Tuesday, January 15, 2008

An Experiment in Gender Roles

Last night, the Boy discovered Superman. He knew about Superman. You can't grow up in the home that Super Ninja and I have made without knowing about Superman. But we are the recent recipients of some hand-me-down toys and videos, one of which is a compilation of three 1940's era* Superman cartoons. I should've known what was coming when Super Ninja was going through the videos and pulled out a stack that he wanted to watch, excitedly muttering something about "Fleischer cartoons!"

Sure enough, after the Girl was tucked away in her crib and I was doing the dishes, I heard some forties-era bombast blaring from the TV. Superman was rescuing the good people of Metropolis from some Japoteurs.* Happy to let the father/son bonding continue, I called a college friend and finished tidying up the house. Moments later, I peeked in on them again, and Super Ninja was flouncing around the living room with a blanket tied around his neck. this was especially funny to me because, in order to complete the Clark Kent/Superman transformation at the Boy's request, he had to whip off his glasses. Super Ninja is as blind as a mole without his specs, so his flouncing was replete with shin barking. But he happily took one for the team. I mean, what self-respecting geek wouldn't do the very same if his son was applauding his Superman role play?

As for the Girl...

This morning, she toddled over to me while I was putting on a tricky bracelet. She pointed to it and grunted, which usually means she wants to hold something, which is usually followed by stuffing it into her mouth. This is a sturdy bracelet, so I held it out to her and asked her if she wanted to hold it. She gave me a look that quite clearly said, "No, that's not what I want. Guess again." And she held her hand out again, but held it still. Lightbulb moment.

"Do you want to wear this?" asked I.

She smiled and applauded, so I wrapped the bracelet round her wrist. She crunched her face up so much that her eyes disappeared in her smile. Then she walked over to her father and her brother to show off her bauble. Then she circled back around to me to return it, which I thought was quite mature of her.

Yeah, so that nature vs. nurture thing? There's definitely a mix of both. We give the Girl cars and tools to play with, and we give the Boy dollies and pretend food. (Not exclusively -- we're not going all the way in the other direction.) But he wants to play superheroes, and she wants to wear pretty jewelry. Go figure.

*Japanese saboteurs. Yes, I recognize the anti-Japanese sentiment. The Boy is too young to understand that these were made at the height of World War II paranoia, but we don't want to inadvertently instill Japanophobia, so we're just calling them saboteurs.

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