Male Chauvinism – Are boys born with it?

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So I was at my parents’ house yesterday afternoon, spending a little time with my mum and my sons.  Four of us were milling around the living room having a cuppa when one of us asked Finley something.  I can’t remember who asked him and what was asked, but I remember that he wasn’t listening to us.

So mum kindly reminded him that it was important that he should listen when grown-ups are talking to him.  His response to that was,

“You’re not a grown-up, granny.”

“I’m not a grown-up?  What about mummy?  Is she a grown-up?” my mother replied.

“No, mummy isn’t a grown-up.”

“What about daddy?  Is he a grown-up?” mum continued.

“Yes, daddy is a grown-up.”

“What about uncle Leon?”

“Yes, uncle Leon is a grown-up.”

“What about granddad?”

“Yes, granddad is a grown-up.”

Mum and I continued quizzing him about who were grown-ups and who were not, and it became very apparent that all the women in my elder son’s life were not considered grown-ups.  Mum and I sat there clutching our brews in utter astonishment.  At what point did my 3-year old make the decision that men were grown-ups and women were not?  And why?

When Ian is working, he has early starts and late finishes, with a lot of weekend paperwork involved, and consequently doesn’t get as much time with the kids as he would like.  So I found Finley’s conclusions particularly baffling, as mum and I are probably the two adults that spend the majority of his time with him, us being the grown-ups doing the caring and teaching, and being the epitome of ‘grown-up’.  Furthermore, I spend a lot of time positively demonstrating gender equality, avoiding pushing gender stereotypes onto the kids and making a conscious effort to promote gender neutral values.

Perhaps I’m not doing it well enough.

Indeed, although it came as a shock to hear about my elder son’s definition of a grown-up, it did occur to me that maybe his definition of ‘grown-up’ was completely different to ours.  I attempted to question him on the meaning of ‘grown-up’, but to no avail.  He had become engrossed in his Lego by this time and was no longer interested in taking part in meaningful gender debates.

I will continue to pick his brain on these thoughts though; try and get to the bottom of it.  The truth is, I can’t fathom why he has made this bizarre conclusion, and I’m ever-so-slightly concerned that it is rooted in some embryonic sexist views he is developing about men and women.  I hope I’m wrong.

And then the fun began...
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24 thoughts on “Male Chauvinism – Are boys born with it?

  1. really interesting post lovely. I wonder though whether if you asked him the same question tomorrow he would have a completely different set of answers. I know my three year old probably would. It’s hard though isn’t it – as much as we do to try and stop stereotypes from forming – our influences aren’t the only ones they are exposed to x

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    1. Kiran, it is so interesting. I’m absolutely certain that he would give me a different answer at a different time. I’d give anything to get into his head at that moment to see what his thought process was. Why did, at that moment, he consider only the men in his life as grown-ups? Indeed, what on earth is his definition of a grown-up? The minds of children are so fascinating.

      Incidentally, this morning, HE was the grown-up! Thanks for reading and for your thoughtful comment, Kiran x

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  2. Their minds are so fascinating but baffling and worrying all at the same time. H has made similar sort of statements and I can’t help but worry how/why etc. As they get older I guess all we can do is continue to talk openly about the values we want our children to have and have our actions match those as best we can. Really fascinating post! x

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    1. Absolutely, it is really important to be open and keep discussing values and complicated issues that we take for granted are simple. The mind of a 3-year old is definitely baffling, especially when they seem to pluck ideas and opinions out of nowhere! Thanks for reading and for your thoughtful comment x

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  3. I’d say it’s something to observe for now rather than get worried about. As Sian and Kiran say, kids of this age make random statements like this one day for no rhyme or reason, then the next day it’s all forgotten. So often they pick up a comment out of context and run with it without fully knowing what they’re saying.

    I’ve had similar experiences with my two older kids, and in virtually every case it soon passes without requiring any intervention. And in the rare instances where we have had to have a conversation, it’s often been an opportunity to gently teach some wider lessons about respect and sensitivity.

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    1. Tim, after talking to my dad, I think that I’ve come across as really worried, when really, although mum and I were totally flabbergasted, we did find it amusing. I’m not worried, per se, I was just taken aback and totally thrown hearing his theories.

      I have to say, I discussed this with him the next day, and asked his opinion again. He’d taken on board what I had explained the previous day (that ladies and men are grown-ups) and told me that ‘mummy is a grown-up, granny is a grown-up and I am a grown-up’. Ok – so you’re 3, but you’re now a grown-up with us ladies, Fin?

      I got a totally different answer today!

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  4. That is a bit weird. As I was reading I was actually thinking ‘I wonder just what he defines a “grown up” to be – ie – does it have positive or negative connotations for him? I guess you tried to get to the bottom of that one – I’d love to know if you ever find out! It might just be one of those nonsense ideas three year olds have on a whim and will change overnight too! I think they get to an age where they are more and more aware of there being differences between the genders and start trying to define the separation of the roles in some way that has some meaning to it for them? God knows! (Pardon the blasphemy 😉 ) Thanks for linking up #thetruthabout X

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    1. Sam, I did indeed try to get to the bottom of it. I think he realised that he’d cocked it up somewhere, but used avoidance (Lego) to deal with his mistake. The next day, he correctly stated that mum and I are indeed grown-ups, but he has also joined us – believing that he is a grown-up too.

      I corrected him on this today, explaining that he is a child. He threw himself down on the floor (not in a tantrum, just in deep disappointment), and said that it wasn’t fair – he wanted to be a grown-up. I had to explain that it is actually really cool being a child, without telling him about the misery of bills, rent, mortgage, debt and wrinkles…

      #thetruthabout – Thanks for having me xx

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  5. Children can come up with real gems. This is a good one, and it makes me wonder what his definition of ‘grown-up’ might be. When he gets tired of the Lego, it would be interesting to see what he says. I will ask Crevette and Beanie today what ‘grown-ups’ are!

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    1. Mel, don’t they just? Several times a day I am taken aback by various statements and revelations from Finley’s mouth. It is a great age, isn’t it? I still haven’t managed to get a definition of a grown-up from him. Did you get any good answers from yours? xx

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  6. They’re not born with it, but the influences are everywhere – although not so ever-present for a three year old. I’d plump for the random comment explanation, but do keep us informed. #thetruthabout

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    1. I’m with you – probably random, although tinged with a genuine idea that fellas are grown-ups. After we corrected him, I’m sure he realised that he’d made a mistake, but he likes to divert attention from his mistakes with distractions (like Lego).

      I genuinely did not believe, for one second, that boys are born as chauvinists! A bit of a sensational headline, really. Maybe I should apply for a job with The Daily Mail… (o:

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  7. How interesting and thought-provoking. It does make you wonder what their thought processes are and why they define things in a certain way. Am sure at this stage it may well change often but it does make you wonder what he means by the term ‘grown-up’ Would definitely be interested to hear more if you ever find out why.

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    1. I would love to know what his little definition of ‘grown-up’ was at that point. I think he thinks it is something amazing, as I was talking to him this evening about it. He now realises that mummy is also a grown-up, but he also thinks he is a grown-up. I had to shatter his dream by telling him that he is actually a child, to which he threw himself onto the floor in despair, telling me that it ‘isn’t fair’ and that he wants ‘to be a grown-up’. Bless. xx

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  8. Mmmm, doesn’t sound like anything to worry about at this stage. I go with the majority view that it’s probably a one-off. My daughters have been know ot refer to me as “the boss of the family” on some occassions and say the same about my wife the next day. I don’t think it’s anyhting major so long as he respects you and your mother’s authority as much as his father’s. One final thought, is it positively a negative thing that he doesn’t regard his father a sa grown up? Does it mean he struggles to relate to him and so considers him a more distant character and therefore he is grown up and you aren’t? I’m almost certainly wrong, but just a leftfield thing to consider.

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    1. John, honestly, I’m really not worried. The title was a little outrageous, (I’m a budding Daily Mail writer, don’t you know?), but I really am not worried about him growing into a chauvinist.

      An interesting thought there and it is always fascinating to turn ideas on their heads. I think that Fin really does see his dad as a grown-up, and probably more so than me, as I have a tendency to be more lenient on him. Having talked to him about this matter since, he now realises that I am a grown-up, but he is labelling himself as a grown-up also. I shattered his illusion this evening by telling him that he is actually a child. I almost told him that I wished I was a child also…

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  9. Maybe he views all women the same- regardless of age whereas of course men are grown up versions of him? He can clearly see he will grow up to be just like them one day but he will never be a woman. I wouldn’t worry that it means he thinks any less of women, it is probably just a toddlers peculiar brain at work. xx

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    1. That’s an interesting thought, Katy. I’m more than very certain that it was his 3-year old brain making a bit of a cock-up (he soon realised that he had). He has since conceded that I am a grown-up, but is now of the belief that he is also a grown-up. So this was another thing I had to correct him on, which was met by utter devastation on his part. By the time he’s a real grown-up, he’ll realise that it is actually awesome being a kid! xx

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    1. Renee (apologies, I have no idea how to get the accent over the ‘e’ here in WordPress), let me fill you in. So after explaining to him that day that my mother and I are also grown-ups, I think he realised that he had made a mistake, and was a little embarrassed. This is the point where he immersed himself into his Lego. The next day, I quizzed him, and he told me that my mother and I are both grown-ups. And then this evening, I quizzed him again, and to that list, he has added himself as a grown-up. I explained to him that he is actually a child, and he was most upset at this news, stating that it ‘was unfair’ because he wants to be a grown-up.

      He still won’t/can’t define the meaning of ‘grown-up’ to me, but he certainly knows that his little brother is not a grown-up! x

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      1. Kids are such funny little creatures aren’t they, change their mind with the wind. Thankfully it doesn’t appear to be sexism or anything else to worry about 🙂

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  10. I think sometimes we maybe can read a bit too much into these things? I speak for myself on that too as I constantly over analyze my lot for things they say. Having said THAT, I do think there is an interesting debate around nature/nurture with chauvinism – my son has definitely come out with some corkers which have not come from us, which I have done my best to challenge appropriately! x

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    1. Yes, I think we would totally drive ourselves nuts if we took everything our preschoolers said too seriously. He’s at the stage where he is saying some thoroughly bonkers things. Half of the time I find myself laughing where I should be doing some sensible correcting and steering in the right direction.

      Thanks for your comment, Spidermummy x

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