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March 04, 2008

TV, Kids, Sexism and Me

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Recently I discovered I'm a closet sexist, and this is the story of how it happened.

As many of you may know, I'm a SINK:  Single Income, No Kids.  I am however lucky enough to have surrogate kids.  Their names are Cara and Milos.  He's seven and she's just about to turn five.  They're the kids of good friends of mine and I've know them since before they were born.

I love them within an inch of their lives and I'm ready to throw down with anyone who dares to think their kids are more adorable.

Since I'm in the media, I've taken on the responsibility to teach them about the media, but of course only on the most simplistic level.  I talk to them about television, movies and commercials, and how sometimes, what you see isn't what you think it is.

So while they still watch "Dora The Explorer" and "Sponge Bob" their parents have no problem with me introducing them to age appropriate TV classics like "The Flintstones."  Although the male/female stereotyping is way behind the times, it's well written and funny, and I make sure to point out how sometimes Moms like Wilma work instead of stay at home and sometimes Dads like Fred stay at home instead of work.  Most of the time, all they care about is hearing Dino barking in that funny, crazy way he has. 

A couple of years ago, when his parents said he was old enough, I introduced Milos to the movie "Star Wars."  I have the original trilogy and we watched it on DVD with his Mom who'd somehow never seen it.  When Cara was old enough, she too liked "Star Wars" and every so often would want to see it.

One day the kids were at my house for an afternoon of cupcake baking and DVD watching and I had a choice of two movies for them.  One was "Heidi" with Shirley Temple, one of my favorite stories as a kid, and the other was the millionth screening of "Star Wars."  They both wanted to watch both movies, but we didn't have the time.  Besides, five and seven year olds barely have the attention spans for single features much less double.

Well Milos decided he wanted "Star Wars" and Cara decided she wanted "Heidi," and I had a dilemma.  Since I wanted to watch "Heidi" also, I tried convincing Milos that we should watch that since we had seen "Star Wars" so many times before.  Milos wasn't having it, though to be fair, his objection wasn't because "Heidi" was a girl's movie, he just wanted to see "Star Wars" more.

Well because I thought I had a better chance of persuading Cara than Milos, I asked her to watch "Star Wars" this time and "Heidi" next time.  She agreed.  However it became a moot point when after half an hour they both wanted to play Sorry instead.

It wasn't until later, after they'd gone home that I realized what I had done.  I'd made the decision to convince Cara to change her mind because I felt that I had a greater chance of success with her.  Now to be perfectly honest, part of the reason was because Milos was older and his debating skills were sharper than hers.  But the other more horrifying reason was because she was a girl.

I didn't want to have to confront the boy so I confronted the girl because it was easier.

I was appalled.

Years ago, I read in a movie trade paper that movies geared toward older teens and young adults were aways written with males in mind because the assumption was that movie going decisions, either on a date or as part of a group, were almost always made by the boy.  I remember thinking, so that's why we have so many asinine movies about even more asinine male and female characters.

Yet I had unconsciously fallen into that same stereotypical trap.  How could I?

I try very hard not to do stuff like that.  I make sure I sit and listen to Cara as much as I sit and listen to Milos.  I don't let him interrupt her when she's talking, or vice versa.  I try to compliment her about things other than her looks.  I'm progressive, damn it!

Yet, I had sacrificed the four year old girl for the seven year old boy.  I had made him the man of the house.  The person who got the food first.  The person who got waited on.  The person who would always be obeyed.

"The Flintstones" had ruined me!

Just writing about it gives me the shivers.

The story does have a happy ending, though.  After a couple of days of merciless self-flagellation, I cut myself some slack and decided that awareness was a good thing, and I had learned a lesson I wouldn't forget.

Also the next time Cara and Milos came to my house, we watched "Heidi," which though they both loved it, didn't hold a candle to a good ol' game of Sorry.

Cross Posted From BlogHer

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