The other day I was talking with some other mothers who also had boys around Squirm’s age. We were talking about how babies get so dirty (it’s a topic for another time, but seriously, how do they get that dirty in those places!) when one of the mothers looked at her little one and cooed “It’s because you’re a little boy.”
It seemed that general consensus among the mothers was that boys were generally dirtier than girls, even when they were only a couple of months old. Because boy babies are obviously engaged in those notoriously dirty, boy only, pursuits of feeding, sleeping and playing with toys and parents.
Of course baby boys are no dirtier than baby girls. Unless the parent is out there rolling their baby boy in mud, or washing them less than a baby girl then there’s no way for a baby boy to get dirtier.
There’s a lot of discussion about actual and nurtured differences between boys and girls, including the way that people interact with boys and girls differently, but there’s also a lot of stereotypes. And applying these stereotypes to babies, apart from seeming very silly, surely tells these children that, as they grow up, they should act one particular way or another. That other boys and girls should act in certain ways, and that those who don’t meet these stereotypes aren’t normal.
But they’re just babies. Surely they don’t really understand what we’re saying, so we can really say whatever we want. Sure, but that sets up a habit. And one thing I’m realising is that speaking habits are notoriously difficult to break. Today we’re telling them that they’re dirty because they’re boys, in a few years they might be telling us that it’s ok not to take a bath because they’re boys.
I know it’s a relatively trivial thing, not up there in the big topics of the world, but since having Squirm I’ve heard so much gendered language. (And don’t get me started on the whole ‘romantic baby’ thing) So it’s worth having these discussions and worth thinking about what we’re saying before we make big sweeping generalised statements.