Gender Roles

Baby & I were just reading He Bear, She Bear – a Berenstein Bears’ look at gender and gender roles in a “learn to read” format (my thoughts on graded, leveled and easy-read books are another post).
I appreciate the authors’ attempt (c. 1974) to open up work possibilities for women by emphasizing how anyone can do any kind of work. They get there, unfortunately, by clearly emphasizing that all bears are either he bears or she bears; and that being a girl or a boy prepares you, specifically, for being a mama or a dada. As I become more aware of the fluidity of gender, these binary reinforcements make me cringe. And regardless of the social understanding they create, I want my daughter to feel free to be herself, with whatever combination of gender characteristics she chooses.

I attempted to introduce some reflection on the topic:

Me: Do you think girls can be dadas?
Her: No!
Me: What do dadas do? (trying to dig into roles rather than
Her: They work more than mamas.
Me: What? I work lots too.
Her: You go to meetings. Dadas work in the shop.
Me: Meetings can be work too.
Her: Meetings are talking. Dadas go to shops and work there.

There you have it. Men work more than women. Intellectual work isn’t real work.

On the plus (?) side, while driving yesterday she said “I like that I’m learning the names of different kinds of cars,” reflecting the automobile instruction husband provides as we drive around. She knows trucks, minivans, cars and others, and they have decided that she will drive a Mini when she’s older, as it’s just the right size of car for her.


  1. Ahh – this has been a fun topic for us, too, but on the flip side. Trying to explain why his mommy works until 5:00 while the other mommies at school pick up their kids at 11:30.

    • Indeed! Either way, they’re trying to figure out what Mommies and Daddies in general do. And also, for me to remember, what we do now is not what we’ll do always.

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