5 Subtle Sexist Things You Can't Stop Noticing After You Have A Daughter

by M. Esther Sherman

There are a number of things that go unnoticed until you have kids. Most childless adults don’t realize exactly how few changing tables there are in bathrooms, how disgusting their toddlers usually look, or the fact that they are often one chubby cheek away from falling down. Most childless adults don’t realize how many stretches of road along any given freeway are without adequate restrooms, something that becomes painfully obvious when you have a child screaming about how urgently need to pee. Most childless adults don’t even realize that the baby crying on the airplane is just as miserable as they are. Yes, there are just some things you don’t notice until you have kids. But when it comes to the things you do start to notice after having kids, does the gender of your child matter?

In a lot of ways, yes. Growing up as a girl in a house full of boys (and being raised conservative, to boot), there was never talk of sexism. My parents were never the type to make variations to rules based on gender or to assume certain things about my taste or motivations because I was girl. So, there were a lot of things about sexism (and the world in general) that I was blissfully unaware of — until I had a girl of my own. There’s something about having a daughter, and gazing long and hard into her future, that forces you to realize things you hadn’t seen before. Here are some subtle, sexist things you won’t notice until you have a daughter:

Use Of The Word "Girl"

The word girl is often used as a negative. For example: "You hit like a girl." Well, I’m going to choose to believe you mean "like an absolute badass" but I realize that’s not where you’re going with that. While many of us take note of this earlier in our lives, few of us take the time to note that women are continued to be referred to as “girls” for much of their lives where men are typically only referred to as “boys” while they are children. Grown women are referred to as "girls" quite frequently, and the subconscious subtext is undeniably infantilizing and disempowering. Does that seem like nit-picking? Sure. Do things like this matter? Absolutely.

Clothing Options For Girls Are Absurd

As soon as children leave the range of baby clothes, there starts to be major discrepancies between the type of clothing available to young girls, and that marketed to boys. Whereas boys’ fashion tends to be more functional (see: things children can actually play in), clothing sold to girls tends be both style-oriented and more expensive than its male counterparts. In addition, once you move up a few sizes more, it becomes almost impossible to find clothing that’s both cute and age-appropriate. And that's not even to broach the completely insane practice of gendering kids' clothing and toys, since pretty much any kid can wear basically any item of clothing as well as anyone else.

Dress Code Enforcement

This one isn’t even subtle enough to need explaining. Girls are required to dress in a manner that’s not distracting for boys. Yes, because how girls dress is the issue here. Ugh. Double ugh.

Children’s Books Routinely Omit Female Ambition

This was a big one for me as a lover of fairly tales and classic stories. I never gave much thought to what lessons the stories teach (either overtly or subtly) until I had a daughter. Overwhelmingly, especially in the fairy tales and classic stories, male characters are given dreams and ambitions while female characters are given a desire to find a man. Even in stories that don’t involve romantic relationships, the female characters are typically drawn with domestic goals where male characters are given a broader range of options.

The Kind Of Compliments Your Child Receives

This is my number one feminist pet peeve and I never even realized it until I had a daughter (and several of my friends had sons). If you have a daughter, it is extremely rare for a stranger or friend to compliment your baby or child in a way that doesn’t revolve around appearance. From the time my little was born, she was called "pretty," "cute," "adorable," and "a future heartbreaker." These are all true, for the record, but still, the choice of compliments thrown at my kid become somewhat enraging when you consider that my friends with boys were typically told that they are "so alert," or "smart," or "seems like he could be president someday." So, the next time someone leans in and tells your daughter she's "pretty...", feel free to finish their sentence with, "...awesome and brilliant and badass? Yeah, I know. She is."

Images: margejacobsen/Instagram; Giphy(5)