Noticing Gender & Race, Age 9

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 15 seconds

I just tweeted this:

I once got kicked out of class for passing notes with the other smartest kid in class. I was so proud, because nerds rarely get kicked out of class.

For some reason, he (other note-exchanger) didn’t get kicked out of class.

Uhh maybe coz it was a math class & uhh gender issues?

My kid is 9 years old and she is starting to verbalize gender discrimination. She comes home from school and notes how it’s “not fair” the teacher keeps calling on these three boys in class to answer all the time, and calls them “smart”. She notices these things, and I know for a fact there are many really smart girls in that class. I know.

My kid has not read the research papers on this, how teachers give more attention to boys, whether for praise or scolding. She sees it. Because, I think, she’s a girl. Possibly because she’s my daughter, too, but I think it’s mostly because she is a girl. And this stuff happens to girls and they notice them. Eventually, they internalize them and it stops becoming a thing they comment on. Unless we let them know they need to keep noticing them. And verbalizing them.

Should I say something to the teacher? I don’t think so? It seems like it would offend her as she would say “I don’t mean to” and she would hate me and possibly never call on my daughter again, or call on her when she doesn’t know the answer, or assume my kid of mean… not because the teacher is mean, but because it’s so hard to confront our hidden, unconscious biases.

My kid notices race, which doesn’t make a lot of sense in our context because it’s not as visible an issue in Egypt, but she does. I think because of TV? But when she’s buying dolls, she tries to diversify so she isn’t always only buying the white and blonde dolls, but has a good mix of colors.

She always hated the Ugly Duckling story. Mainly because she believed no mother could hate her child, no matter how ugly. But the other day, now as a 9 year old, she noted something else. She noted that the grey ugly duckling only felt like she “belonged” when she became a “white” swan. She flat out said, angrily, “this is racist!” She could not accept that in order for the duckling to belong, she had to become beautiful, and to become beautiful, she had to conform, and to conform, she had to become white. Yes. That’s exactly what that story does and even a 9 year old could see it. What is wrong with all these fairytales. Don’t get me started on all the others.

When my kid was 6 years old and we told her we were going to visit America, she said, “isn’t that the place where police kill black people?”. And today, I heard awful news about Atlanta shootings that killed at least 4 women of Asian descent, but apparently they’re not yet sure the shootings were fueled by racial hatred.

I do still want to end with a note of hope, despite all the ugliness. But it’s about how we need to see the ugliness and grieve and feel angry before we move on

Mays Imad wrote:

Sit with the pain. When injustice and oppression are ongoing, hope may not be the appropriate response. To step forward, we must permit ourselves to feel. And once we fully feel, to hope is to wish for something better with the expectation of its fulfillment. To hope, we need to be discontent with the present and desire a better future; in fact, we need to be more than discontent — we have to experience the agony and depth of the pain. Our pain can serve as a beacon, enabling us to move forward so we may begin to heal.

Mays Imad

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