“Look at her kick those legs! She’s going to be a dancer when she grows up!”
It’s innocent enough, and I know it’s mostly just a way to make conversation, but it’s really starting to irk me. I think it has to do with the sexist assumptions embedded in these kinds of statements.
“Dancer.” Not once has anyone suggested that my daughter might want to be a soccer player, a firefighter, a lawyer, a mechanic. Now, dancing is a perfectly respectable career and I’d be thrilled if that’s what she wanted to do, but something about the idea that a little girl who is energetic could only possibly want to be a dancer just doesn’t sit well with me. It speaks to the way that expectations are set for us as women from such a young age: the old “all little girls want to be pretty pretty ballerinas” trope, which (in my opinion) feeds into a pervasive notion that women are only useful as objects of the male gaze. The small one being an only child, I don’t have much basis for comparison, but I’d be willing to bet that very few people would suggest a baby boy who moves around a lot consider a career in dance (incidentally, the one close friend I have who is a dancer also happens to be male – but I doubt anyone thought to predict that when he was an infant).
Generally speaking, I also wonder how wise it is to suggest any potential career paths for any child at this age – or at any age. It seems a little weird to me, especially considering the fact that most of the adults I know are still figuring out what they really want to do. And besides being needlessly gendered, the predictions people make for children are also mind-numbingly uncreative – ballerina, firefighter, astronaut, movie star – and overlook so many cool possibilities.
As a parent, I want my daughter to be happy; hopefully that will include having a job she loves, but at this point I have absolutely no idea what that job might be and frankly I don’t care as long as she makes a choice that feels right to her. This could mean just about anything: maybe she’ll be a CEO, an electrician, a graphic designer, or a garbage collector. She could work in hospitality, education, sales, media, or any number of administrative jobs.
She might find a calling, a career that makes her happy and leaves her feeling fulfilled; or she might be content (as many, if not most of us are) to settle for a job that just doesn’t make her unhappy, and pays the bills so that she can find fulfillment in her life outside of work. She might even choose not to work at all, if she has the financial means to make that choice.
Or, yes, she could be a dancer – though if rhythm and coordination are hereditary, she probably shouldn’t hold her breath on that one. The point is, I’d like her to figure things out for herself without having these bullshit sexist paradigms shoved at her in the process.
And to the woman in the Value Village parking lot who, upon confirming that she was a girl, repeatedly called her “a fairy princess”: STOP IT THAT’S NOT EVEN A REAL THING.