I have a very vivid memory from my Developmental Psychology class in college about a study in which a diapered infant was given to adults to babysit for a short time. Half of the babysitters were told that the infant was a boy and half that it was a girl. The half that were told it was a boy went to the toy chest and selected cars and hammers to play with, and the half told it was a girl selected dolls and combs and kitchenware. The experiment did an excellent job of calling into doubt the origin, Nature or Nurture, of our societal gender stereotypes.
When I learned I would have a daughter I promised myself that I would make every effort to not provide her any gender stereotypes. I’ve never bought her any pink toys or “girly” stuff.
If my efforts have had any effect, I haven’t noticed it. When the rest of society heard we were having a girl, we were bombarded with dolls and pink dresses and brushes. Because of their personalities and playfulness, my daughter was immediately more drawn to her grandmothers than to her grandfathers. The fact that she’s a girl has never been in doubt to her. She’s about as far from a tomboy as a girl can be. Her favorite pastime is to “help” a grandmother sweep or mop or do the dishes or some other bit of housework.
One day she was playing with my mother and there was some problem with something (the tv?) and Nora declared, “We need a man-fixer!” and marched off to solicit the help from me or grandfather. I have no idea where this came from, although one of the only men employed at her school is the dual security guard and maintenance man, whom she probably sees regularly replacing lightbulbs or drilling holes to hang things on the wall, while the women wait helpless.
Her very favorite present for Christmas 2011 was a toy ironing board and iron. It has since stayed at her Spanish grandparents house, which makes the toy all that more special. Over Christmas 2012, she gave us a demonstration of how to iron.
I share this not only because it’s adorable as heck, but because it showcases very well her bilingualism, and how she switches language to address me.