It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Redressing the imbalance, one diaper at a time

balance_scaleGender inequity. It starts when they’re in diapers, you know. In fact, the fundamentals of the inequity are IN their diapers. And lots of (most!) parents encourage it, every day. Hold onto the outrage here. It’s subtle.

And it goes like this:

Big brother peers at his baby sister on the change table, asks the obvious question. And his loving parent gives him the facts: “No, she doesn’t have a penis, because she is a girl.” That’s it. A simple question, a simple, factual answer. No harm in that, huh?

But what is the little boy hearing?

“She doesn’t have…” Girls miss out. Girls lack something.

No wonder men think their bits are so all-fired superior. No wonder so many women are ambivalent about their own.

Most of us probably don’t think much about it. Facts is facts, after all. But me, I’ve been having this conversation for the better part of two decades. After a while, the unspoken assumption began to really grate, and I determined that I would put a stop to it. At least in my own little arena of influence.

So, at Mary’s house, when the obvious question is asked?

“Yes, you have a penis and testicles, because you are a boy. She has a vulva and a vagina, because she is a girl.”

See? Everyone has something good down there. Easy.

If he’s been insufferably and intractibly smug about his sticky-out bits and her lack thereof, I will add another sentence: “You don’t have a vagina, because you are a boy.” Which will be uttered in tones of some wistful regret. Poor you, who doesn’t have The Good Stuff.

Chalk one up for genital equity.

November 28, 2008 - Posted by | health and safety, Mischief, sex, socializing | , ,


  1. Another one I’m going to have to send to every parent and caregiver I know. Thanks Mary!

    Comment by ClumberKim | November 28, 2008 | Reply

  2. Hehehe, brilliant.

    It’s amazing how we can overlook the messages we’re sending by how we phrase our words…especially to young children. You make it so clear how easy it is to change the message with a little rewording.

    Comment by Zayna | November 28, 2008 | Reply

  3. I love how you make me stop and think.

    Comment by daysgoby | November 28, 2008 | Reply

  4. I love this, thank you! I honestly can’t remember how I’ve framed it before to my daughter but now I’m going to pay attention.

    I seriously hope I have a boy so that I can say the “You don’t have a vagina because you are a boy” line!

    Comment by Clueless But Hopeful Mama | November 28, 2008 | Reply

  5. One more reason I wish you were close enough to care for my kids.

    Comment by Bethany | November 28, 2008 | Reply

  6. I’ll use this. I’ve got two boys still of questioning age.

    Comment by Jill in Atlanta | November 30, 2008 | Reply

  7. You crack me up….and the crack…not gender specific, lol!

    Comment by Jerri Ann | December 2, 2008 | Reply

  8. I loved this!!! I read it aloud to my seven year old daughter, husband and brother this weekend and plan to send it to many co-workers and moms!

    Comment by carrie | December 2, 2008 | Reply

  9. Love it!

    Comment by midlife mommy | December 3, 2008 | Reply

  10. Oh, so true! I have 4 boys of my own and provided daycare for 15 years to a mixed bag of children. I always replied something to the effect, “She’s a girl. She has different parts. Boys’ parts are out side and handy. Girls’ parts are inside and tidy. Girls even have a special part that helps them be mommies.” I would say something similar to a girl if she had questions.

    I just figured that I would start as young as possible, with both sexes, to develop the idea that being a woman, reproduction and all that was a wonderful mystery to anticipate not a horrible burden and curse to tolerate.

    Comment by Jenny | December 8, 2008 | Reply

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