you know, I was thinking as I was posting this that it is a post that shows my ingrained sexism–even as I am a person who rejects (and lives in direct opposition to) many sexist stereotypes. It’s very hard to talk about these kinds of things, in raising kids, without resorting to some basic generalities (boys-will-be-boys kind of things). As a parent who has one of each, I do find myself questioning all the time “is she doing that because she’s a girl or because she’s older?” “is he doing that because he’s a boy, or because he just likes guns?”. It’s tough to walk the line between gender-based generalizations and all the other kinds, and to balance those things against the fact that my kids are individuals first and foremost.

    I don’t think it’s anti-feminist to say that it’s harder to raise girls–if what you are trying to raise them to do is to see beyond the traditional roles for women in our culture.

  5. jo(e) replied:

    See, I didn’t read this as an implied criticism of girls and women … but as a criticism of the ways in which girls and women are socialized in this culture.

    Right now, girls and boys still *are* socialized to behave in different ways, and sadly the “boy norm” is probably way more empowering than the “girl norm.”

    We still have a long way to go before we can raise kids without having to think about how to fight all the gender stereotypes in this culture.

  6. Jody replied:

    I agree with jo(e) — the “boy norm,” especially as kids approach their early teens, tends to be more empowering, at least in most arenas. And I think it’s insightful, and worthwhile, to hear about how a different class sex-ratio affects how your daughter is behaving, and thinking about herself. Especially in a world where single-sex classrooms are getting a lot of play.

    We have the opposite dynamics in all our classrooms this year (it averages 13 girls and 7 boys) and while I think it makes the classrooms more focused, it’s been rough socially on our son. He went from a classroom with enough boys to support the geeks and readers in their oddities to a classroom in which the majority of the boys are more sports-oriented and slightly contemptuous (at least in their public personas) of certain kinds of academic achievement. We knew this was likely to happen anyway, but the sex-ratio imbalance made it harder.

  7. Comfort Addict replied:

    Hang onto these years, LM. What a shame that girls and boys alike can’t hang onto just having fun with soccer, band and friends throughout their lives.

  8. the year in review « Bumblebee Sweet Potato replied:

    […] President Obama with a bill for my services. Then I reflected on the fact that the Bee is in a boy-dominated class this […]

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