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Bringing up boys and girls

(33 Posts)
LaraGransnet (GNHQ) Wed 11-Oct-17 15:10:01

We've been asked to comment on BBC radio about the differences between bringing up girls and boys today vs when you brought up your children (or how you were brought up yourselves). E.g. does/did gender stereotyping have a lasting negative impact? Also the fact that we have more female role models today (the PM, Fire and Police commissioners are all female etc). Would love to hear your thoughts?

minimo Wed 11-Oct-17 16:30:07

I think it's great there are more female role models. There's enough evidence out there to convince me that without them women wouldn't think they were capable or allowed to do certain jobs.

I'm not convinced about the pink/blue debate. Many of my friends had tomboy girls and others very girly girls. In my experience having children - and the change that makes to your life as a woman in terms of job prospects/life dynamics - is the single biggest issue. As in that's where the gender discrepancies come in.

M0nica Wed 11-Oct-17 16:31:08

I was one of three girls. My father was an army officer, my mother variously a teacher and an insurance clerk. In my home in the 1950s, there was little or no gender stereotyping beyond dressing nicely and being polite. I went to an all girls boarding school, where again it was academically good and measured its success in numbers of girls that went on to university and teacher's training college

As far as my parents were concerned, my mother in particular, getting a good education and a good career was her main aim for us. It was never suggested to me that I had to defer to any member of the male sex, of any age just because of their gender. I grew up thinking the world was my oyster and I could do any job I wanted to do and that I was qualified for.

My parents had a marriage of absolute equality, I cannot remember a single occasion where my father sat down and relaxed if my mother was doing any housework. He would always be alongside helping (it used to drive DM mad, she wished he would sit down and get out of her way!).

I have a son and a daughter and I think they would agree that they were brought up without any gender stereotyping. We encouraged them in whatever interests they had and it was DD who had the electric train set. DS had no interest in either construction or engineering toys or sport.

I think women are getting very wimpy with their desire for special support and role models. There were no women role models in the 1950s and I cannot remember the lack of them playing any part in the decisions I and other girls I was at school with made in career choices. We were well aware we were a pioneering generation, with opportunities our mothers didn't have and we went for them. I went to university and read economics, a very male dominated subject and went on the have a career in industry, mainly in predominantly male environments in engineering industries

LaraGransnet (GNHQ) Wed 11-Oct-17 17:12:17

Thanks both. Do you think your parents were unusual in that regard Monica? Or were your friends brought up similarly?

Riverwalk Wed 11-Oct-17 17:22:00

I brought up two boys and for 13 years of their young life there was a woman prime minister, so that could be seen as a plus for general 'background' positive gender-stereotyping, as it went against the trend.

Today we have a female prime minister, Scottish first minster, Met police chief, fire commissioner, more MPs, etc., but I don't think this advance reflects society in general.

We seem to have turned the clock back with the never-ending images in the media of women posing with their backsides provocatively turned to the camera, trout pouts, fillers, pillow cheeks, and so on. Girls are still very much judged on their looks.

Again in the media, which is so influential, we have old grizzled news readers/presenters such as Andrew Neil, Paxman, Humphrys, Snow, all in their 60/70s and no female equivalents in mainline programmes, they're all young and attractive.

So yes there are more female role models to inspire young girls but we have a long way to go.

I have a granddaughter and she plays rugby! smile

M0nica Wed 11-Oct-17 17:28:15

My best friend at school certainly had a similar background. Her father surpassed himself, he would happily go into the local chemist and buy sanitary towels if necessary, but he was quite a character. She had a younger brother so the possibility of gender stereotyping could have happened in her family but didn't. I had another friend put under intense pressure from her mother to achieve what she hadn't been able to do. She too had brothers.

There were also other girls, who wanted to go to university, but whose parents could see no reason for funding it 'because you will only get married'.

It was a mix, but I think in the 1950s parents encouraging their daughters to take on the world and make careers for themselves was rather more common than is generally believed.

Fennel Wed 11-Oct-17 18:07:35

I have one sister and my parents encouraged us both to go to University (1950s).
I wanted to study Law, as Dad was a solicitor, but he wouldn't agree -" people won't take any notice of a woman lawyer."
Nowadays the majority of solicitors qualifying are women.
With ours, 2 boys 2 girls , not much difference, we encouraged sport , hiking, camping etc as a family.
Until the girls reached puberty, then we were more protective.

gillybob Wed 11-Oct-17 18:18:53

I too have one sister and we were brought up in the 60's and 70's by young but very old fashioned parents. My mum always believed that men (my dad) were some kind of superior being to "us girls" and she really never had a mind of her own. She thought what my dad thought . She turned down good promotions at work as she honestly thought she wasn't worthy of being manager or going into the accounts department or whatever . She preferred to stay in the shadow of my dad . Sad really .
My sister and I both have very low self esteem as a result.

MaizieD Wed 11-Oct-17 18:29:09

I had a similarish upbringing to MOnica. In the 80s, when our children were young, I think I and my friends were positive about not bringing up our children with gender stereotypes.

I am certainly horrified by the current trend for making girls into unrelieved pink princesses but I think we might have to wait a few years to see how that plays out. For all we know it might be giving the girls lots of confidence as princesses can surely do anything they want.

I think we still have a very long way to go before society as a whole changes its attitudes to women in power. They are still subject to far more sexist abuse than any man gets and, as Riverwalk points out, women are still very much judged on their looks and their clothes; even by other women sad

Iam64 Wed 11-Oct-17 18:59:41

I was not discouraged from climbing trees, wearing shorts or trousers and preferring to play with the boys than the girls. My mother stayed at home with the children. Her own mother had worked, leaving my mother (the oldest) to care for her younger siblings. Mum was determined we'd always have her to see us off to school and welcome us home.
I had children in the 70's and 80's. My children were encouraged to play and get involved in sports activities they enjoyed. The girls played football, the boys road ponies and all did gymnastics. Our family and friends were keen to avoid pigeon holing their children into gender stereotypes.

I agree with MaizieD about the pink princess issue and the fact that so often the boys toys department seems more likely to encourage wider interests than dolls, makeup and hair.

I do worry about the so called celebrity culture and its influence on children. I'd hoped we'd moved away from the casual sexualisation of girl children, it seems not.

M0nica Wed 11-Oct-17 19:03:18

I think the pressure on girls and very young women to seek male approval and do what their male contemporaries want them to do, is far stronger than it used to be.

We have heard this week about the rise in child-on-child sexual assaults and also figures for the amount of pornography watched by adolescent boys, pornography that give them a totally distorted picture of what a sexual relationship is, as well as sexting as it becomes clear how many girls take pictures of themselves naked or performing sexual acts and posting them to coercive boyfriends.

FarNorth Wed 11-Oct-17 20:53:56

Recently I overheard a mum say that her toddler, who was with her and listening, is a 'real boy' and that when he was offered a doll he said "Yuck". Cue laughter.

I suspect that the toddler has been subtly or not so subtly influenced in his toy preferences, and probably got clues from tone of voice etc when the doll was offered.

Deedaa Wed 11-Oct-17 21:04:04

I was an only child and was always expected to do well because there was no one else. I went to a girls' grammar school where we were expected to be successful and there was no suggestion that boys would have been cleverer. At Art School the only thing that mattered was the standard of the work we produced and when I went to work my boss made sure that I was paid the same rate as the men.

DD was a gymnast and her training made her stronger and faster than most of the boys at school. Dolls played no part in her life and she could rarely be forced into a dress. She was always clever and assertive and, if anything, DS suffered from the constant comparison with his big sister and has never done as well as her.

paddyann Wed 11-Oct-17 23:14:07

I was one of four sisters and we were very over protected ,no bikes no trees no swings even,my father had lost two little sisters when they were under 5 so he was extra careful with us ,one died after being hit on the head by a swing.They would have liked us to go onto further education but we all ahd other ideas ,I left school when I was 15 and no one could have made me stay on ,I'd already had jobs for over 2 years.I went into the same line of work I'm still employed in and started my own business when I was 22 ,I think my folks were quite proud that we succeeded and over 41 years later we're still in business.My sisters all had careers, childrens nurses and a display artist in retail .We were all "girly" girls, liked clothes and makeup as well as music and books,I'm the only sister who doesn't play at least one instrument.So quite a traditional upbringing ,it did us no harm .My own daughter had her career mapped out when she was about 8 ,when asked by a member of our staff what she wanted to be she reeled off three jobs finishing with and then I'm working here and I'll be YOUR boss.The staff member was highly amused ...but it went exactly how DD said.

grannyticktock Thu 12-Oct-17 08:57:26

When my children were small, in the 1970s, clothes for toddlers were often unisex. Girls did wear dresses and pinafores, but often in bright colours, with very little that was pink or frilly. Otherwise, girls wore trousers, dungarees, shorts, t-shirts and sweaters in cheery primary colours that could have been worn by either sex.

It wasn't really until the 1980s and 90s that all this extreme differentiation came in (girls wear pink, boys wear army camouflage!). Tiny tricycles for three-year-olds started to be offered in pink or blue/khaki. This, of course, entailed more expense for parents who felt they couldn't pass a girl's pink anorak, bike or duvet cover on to a brother.

So there were sound commercial interests at work here: in a mixed family, many gender-specific things couldn't be shared among the children, so more stuff was bought.

Whether all this had a lasting effect on children's life expectations I couldn't say, but I am relieved that both my granddaughters have now rejected girliness and are growing up into strong and independent young women.

annodomini Thu 12-Oct-17 09:38:32

The 'pink princess' phase is just that - a phase, but a very profitable one for the retailers of children's clothes. However, my erstwhile pink princess - who used to climb trees in the frilly dress - is now, at 15, much more at home in Army camouflage or those revolting ripped jeans and has been seen in a very grown-up LBD.

Anya Thu 12-Oct-17 09:46:15

All my schools were girls only and I had no brothers. I never encountered any sexism until I went into teaching in the 60s and I was astounded.

My sister and I were brought up in a household that had no male stereotypes and so we were just children, running pretty wild in the hills of Scotland, climbing trees, damming streams, getting mucky. Being at all girls schools meant, for us, no stereotyping. The teachers were women, we were girls, and that was that.

Don’t think I ever had anything pink until I could buy it myself ?

gillybob Thu 12-Oct-17 09:52:56

I have some great photos taken in the 60's of me and my friend sitting on a back step in the back lane of the flat where I lived as a child. We are both filthy ( I recall playing in the coal dust) My friend has wild hair and dungarees, and I am filthy but sitting there like a silly little princess in a frilly frock and knitted bolero cardigan ( probably pale pink knowing my mum) . confused

Anya Thu 12-Oct-17 10:13:14

Love the image that conjures up Gilly ?

FarNorth Thu 12-Oct-17 15:13:42

That sounds wonderful gillybob.

Greyduster Fri 13-Oct-17 09:15:00

I think that when I was growing up in the fifties, gender stereotyping was pretty entrenched. It was assumed that boys would do particularly jobs and girls would do others and their education would steer them toward those roles. Girls did not do woodwork or metalwork; boys did not do cookery or needlework. Where would we be now if all that had not changed? I was a total tomboy and it caused my mother great angst. I think she thought people would judge her by the fact that, when not at school, she was the one with the unruly, untidy kid who would not wear anything but shorts and jeans, when all around my female compatriots were daintily clothed in dresses and trying out their mother's make up. My father just let me get on with it but quietly in the background fed me a diet of Boys Own stories and encouraged me to be my adventurous self. I do not remember having any female stereotypes I hankered to adhere to even in my teens.
As for my own children, I have one of each. They were never consciously encouraged to be gender typical. We just let them be what they wanted to be whilst encouraging gentleness, compassion and a diversity of interests in both. We are blessed.

gillybob Fri 13-Oct-17 09:20:04

I was brought up thinking that little boys were made from slugs and snails and puppy dogs tails and
Little girls were sugar and spice and all things nice . hmm

gillybob Fri 13-Oct-17 09:25:31

A bit off topic I suppose but I had never seen a willy ( sorry to those who prefer real names for body parts) until I was 17 ( not even a baby or a real photograph. ( I did see a diagram once in biology ) shock you would think I had been born in the 20's and not the 60's !

Riverwalk Fri 13-Oct-17 09:58:24

I don't suppose many of us had by 17 gilly - apart from being flashed at by an old pervert when I was around 10. angry

At 19 I became a nurse and have now seen more than I've had hot dinners! grin

Greyduster Fri 13-Oct-17 10:12:24

I do remember, at college, by the time most of us had read Lady Chatterley, an ad hoc discussion ensuing about where pubic hair figured in the whole set up. As none of us were in any way familiar with that part of the male anatomy, either directly or indirectly, some wild, interesting and hilarious theories were perpetrated! How times change!