There’s a Good Girl- Gender Stereotyping in the First Three Years.

For the first module we are to research and write our design intention. I am currently thinking of researching deeper into gender,stereotyping, and societies expectations and how gender specific items or behaviors are imprinted on children early on. I am slightly worried about being typecast but this area is what I am passionate about.

Here I am going to talk about the book There’s A Good Girl. Gender stereotyping in the first three years of life: A Diary.

(Grabruker, M. 1988. There’s A Good Girl. Gender Stereotyping in the first three years of life: A Diary. London: The Women’s Press Ltd.

Grabruker writes in an honest and accessible way, exactly how you would expect a diary to be written and begins by telling how she being born in Germany during the second wave of feminism. She was consciously aware of gender equality and determined to not have her daughter be brought up believing she should act in a certain way, follow suit and have limited dreams and expectations. She documents near daily experiences of occurrences in society that have an effect on how her daughter sees differences between the sexes and the conversations with other mothers, grandparents, and friends that imply there are simply natural differences between girls and boys that nothing can be done about; not realising that the differences are down to how they see them and how they react to and expect them. She, in fact, is shocked at times when her own gender specific expectations are exposed. She notes how it is only through looking back on her diary does she become aware of some of the things she has done. Or not done.

There are so many post-it notes and turned page corners throughout the short book showing just how little I believe things have progressed over the last 28 years. She speaks of how her friends who have boys accept their outbursts of aggression towards other children and how the girls need to stand up for themselves if they are to do so later in life. They speak and behave differently to the boys and also to her child Annelli when they believe she is also a boy. ‘So Schorschi’s clumsiness or physical awkwardness at moments of excitement is interpreted as being real masculine behavior… No one corrects Schorschi, enlightens or admonishes him… It is what is expected of his sex then there is no need to alter it at all.’ (pg.35-36) In another entry Grabruker tells of Annelli lifting her dress and how this instinctively made her react. Once she has time to evaluate her actions she describes how ‘Exhibitionism in girls makes adults panic. Exhibitionism in boys when they pee is regarded as an achievement, sometimes encouraged, and generally felt to be quite normal’ (pg. 57). I have thought to myself about certain incidences that have occurred when I have been present and the offence taken by the men to these little boys wanting to play or wear something deemed as feminine is as if the man’s own masculinity is being judged. Grabruker recalls her husband talking in relation to his daughter, ‘He’s convinced he wouldn’t want to touch and hold a little boy so much. It would be embarrassing with a boy. he says; he cannot imagine so much physical contact with another man, however small that man is.’ (pg 48). I recall a relative speaking of a three year old boy who had been bought a boy for his hair and this was expected to determine his sexual preference. The diary suggests that it is expected for a girl to behave as a girl in some situations and in others she has to behave like a boy; whereas it is always negative for a boy to display any signs of feminine traits. (pg 66). Many incidences noted in the book may portray that a large part of the problem is preserving the idea of masculinity and not actually helping to enlighten women and girls that they can be and do whatever they choose.

After coming to this conclusion regarding preserving masculinity, I plan to look into this area further as well as the impact of media and advertising, and the environment. Annelli is reported to of responded to visual associations while in public and also to relationships between the sexes in the street. She communicates her findings via sizes by drawing male figures larger than the female although in reality they are the same height.

I would like both men and women to read this book as I am curious as to how much of it would never occur or goes unnoticed as even now only some are tuned to this degree. I spoke to my partner about it. Strangely, I would prefer that he read himself than me relay the account as I found myself feeling pathetic, whiney even, although I know that almost identical views, expectations and incidences happen today. It was an unexpected and thought-provoking feeling seeing as he is very supportive of equality. He said he didn’t think things like this happened and then he went to sleep. It wasn’t dismissive, it was as if he had nothing to offer as he has never had to look at things in this way before.

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