Article: Written by Renee L. Richardson

Too boyish to Cry: Way too girly not to

As an African American woman, and educator, I sit inside of my preschool classroom amazed at the observations of which I am afforded. During my astonishing experiences with the young learner, I have found that there exists gender-role identity bias within the preschool classroom setting in the year of 2012. Regardless of the countless amounts of research of which suggest that educators encourage and support boy children to experiment with dolls, housekeeping learning areas, dramatic play dress up clothing of both genders and girl students who like playing within the block areas, with trucks, and those who enjoy engaging in contact sports, I am disappointed to announce that I continue to see the young learner inflicted with gender role bias by parents as well as educators. In addition, society has set the stage in our belief that there are in fact behaviors, toys, and learning areas that are for “boys” and such which are for “girls”. Further, I have observed gender bias even when it comes to the mere choice of colors of which students choose to use within the preschool classroom.

Where does this come from?

Via the media, subliminal message, and spoken word, society continues to paint the picture of how we are supposed to fit neatly into our gender roles. For example, the boys are encouraged to behave in manners that are aggressive in that such behaviors are justified as “he’s just being a boy”. In contrast, when a boy exempt any display of emotion, he’s is told to “stop acting like a little girl”. On the other hand, when a girl engages in contact activities she is quickly labeled as “acting rough or like a boy” or when she displays any form of aggression or physical self defense, she is characterized as boyish. In addition, we must further examine our gender biases in that we must be mindful that such can lead to creating issues of aggression and co dependency of which can lead to situations of domestic violence within adulthood. For instance, a young boy is encouraged to express his anger/discomfort through physical means and a girl is taught to withhold her emotions in light of being feminine, you have later in life, the adult male who cannot express himself verbally thereby resorting to aggressive measures to communicate of which can contribute to the victimization of others. Then, we have the female adult who withholds her emotions and feelings thereby becoming submissive/passive in behaviors thereby becoming a targeted victim of abuse.

How can parents contribute to gender role bias?

As a preschool teacher, I cannot express to you the many times that I have been called into conference because a parent complained to the Director of how she/he witnessed their son playing in dresses and high heel shoes. In addition, male parents have yelled and raged at how they do not want their sons to become homosexuals due to being allowed to play in dresses and girl shoes. Ok, do to our ignorance in regard to homosexuality, allow me to reassure you that it will take more than an half hour of play in a preschool classroom to determine that a young child will be homosexual; homosexuality has much more to do with biological make up than to do with being allowed to play creatively and freely at the age of four. Is not the dramatic play an area of which you can allow your imagination to run wild? Ok, what is the difference between your male child pretending to be Peter Pan skipping around in body tights all day from putting on an apron and baking cookies like grandma?

Please, let’s be clear. I am from the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, the ghetto, the gutter, the concrete jungle, the pj’s and I was a single parent. Without years of maturity, college education, and tons of research, I could not imagine walking into a classroom and seeing any one of my three sons playing in a dress and high heels; heads would have rolled. However, I can understand and appreciate modern research. Let’s say that your son grew up and you found out that he is homosexual, what if he never played dress up in preschool? What if he was aggressive, rough, and played with trucks and cars all day? What, who and where would you place the blame? Why can’t your son play with dolls? What better way to learn to care for women and children than to play with dolls? You wonder why some men are insensitive to your needs as a female; he was not encouraged to learn how to be sensitive, loving and caring.

How does the school contribute to gender role bias?

Teachers, how many of us are guilty of directing and redirecting our students into their “proper” characteristics of gender? I will be the first to admit that I am guilty of such. Early in my teaching experiences, I have found myself thinking: “Why does he always choose the pink paint to make a picture”? “Doesn’t he like the color blue”? I am ashamed but in order to be mindful of our actions, we must first be honest with ourselves. In addition, I have observed teachers who refuse to allow boy students to play within the cooking/dramatic play, or housekeeping areas. On the other hand, I have witnessed teacher who did not allow girl students to play within the block area because the teacher felt as though such an area was more suitable for boy students. In light of living in our imperfect surrounding world, we are human and susceptible to mistakes; therefore, we must work together to stay current in our research, mindful of who and where our research originated and mainly keeping in mind that it really DOES TAKE A VILLAGE TO RAISE A CHILD…..

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Renee L. Richardson

Author's Bio: 

Renee L. Richardson has always possessed a passion for learning and attempting to understand people. In addition, she has a profound respect for utilizing every experience whether positive or negative as teachable moments.
Growing up in a low socio economic environment, she has defied physics so to speak with her dynamic approaches to wellness as she reflects on her past experiences as a tool of guidance. In addition, Renee has a BA in Liberal Arts with a concentration in Psychology, a MA in Education and is currently seeking a Phd in Counseling Psychology; all of which are considered bonuses to her natural talent when interacting with individuals as she assists them in appraoches and methods to foster psycholgical growth.
Renee has also written two books of which is scheduled to be published in 2012. The first book written is a semi-autobiography of which explains the childhood abuse that she endured. The book reveals the tools and methods of which concluded as successful as she encountered and balanced her extremely toxic relationships throughout childhood and well into her adult life.
As a full time teacher, adjunct professor, and motivational speaker, Renee welcomes the challenges of speaking out at public events in the attempt to touch at least one person. Her relentless efforts to spread a positive word whether in person or via the written word, she welcomes the challenges in regard to promoting change.