When my daughter was about 2-years-old, on a trip to the local soft play centre a rather confused looking older boy asked me “Is she a boy or a girl?” about my daughter.
Resisting the urge to point out he’d already answered his question I simply replied “She’s a girl.”
“Why is she wearing a Spider-Man t-shirt then?” he retorted.
“Because she likes Spider-Man”.
The boy pondered, until his older sister (I assume) joined in telling him “Yeah, girls can like Spider-Man too y’know!”.
With a satisfying sense of “Our work here is done”, we went on our way.
I often recall this incident. I hope every time my daughter wears superhero or Star Wars clothing, she is similarly influencing or subverting other children’s (and parents) ideas of what is and isn’t for girls.
She’ll be starting school in a few weeks, and she still needs to gain confidence in making new friends. Luckily, she knows 4 other girls in her class, but I am concerned she will find it too easy to just stick with them.
I’m encouraging her to venture outside her immediate social circle from time to time, but I’m not sure how effective I am being. I’ve asked her nursery to work with her a little on this in her final weeks there, as they have noted the same.
At the local playground, we bumped into one of the girls she knows, as I was explaining my concerns to the girl’s mother while they ran off and played.
With perfect timing, as I had just finished telling her, my daughter bounded over saying excitedly “Daddy, daddy, I’ve just made a new friend! This is James!”
Turns out they got talking because of her t-shirt – showing Captain America, Iron Man, Hulk, and Black Widow. James is a fan of Iron Man. I encouraged my daughter to talk to him about the others. With practically a sigh, she said “I’ve already told him who they are daddy”.
The kids ran off and played. I was happy that our daughter’s confidence with people is rising – and hopefully this is one boy who will now assume ‘Superheroes are for girls too”.
One thing I’ve noticed happening from time to time is that when we meet men for the first time, and they see my daughter wearing a geeky t-shirt, they have a tendency to ask her about it.
The reactions vary – most think it’s cool. Some are actually jealous (“My wife would never let me dress my daughter in that”), but others are incredulous.
These men tend to test my daughter’s knowledge, by asking her who the characters are, possibly buying into the fake geek girl idea.
She’ll often be intimidated being quizzed by a strange man, and answer “I don’t know”, reinforcing their prejudice while they mansplain the answer.
Yesterday at a local fayre, while we were waiting in the faceprinting queue, a man asked my daughter who the characters were on her top. With a seemingly new found confidence, she told him their names without hesitation.
“Oh, she really does know who they are..!” he said to no one in particular.
Hopefully this is one man who will now assume ‘Superheroes are for girls too”.
Especially after her choice of face painting.