I hate that "a strong woman" is really code for "she acts masculine." It is usually a compliment, although get too assertive, and that bitch is so abrasive. aggressive. pushy.
A girl playing with stereotypical boys' toys is applauded, but a girl who takes pride in stereotypical girls' activities is ignored as being one of the herd.
No, all toys shouldn't be pink for girls. But, for the girl who likes pink, isn't that OK that she wants a pink truck instead of a green one?
A parent at my son's gym laughed aloud at his pink shorts, commenting that they were probably once white but caught with a red sock in the washer. Nope. We dyed them pink on purpose!
People openly commented on my son's long hair, and made their approval quite clear once he cut it.
It is OK for girls to aspire to do "boy things." What a strong woman for being just as important as a man!
It is not OK for boys to do "girl things," because that's a demotion.
I worked in a preschool co-op when my oldest son was a toddler. There was this one little boy who adored the play kitchen. As soon as his grandmother was out of sight each morning, he'd go to the plastic stove and oven, and laugh as he whipped up imaginary cakes and omelettes.
One day, he decided to stay in the play kitchen during a time when usually the kids are reading books. The grandmother came to pick him up, and was furious. She usually saw him reading a book. She asked why we "forced" her grandson into the kitchen, muttering something about liberals under her breath.
When the grandmother dropped him off the next day, she directed him to the trucks. He started to toddle towards the kitchen. She grabbed him roughly and put him near the trucks. He was crying and crying. PLAY WITH THESE. The grandmother wondered aloud whether perhaps he was just too upset that day to remain at school. But, we insisted that he'd be fine once she left, and reassured her that if he was truly inconsolable, we'd call her. Finally, the grandmother left.
But a few minutes later, she went to the window outside the preschool to watch her grandson. By then, he was in the kitchen (of course!) She made horrific faces to show just how disappointed she was that he was playing there. Not surprisingly, he started to cry again.
The grandmother ran back to the preschool and announced that she would take him home.
We explained that he was completely content until she started making faces outside the window.
"Oh, I thought that was a two-way mirror," she told us angrily, not even understanding the idiocy of her statement.
That boy is now around fifteen years old. I wonder if he was allowed to learn to cook?
My son told me that one of his friends is breaking up with his girlfriend today.
The conversation we had about it was tough for me, because I totally saw things from my son's friend's point of view about how needy and guilt-trippy his soon-to-be-ex is. And yet, I also wanted to defend the female perspective, and give him a little insight as to why she might have behaved as she did.
"I suppose he should explain what went wrong," my son reasoned. I agreed, telling him that to validate her feelings while also explaining how it made him feel would be a good choice. Open communication, and all that.
But teenagers aren't the posterfolk for "logic."
Still, I heard traditional roles being played out. The whole concept that a clingy girl might "go crazy" or that he was "whipped" by her. (And they don't mean 50 Shades; they mean manipulative. "Don't do that or I'll break up with you!") Those sneaky ladies.
On dates I would eat quickly and eat heartily. I didn't want to be seen as one of those women who picked at her salad. Men hate it when woman eat tiny portions, right?, or do they secretly love it because they flatter themselves that a woman cares to be skinny for him?
I changed myself in many ways to not appear too needy, too clingy. I changed myself to fit his interests, because I didn't want to be demanding or difficult.
I lost myself.
I became neither a strong woman nor a strong woman.