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Can girls have beards? Talking gender with a toddler

Can girls have beards? Talking gender with a toddler

“Daddy has a barba [Spanish for beard – this is a Spanglish household],” my two-year-old daughter said over breakfast.

“Yes, he does,” I said.

“I don’t have a barba. Not until I’m bigger.”

My husband and I both paused.

“You won’t get a barba when you’re bigger because you’re a girl,” my husband said finally. “Boys get barbas when they grow up and girls get boobs. Well, but not all boys get barbas. And I guess not all girls have boobs.”

“And a girl could have a barba if she was transgender. Or if she had a hormone imbalance,” I said.

My daughter stared at us.

“It’s tricky,” I said awkwardly.

“I like cornflakes,” she said.

Our conversation about gender ended there, but it won’t be the last one we have. Gender is all over the news these days, from the recent court challenge regarding gender-neutral passports to John Lewis’ decision to remove the boys and girls labels from clothes. The Twittersphere is full of people writing in shouty caps that political correctness has gone too far, and equally angry people shouting back that we haven’t gone far enough. And in the middle of all of this, there’s a girl.

My girl.

Girl in a flowered raincoat petting a stone fox

A girl who only vaguely gets the concept of gender, in the sense that she mostly correctly identifies boys as boys and girls as girls. A girl who insists that I read ‘Feminist Baby’ to her before bed every night. A girl who loves pink. A girl who loves trucks. A girl who tells me that she wants to be a robot.

It’s too early to explain to her that because of her gender, she’ll probably end up earning around 9% less than a man. If she has children, she’ll likely earn even less, thanks to ‘the motherhood penalty‘. People will constantly ask her what she does with her kids while she’s at work, but they’ll never ask the children’s father.

“Don’t you miss your kids while you’re at work?” they will ask.

On some days she will. On other days she will be so grateful to be away from them that she’ll barely think of them all day.

Her gender means that she’s the one who has to carry a baby for nine months, and deal with the no-drinking, frequent peeing, exhaustion, back pain, swelling and general ‘well, this is pretty uncomfortable’ stuff that goes along with it, while her partner gets to carry on as normal. She’s the one who has to spend the better part of a day squeezing something the size of a melon out of her bits and then sit on one of those hemorrhoid donut pillows for the next six weeks.

Her gender means that she’ll probably worry too much about her weight and her body hair. Her appearance will matter, even when it shouldn’t. She’ll grow up in a society where women glitter bomb their vaginas and spend far too much time doing stupid shit to their eyebrows, and men are pretty much good to go as long as they’ve bathed and aren’t wearing Crocs.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. On the plus side, she hasn’t been saddled with ridiculous genitals. (Sorry, dudes). She’s unlikely to be expected to discuss sports at great length or engage in ‘bantz’, and she’s more likely to go to university and live longer.

We’ll have plenty of time to discuss the finer points of sexism and feminism and why glitter should not go inside you when she’s older. For now, it’s probably best if I let her imagine a happy, bearded future.

Bringing up Georgia
Rhyming with Wine


13 thoughts on “Can girls have beards? Talking gender with a toddler”

  • I couldn’t agree more. The gender thing is huge at the moment to the point where I think it’s getting a bit out of hand. Let her have her imagination – the rest will all fall in to place with an understanding of the world as she gets older xx #dreamteam

  • Totally agreed. My toddler has decided there is only one type of person – girls – but there’s only one set of pronouns – he/him/his. She is a little girl, Mama and Daddy are big girls, but little sister wants his dummy. There’s such a lovely balance to this that I’m inclined not to interfere…

  • LOVE this! And when you put it like that, it really does make me think more about gender equality. Fingers crossed by the time our littles are old enough to notice all that goes on in this world, things will be a bit different and for the better. #Dreamteam xx

  • Haha aaw bless her! Your brief comment about the women being asked what they’ve done with their kids while they’re at work really stopped me in my tracks. I never thought of that before but it’s so true! #ablogginggoodtime

  • Oh she is gorgeous she just wants her cornflakes. It is such a tricky issue. When Aspen was little she would look at my boobs and say that she never wanted them, April would look at them and say I can’t wait to have those! Funnily enough at 13 Aspen still says she doesn’t want them, but they will be shortly on their way whether she likes it or not. Have we gone too far, or not far enough? I am not sure. The fact is we are different genetically whether we like it or not, but no one should be made to feel not good enough or be judged for wanting to change their sex due to the fact they believe they were born in the wrong body. It is complicated. Most importantly I think we need to role model acceptance of differences and celebrate that we are all unique. Thank you for linking up #ablogginggoodtime

  • Oh God the second time this week I’ve seen the word bantz/bants? Ugh am so behind on the lingo. As somebody Indian and thus plagued with unwanted hair all my live, I can’t imagine anything worse than females with beards and am still traumatised by the sight of a couple of aunts who have full on beards. So well written as usual. Gosh the John Lewis thing, I had no idea. Not entirely sure what I think of that to be honest considering boys and girls clothing actually does in certain cases need to be c cut differently because of different body parts and physiques determining body shape. #ablogginggoodtime

  • LOVE this. My daughter is very similar – she doesn’t really care if something is a boys thing or a girls thing at the minute. But as you say… there will come a time where it will matter. That being a women and all its connotations will be forced upon her whether she likes it or not.

    Thanks for linking up to #fortheloveofBLOG x

  • I think we can teach our children to always treat all people with kindness and respect without retailers making their children’s clothing gender neutral. Your daughter is adorable! Like earlier commenter Absolutely Prabulous, “bantz” is a new word for me (I’m sooooo out of it!).

  • Love this post. It is lovely when they’re little enough to not really notice all the differences that come with gender and how loaded it all is. At some point you will have those conversations but hopefully that innocence will last as long as possible. #ablogginggoodtime

  • Oh the innocence of children! My daughter keeps asking ‘why’ all the time at the moment so we’re trying to be honest with her about everything. I am hard supporter of gender equality, but don’t push it down her throat, although I try to cover all bases when explaining things. I love the way you explained about beards to your daughter and included transgender women <3 #BlogCrush

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