Thursday, February 27, 2014

Provocation - Gender Identity

Take this scenario: A boy arrives at your service wearing a pink shirt and a coupe of other boys notice his arrival. These boys comment that he's a girls because he's wearing a girl's shirt.

Or how about this one: A girl really wants to join some boys while they engaged in some rough and tumble superhero play, but one of the boys tells her she can't play be a superhero because she's a girl.

How do you react in such a situations if you react at all?

Are there other ways in which your children, colleagues or even yourself maintain biased beliefs that restrict certain children from engaging in specific experiences?

Are dress ups, dance or doll play domains primarily for girls?

Do you encourage boys more toward construction or with the use of real tools such as hammers and screwdrivers?

We all carry preconceived ideas and beliefs, but should we let these interfere with our pedagogical decisions?


  1. I have lots of things I want to say to in response to this, and nowhere enough time to be able to sit here and type in all the words and ideas that flood through my brain right now...

    Over the years I have had plenty of boys coming to preschool in pink... in skirts and dresses and being the mum or the princess... if they are questioned I let the children answer themselves... because often they have the right answer... but if they are being told that they can't wear pink etc I will ask them why they can't... will something happen... are colours gender specific? And then tell them about the history of colour and gender...

    Role-play is where EVERYONE can pretend to be what they want... boys can pretend to be mums just as children can pretend to be birds or lions... children are often much more accepting when you enter a discussion with them... it is juts about entering that discussion and allowing them to see another perspective and not just the one that society is feeding them...

    I do blog every once in a while about gender issues... equality of play, of life is important to me... and gender is a part of that...

    1. I'm sorry I didn't respond earlier Suzanne, but I was hoping others would add their perspective and I didn't want to add my voice before they had the opportunity to do so. However, I think enough time has passed now. You hit the nail on the head in my book. While there have been great inroads in this area, I'm afraid we still have many in our profession who don't see things the way we do.

  2. I am really enjoying your provocation series. Thanks Greg. As far as this one i find it is the grownups who are judgemental not the kids.

  3. Hi there

    I've never had to struggle with the issue of feeling uneasy with the way that girls/boys chose to entertain themselves. - play is play. If the boys want to play with dolls, or the girls fancy construction that's their interest. Let them get on with it. The interference in my experience is not (I hope) in the ECE setting, it's in the home. It's the fathers who don't want their sons to be "sissies", or the mums who have issues with their daughters not being mini versions of themselves.

    I'm more concerned about the quiet kids who sit in the corner and don't get involved. Even worse is the hideous gender-related issues I've seen in some cultures where boys will dominate the girls, belittle them and bully them, and even physically push them away from certain areas of the playspace. I saw that on secondment and was shocked that staff had never picked up on the clear no-go zones that the boys were making. Staff tried to dismiss it as "boys being boys", and that my friend is the real issue. We need to challenge any staff who apply such outdated thoughts. But hopefully my experience was a rare one... I hope.

    Best wishes