Sunday, March 16, 2014

Pink, blue & purple

It was literacy center time in first grade. Kids were participating in reading groups, correcting sentences and cutting out and illustrating a poem to glue into their poetry notebooks. 

J hates cutting. I offered him a deal: if he cut the top half, I'd do the bottom. When he was done, he handed me the half-cut poem along with a pair of purple scissors. "These are for you, because girls like purple," he explained. 

I groaned inwardly. I didn't want to take away from literacy time by launching into a long discussion about gender, but I also want to do what small part I can to send my students the message that these rigid gender rules no longer apply. I decided to address the matter quickly. 

"You know, J, some girls do like the color purple," I told him. "But girls can like any color. Some girls like green, other girls like blue, other girls like yellow. And boys can like any color, too. Red, green, purple, you name it." 

J looked at me blankly.

I tried to make one more point before wrapping things up. "J, when you talk about me, or Ms. M or Ms. C or any of your teachers, there's a better word that you can use than 'girl.' Girls are children. Am I a child? No. So do you know what a grown-up girl is called? A woman." 

The two other members of the literacy group piped in at this junction (both of them are female). 

"And women wear dresses!"

"And they get married!"

I gave up. Maybe, just maybe, J and the girls now think that some of those dresses that women wear are a different color than pink. It's doubtful, but one can always hope. 

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