I recently overheard the following conversation at a children’s birthday party:
Mum 1 [to heavily pregnant Mum 2]: It’s so great that you’re having another boy. Boys are so much easier than girls.
Mum 2: Yes, I know. Girls are such hard work!
At this point my gender-bullshit detector was beeping loudly, but I decided to say nothing. After all, I only have boy children. What do I know? Mind you, both of the women speaking only had boy children, too. So what the fuck did they know either?
We’ve all heard this conversation a million times before. Boys are so much easier, so easy-going, so calm. Girls are so fussy, so moody, so spiteful. Girl babies cry too much. Girls in the playground bitch about each other. Boys might kick the shit out of each other, but hey, that’s just them being boisterous. Basically, compared to boys, girls are crap.
Maybe it’s true. I mean, I have boys and I think they’re pretty ace. Perhaps if I’d had girls I’d be kicking myself for not having that abortion when I’d had the chance. But to be honest, I have no idea. Because I only have two children and there are billions of people in the world. How can I possibly use my two to make sweeping statements about what “girls” and “boys” are like? I know everyone else seems to, but I don’t want to join in.
My children are quite different from each other. The eldest is serious, studious, good at maths. The youngest is sociable, pretty, good at making friends. Or, to put it another way, the eldest is gentle, caring, good at looking after others. The youngest is boisterous, aggressive, good at winning fights. Do you see what I did there? It’s piss-easy to do this with any boy-boy, girl-girl or boy-girl pairing. The stereotypes will do whatever you want them to.
When it comes to sex and gender, it’s amazing the extent to which people will use a tiny sample to make massive generalizations. In Simon Baron-Cohen’s The Essential Difference, a whole chapter – called “Boy meets girl” – is devoted to allowing a mother to describe her one son and her one daughter. Because that’s what serious scientific research is all about, splitting a chapter up into two headings (Alex: cars, football, music and computers, then Hannah (Alex’s sister): dolls, cuddlies, animals and people), and allowing a mother to give various opinions on her own children who are not the whole world. It’s complete bollocks (okay, I’m not a scientist. But I have a scientist friend who says it’s complete bollocks and he has a dick, so that’s gotta be good enough for me).
I’m particularly pissed off about the degree to which gender stereotypes about children work against girls. This makes me feel a bit of a traitor as a mother. After all, I have boys. Shouldn’t I be fighting their corner? But then I’d like to feel in some way I am. I want them to grow up in a fairer world. I don’t want other people twisting what they say and do just because of the gender identity they have (and may not choose to have in future).
Anyhow, if I were to work from my own experience alone, this is how it would be:
- Boys are ace
- Girls are ace
- My boys are the most ace, but they are also the hardest to look after, which suggests that I’m the best mum, too
Got that, everyone? Next time I’m at a party, that’s what I’m going to say.