Last night I was taking my 7-y.o. daughter to her first Taekwondo class, and my 11-y.o son asked to come along for the ride. In the car on the way the conversation turned to why she wanted to take it in the first place. “Well,” she said, “Christopher likes it. And I like a lot of boy things. So I thought I would like it too.”
In my mind, the thinking went a little like this: “Hmm. Boy things, eh? Yay, liberation, I guess! Um.”
My son said, “What do you mean, boy things?” So I kept my mouth shut and kept listening.
She said, “You know. Pokemon. Soccer. Running. Boy things.”
Son was kind enough to say, “Those aren’t boy things.”
“Sure they are.”
“No,” he said. And then the conversation took a turn I wasn’t expecting. “What if,” he said, “there are no boy things or girl things, there are just things. And what if,” he continued, “there are no girl colours, or boy colours, there are just colours?”
“What???” said his firmly-committed-to-pink sister.
“Did you know that 200 years ago, pink wasn’t considered an appropriate colour for girls?” (This is historically accurate, BTW.) “It was considered too strong a colour.”
“What?” (A brief conversation ensued regarding the social construction of conformity regarding clothing choices, colour, and aesthetics. Really. This is the sort of thing we talk about in the car.)
Then my son offered: “And that girls didn’t used to be allowed to do boy things?”
I did chime in here. “Did you know that women weren’t allowed to be doctors, or run for parliament?”
“Or vote,” added my son. “In fact, only rich, white, men got to vote.”
I got a shiver, really I did. Name race, name class, name gender in the same sentence and warm the cockles of my heart, dear child. 11-year-olds don’t tend to bat around the words “privilege” or “intersectionality”, but that’s a kid who is going to grow up to tell a different kind of story.
And yes, this time I’m totally bragging.