At her daycare now she is one of few girls. She plays with the boys, which suits her perfectly as she likes to climb, explore, and run around. She also likes to read books and play with dolls but only sometimes. Most of the time she is on the go, unstoppable, invincible and always headed for adventure. She is not good at sitting still and being spoken to. She sometimes wants to help but it does not come natural to her. And yet in two years when she enters school she is expected to embrace quietness, helpfulness, and eagerness to please much like any other girl in our society. And if she doesn’t, she will be flagged.
We speak of how our school system fails boys, much like Josh Stumpenhorst just did in his excellent post, and yet we forget that by making these statements we push girls into the subservient roles we expect of them. Our traditional classrooms call for quiet compliance and buy-in to whatever we propose. Girls are trained quicker to fit this pattern than boys. From an early age society expects girls to be selective with their words, complacent, and eager to help others. We expect them to do their homework on time, to do whatever we ask of them and to give us whatever we need. We don’t think girls will mind when we take away recess, or when we suggest quiet reading time rather than an activity. We don’t think girls will mind always being the ones we ask for help, mind that they are the ones tasked with mothering other students, mind that we have them so far squeezed into a role that we do not understand when they fight it.
And yet, Thea is not that girl, and I love her for it. I see myself in her and I see her personality as a great thing. She is not one to be quiet, she is nice yes, but she would rather be outside than sit and wait for someone to tell her what to do. She has ideas, grand ones, filled with ambitious building and tearing down. There is no plan, she is not meticulous in her details and perhaps she never will be. How will she fit into the traditional role of a girl? How will she cope with the pressures to conform that we all place on her. Boys are not ever viewed as being naughty when they are loud, they are just being boys. But girls are undisciplined, unruly, when they buck against the traditional role. Girls confuse us when they don’t sit quietly and say please and thank you. We have such high expectations for our daughters and our female students but maybe we should reevaluate them and stop thinking that all girls are naturally compliant. Perhaps instead we should wait and see how they turn out and then embrace their personality. Let them be wild, let them be loud, let them be free.