Saturday, March 28, 2015

Challenging Conversation #SOL15

This is just a slice of my life. I thought sharing it might be helpful to some people. It is not intended to be a guide. It is not ideally structured nor researched. This was just my attempt to break down a very complex issue for my son, who asks incessant questions about everything. There are probably much better ways to approach this topic, but I think we need to take advantage of opportunities as they arise, even at 6:15 am on a school day (the time of this conversation.) If we want to work toward a more equal society, we need to talk to our children about difficult topics. I don't think we can let seemingly little, innocent ideas like "girls always go first," go by without discussion.

This morning my 6yr old son woke up and said, "My friends think that girls are better than boys, and that's why they made a rule that girls always go first." 

That's silly. Boys and girls are the same. Nobody is better than anybody else.

I know, but they always say they get to go first because girls are better than boys.

Tell them that's not true. Tell them that's a very old-fashioned rule, and you have more modern ideas.

I did tell them it isn't true, but they don't listen to me. I don't know why they made that rule that girls always go first. 

{This is the moment of decision. I could tell him it's just good manners. That's the way things are. Boys are nice say, "Ladies first" because it's just good manners. Conversation over. He learns that he should be nice to girls and let them go first. All is well. But why do girls get to go first?}

Well, they didn't really make up that rule. They've probably heard people say, "Ladies first." Sometimes people say that. It's a very old-fashioned rule.

Why do people say that? Why do they think girls better than boys? Why do girls get to go first? Why is that old-fashioned? What is old-fashioned?

Well, they didn't make that rule up because they think girls are better than boys. A long time ago people actually thought that boys were better than girls. They thought that boys were smarter, and stronger, and braver than girls; so they tried to make girls feel better by letting them go first. 


They thought that boys were smarter, and stronger, and braver than girls, and because boys got to do more things than girls, that boys had to take care of girls. But that's not true. Boys and girls need to take care of each other. 


They thought that since boys needed to take care of girls, they should let girls go first. They thought that since girls weren't as smart, or as brave, or as strong, they should let them go first to try to make them feel better about not being smart, or strong, or brave.

But mom, you're really strong, and your smart, and brave.

Yep. Both boys and girls can be smart, and strong, and brave, if they are allowed to go to school and get good jobs. A long time ago girls didn't get to go to school.

WHAT?! Then they couldn't learn!

Right. And if they wouldn't let girls learn, then they wouldn't seem like they were very smart, but now girls and boys both get to learn. We're very lucky that we live in the United States in 2015 because both boys and girls get to learn.

But is it different in other states?

It's not different in other states, but it is different in some other countries. There are some countries where girls don't get to go to school. There are some countries where girls, even grown up girls, aren't allowed to go places unless a grown up boy, a man, goes with them. They think that men need to protect the women. But the truth is that women and girls can take care of themselves just like men. The problem is that in some places women aren't allowed to buy houses or have jobs, so then they can't take care of themselves. 

But that is so SAD! 

I know. There are people working all over the world to try to change the rules like we changed the rules in the United States. We've changed lots of rules in the United States.

What rules?

 A long time ago the only jobs women were allowed to have was to be teachers or nurses, but now girls can be anything they want to be. Now girls are allowed to go to school, and they are allowed to buy houses, and wear pants.

Wear pants! What?

Yep, they thought girls shouldn't be allowed to wear pants. Girls were only allowed to wear dresses and skirts.

That's weird.

It is weird. I'm really glad that I live in 2015 because I like to wear pants all the time, but it's still hard for girls. Did you know that there's never been a girl president in the United States?

Why not?

Because people won't vote for a girl to be president. Some people still don't think girls are smart enough or brave enough to be president, so they won't vote for girls. Right now men make more money than women for doing the same work sometimes. Some people won't give girls as much money as they give boys because they still think boys are better, but that's not true. Boys and girls are the same.

That's bad. This is just so upsetting! I'm so sad about this!

I know. I'm sorry. This is a lot of information isn't it. It is bad, but there are people working everyday to change that. People are working everyday to make men and women equally, and to change the rules and make sure that men and women are treated the same. Maybe someday you'll work to make men and women equal.

But I want to be a train driver.

And that's fine. You can be a train driver. You can be anything you want to be, and so can girls. They can be anything they want to be. So if your friends tell you that girls always get to go first, you can tell them that boys and girls are the same and they should take turns going first. 
Or you could just let them go first because going first isn't really a big deal.

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  1. Ok, this was amazing. You must print out the following quote by your son and keep it posted on your bedroom mirror ;-) "mom, you're really strong, and your smart, and brave." That is fantastic!! Such a sweet sweet sweet thing to say. But, my second favorite line(s) are pretty awesome, too - "Maybe someday you'll work to make men and women equal.

    But I want to be a train driver."
    This had me laugh out loud! Oh, I love children!!!

  2. This was an amazing conversation and I'm so glad you shared it with us! Some of the things we do and say have long histories that our children don't know. Some adults don't even think about why they happen either. You explained it perfectly. ;)

  3. "But I want to be a train driver." I love this response.
    Great conversation! Thanks for sharing!

  4. Ah, Deb, I loved your slice. This is such a great example of how as parents, and as teachers, we need to be looking for those teachable moments that can make all the difference in a child's thinking. Loved it! And I'll be back in an hour or so for today's link-up. See you around. Kathleen Kidpeople Classroom


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