Why I have mixed feelings about teaching my daughters to stand up to boys

Why I have mixed feelings about teaching my daughters to stand up to boys thumbnail

Should I teach my daughters to stand up to the boys who will bully them when it could get them hurt?

Should I teach my daughters to stand up to the men and boys who will bully and abuse them when it could get them hurt or killed?

At a recent six-year-old’s birthday party, I watched two girls playing in a cubby house. Three boys came over and decided they were going to evict the girls.

“No girls allowed,” said one boy as he stood menacingly over the girls. The other two boys crowded around the girls for affect.

One of the girls, in fear, did as she was ordered and left the cubby house. The other girl stood her ground. “We were here first, you can’t kick us out,” she said.

They weren’t my kids so I gently told the boys that everyone was allowed to play in the cubby house.

The boys ignored me, and proceeded to push the remaining girl out of the window of the cubby house. The girl fell flat on her back and screamed in pain.

The boys seemed oblivious to her distress and completely unremorseful. They went on with their no-girls-allowed game in the cubby house.

I took the sobbing girl over to the parents at the party and explained what had happened.

What followed was a neat lesson in how girls are schooled in male power and privilege.

5 thoughts on “Why I have mixed feelings about teaching my daughters to stand up to boys

  1. Dear Kasey,
    This was such an important article. It perhaps took courage to write, particularly given that it was a personal account. This is inspiring and will help more women find their voice (at least via social media) which is not easy due to the fear of a possible back-lash, as well as the effects of an actual back-lash that can occur when women speak up on any issue related to gender.
    What I probably found most upsetting about the article was that we have a situation in our society where adults – women more so than men – can be paralysed to act for fear of reprisals from other adults. And I say mostly women because women are more frequently the ones dealing with the day-to-day social interactions of their own and other people’s children. It would be easy for most adults to firmly guide two such boys right out of the cubby house until they were willing to play cooperatively and were then observed to be playing cooperatively. But this guidance did not happen… and why not? The answer to that is clear from the reactions you received from two other adults who became passively complicit (perhaps not realising they were complicit) in the whole situation. It would be a rare person who would be willing to risk incurring the wrath or other forms of judgement from adult peers, by stepping up as the adult to these two youngsters. That you did what you did was fantastic.
    Bringing attention to these sorts of situations though, via the media, is so important. Such situations happen often with many people not even realising what an insidious problem it is; It most often passes unrecognised or if recognised, it is left to pass unchallenged, or as you tried to do, in a polite manner. These incidents occur in all sorts of contexts including kinder and school playgrounds, in playgroups and in social family occasions.
    So great job in producing such a well written and extremely important article.

  2. Don’t worry Kasey, your self-respecting daughters will attract partners who respect & value them & that they respect & value themselves.
    Thank you for that wonderful, reflective article about that awful experience.

  3. Thank you, thank you for writing this. A similar incident has just happened to my 6 year old daughter last week, when we were at a friend’s place for morning tea. 4 boys in a pack (all at school with her), telling her she couldn’t play with the swings and bikes and cubby house, because she was a girl. She walked away from the confrontation. She spent the rest of the play date swapping between being inside colouring in (by herself), or outside playing on toys (by herself). Whilst not in tears, she was upset. I was (and am) incandescent with rage on her behalf. It’s not “boys will be boys”: it’s not good enough! Unless something radically changes in our society soon, it’s a chat about bullying at 6 years, a court case for assault at 16 years, and hospital time or a grave for her at 26 years. No! So I am methodically organising play dates for her with both boys and girls, who like her for herself, and couldn’t give a toss whether she’s a boy or a girl. Just to prove to her practically that whilst both friendships and personality clashes happen, the value of her gender is not up for discussion. Kasey, keep speaking up.

  4. Well done for marching straight over to the parents, they all sound a pathetic bunch. Teaching children respect for others, and how to be a kind person, starts at home. The worst thing about other kids dreadful behaviour is the parenting behind them, enabling their outlandish behaviour.

    I have boy/girl 6 year old twins. My son knows that his twin sister is his equal and is very respectful towards the girls at school, and often joins in their games. His best friend is even a girl. Unfortunately my daughter feels she can’t join in with the boys games, and tells me it’s a secret that she’s a ‘tomboy’. If she’s left out of a playground game, my son will leave the game to play with her instead.

    Last year – the twins’ first year at school – my daughter was attacked by three 5 year old boys in the playground, who pushed her to the ground and all sat on top of her as she screamed and cried. It broke my heart to imagine how scared she must have been. Unsurprisingly the teacher was quite dismissive about the whole thing but I think they got a severe telling off from the headteacher at least.

    1. My heart goes out to your two. Keep up the good work. Change classes if teachers are dismissive of your basic standards for your children. 6 hours per day is a long time to spend with someone who is not committed to keeping your child safe.

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