The Masculine Default

There’s a tragedy lurking inside children’s books, one that most people don’t realize: Taken as a whole, the genre is kind of sexist. A study of kids’ books published between 1900 and 2000 found that male protagonists were nearly twice as common as female ones. And in anthropomorphic fiction such as Winnie the Pooh, male heroes are even more dominant. Pick five to 10 books from your child’s library and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

Exposure to a glut of male characters reinforces a primal default — when in doubt, assume it’s male. Just think about the pronouns you use when referring to your child’s stuffed animals or the dogs in the park. Is it he or is it she? What about the Easter Bunny and the elf on the shelf?

Complicating things are the conflicting sentiments progressives have about gender. On the one hand, gender is a social construct and therefore arbitrary and overrated. On the other hand, gender disparity is real and it must be rectified. None of which my two-year-old understands. I just want her to know that girls are as worthy of being the subjects of books as boys are.


Don’t Want to

I take my daughter to soccer class once a week. She’s two. The class consists of some running, a small amount of kicking, and a ton of chasing bubbles.

Occasionally, she decides she’s had enough; there’s an activity she doesn’t want to participate in. As a parent, I feel a tiny compulsion to step in and convince her that she does want to participate and, failing that, that she has to because she’s being asked to do.

But I don’t. Because my daughter is right. We’re not going to soccer class so that she can learn to follow instructions or develop patience or even “become socialized” to other children, though those are all fine side benefits. We’re going to soccer to have fun.

And what’s the point of doing things for fun if we don’t enjoy them? The hard-hitting documentary that critics say you must watch? You don’t have to watch it, and definitely not on your cherished Friday night off. The IPA with extra hops that your buddies say you have to try? Just order PBR, if that’s where your tastebuds are at. And if you’re at soccer class and are tired of kicking the ball, take a break. It doesn’t always mean you’re not open to trying new things — rather, it means you know what you don’t like to do for fun.