Sugar And Spice Or Snails And Puppy Dog Tails: Influences On Gender Identity In Children

1547 words - 6 pages

The Girl Scouts of Colorado claims to be an “inclusive organization,” who welcomes all children as long as they identify as girls (“Boy Wanting to Join Girl Scouts Told ‘No’”). However, an eight year old boy from Colorado, Bobby Montoya, wished to join the Girl Scouts and was turned away because he had “boy parts” (“Boy Wanting to Join Girl Scouts Told ‘No’”). In a news report aired by 9 News of Denver, Colorado, Bobby and his mother were interviewed concerning their plight (link). For his interview, young Bobby wore his long hair braided, and was clothed in a flowing shirt, skinny jeans, and knee-high boots: attire some may consider only appropriate for girls. Bobby showed the interviewer (and the audience) his toy collection, which consisted mostly of Barbies, Bratz Dolls, and My Little Pony Toys. Despite the fact that he identifies as a girl, dresses like a girl, and plays with toys that are generally associated with little girls, Bobby Montoya was discriminated against and was not allowed to join the Girl Scouts. After airing the interview with Bobby and his mother, the news anchors for 9 News interviewed a clinical psychologist to figure out whether it was Bobby’s mother’s ‘fault’ that Bobby looked and acted like a girl. The question that should have been asked is: is it anyone’s fault? This news clip of Bobby and his mother provides a prime, firsthand example of a child whose ideas of gender roles and identity are different from other children his age, but is anyone at fault? Does Bobby dress and act this way because of his own liking for girl-typed toys and clothes, or did his mother influence him? The big question is: are the types of toys and clothing parents buy for their children meant to introduce and reinforce gender role concepts, and do these attempts actually work?
The truth is that concepts of gender identity belong on the “nurture” side of the psychological “nature vs. nurture” debate. Humans are born a definitive gender, but the way that they identify with this gender is cultivated through the environment that they grow up in. If a girl is treated like a girl by her family and friends, if she is told to act like a lady, made to wear dresses and play with dolls, she is going to do all of these things and believe that it is because that is the way girls are supposed to be. This realization of gender identity and gender role comes at a young age: several university studies were conducted that suggest that children as young as the age of three have already begun to construct ideas about gender roles simply because of the toys they play with and the clothes that they wear. Because this happens at such a young age, it can be assumed that parents are the biggest influence on shaping a child’s gender identity; after all, three year olds don’t by toys for themselves. A journal article written for the Early Childhood Education Journal explores a case-study in which preschool girls and boys are asked to predict their parents’ reactions...

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