23 June 2006

You've Got to be Taught....but how?

I've got a number of posts in my head--stories to share about our trip to State With Small Mountains, thoughts on becoming department head and the workshop I just attended on academic chair duties, updates on the latest twists on the road to potty training, thoughts on home renovation. I will share one tip: don't put raw rice in the garbage disposal. It will clog the drain.

At the moment, all these other posts are crowded out by befuddlement and anger at an interaction I witnessed at Curious Girl's school today. They had a field trip to a farm today, and because of CG's continued difficulties staying dry all day, her teacher asked me be a helper on the trip. So I got to see the pre-trip routine in the classroom. The children lined up in pairs, holding hands with their partners, and Curious Girl was partnered with City Girl. When I had walked into the room that morning, City Girl was crying a little because she didn't think Curious Girl was coming to school. When she saw CG, she ran over and they hugged. Happies all around--these two girls have been buddies since the baby room, 3 years ago. They play together a lot at school. They're affectionate. And as they were holding hands at the front of the line of children, they were chatting, swinging their arms, smiling. Curious Girl lifted their arms, and gave City Girl a kiss on the back of her palm. "That's disgusting!" City Girl said. Curious Girl didn't seem to pay much mind to that, as City Girl leaned forward and down, looked her in the face and said "You kissed me!" Curious Girl kissed her again, same place, on the back of the hand, and City Girl continued, "That's disgusting. You're not a boy!"

And I was thinking "WTF?!?!?"

Curious Girl really didn't seem to be listening to City Girl at all. They continued holding hands, they sat next to each other on the schoolbus (her first bus ride!!!), they happily chattered. City Girl didn't really seem disturbed, either, and for the rest of the day their play continued as usual. When they wanted me to take their photo together, City Girl hugged Curious Girl, seemingly her usual affectionate self. But I'm just dumbfounded. These girls are four years old. Where on earth did City Girl even get the language to say what she did?

We've had City Girl and her sibling and mother to our house. The first play date we ever had, City Mama made a point of telling me about the gay friends her own mother had and how happy she was to grow up knowing gay people, and how it was important to her that her children know a lot of different kinds of people. It did have a bit of "some of my best friends are gay" about it, but still, it was sincere. All of City Family has always seemed so pleased about the fact the City Girl and Curious Girl are friends. We've had a good number of playdates and playground conversations over time. Her parents seem like good people. So where does this come from? I don't mean to sound naive here: I know homophobia exists. I just wasn't expecting to hear this, today, from one of my daughter's oldest friends.

Politica thinks I should tell City Mama what I heard. I'm not sure.

I was sure happier last night, going to bed after blogging about the wonders of the World's Greatest Speech Therapist. Watching evidence of homophobia channeled through a four-year-old girl whose friendship network you'd think would have taught her differently is pretty darn depressing.


Texas Poppet said...

This is a sad story. I'm glad that you were perceptive enough to notice. I know it sounds trite, but your baby will more about life and love in her home than she ever will in the big insensitive world. Sounds to me like she's doing great.

Jody said...

Damn. That just stinks for everyone.

Wilder likes to hug all his friends -- enthusiastically. I have felt very lucky that even the little boys who are most freaked out by these passionate displays of affection limit their response to a rapid backing away when Wilder lunges toward them. But I'm sure it's just a question of time before he gets a worse response, and it hurts me heart to think about.

liz said...

Thank goodness this sort of bigotry hasn't cropped up in MM's class yet. All the boys and girls hug each other enthusiastically and indiscriminantly regardless of sex, color, religion, or height.

[knocking wood]

Phantom Scribbler said...

It is possible that City Girl could be imbibing the homophobia from any number of sources besides her parents, though that's certainly the most likely place. If she has older siblings, they've probably heard those messages from their peers or from media sources like cartoons. It's pretty awful, though. I'm sorry about it.

elswhere said...

I'm sorry this happened. I know it isn't exactly the same, but MG herself has been known to opine (when she was younger--about three) that you need a boy and a girl to get married. And she was a flower girl at her own mothers' wedding!

Homophobia is everywhere. It's in the very air these kids breathe. Not knowing City Girl's parents, I can't say if it came from them. But I agree with PS that it didn't have to have.

LilySea said...

I agree with Politica. it sounds like City Mom probably would be appalled and want to get to the bottom of it, herself. So I'd tell her, not out of an accusatory impulse, but out of a friendly, collaborative impulse.

Mommygoth said...

I think Politica's right - you should say something to City Mom, you could even couch it in terms of how odd it is that kids that age have any awareness of kissing and gender issues in the first place. A four year old shouldn't even really know that kisses are connected to attraction. Because that's even weirder to me than the specificity of "boy". I would love to live in a world where kids felt comfortable kissing each other at 4, without assigning any context to it other than "you're my friend". Sorry - I'm sure that was a really startling and sad thing to hear.

susan said...

Welcome, Texas Poppet--and thanks to everyone who's commented so far. I think I will talk to City Mama about this one of these days.

What gets me about it is not to much the assumption of heterosexual normativity (which surface also in MG's former comments in Elswhere's comment) but the "disgusting" part. But you're right, mommygoth, it does seem like an oddly adult way of reacting to the situation.

I do hate the way children get sexualized so young in all kinds of ways--some people already ask CG if she has "boyfriends" and I think that's just plain weird.

Arwen said...

Way late to comment: I'm just catching up on my reading now.

However, one of the things I've really noticed with (4 year old) Ripley and his friends is that they'll catch a taboo like a cold. First, everything was "sexy" (?). Then, we had to put to end the insult "noron" - obviously misheard "moron", and somewhat amusing, but still... I've also had Ripley tell me that orange is "a girl colour", (with all the snark a four year old could muster about how gross THAT was) which necessitated a bit of a talk about prejudice. After I'd calmed down a bit. ( he is now happy to wear orange again. whew.)

So who *knows* where she got it from. I agree that it's everywhere. The air. A particular child (maybe not even City Girl, if there's lots of kids around) may have parents saying such things; or they may have heard a group of teenagers somewhere at a mall. Who knows.

I'm one of those conflict avoidance people so I have a hard time talking to other parents about their children's attitudes. I end up talking to the kids - I'm still trying to determine if this is passive-agressive of me, or okay. I'd be likely to talk to the kids (although probably not in that sort of situation.)

Actually, now that I think of it, do you think it's appropriate? I'd be likely to say something like: "It's okay, City Girl; Curious Girl brushes her teeth. Did you hear that boys were better at teeth brushing?" ( Or whatever. That's off the top of my head. Truthfully, I'd actually probably say something about poo, or baby slobber, since those are the things the kids around here call "disgusting".) Generally, if the kid protests further, I say something like "Oh, well. That's a new one for me! Well, I'd like it if you guys can stop calling each other disgusting. If you don't want CG to kiss you, you can say "no thanks!" and she'll listen."

The thing is, I'd never go to the mom/dad because... well, I'm a wimp.