Girls are Vulnerable, Boys are Strong

The Keywords essay on “Childhood” discusses how attitudes toward childhood have changed over time. Specifically, the essay focuses on how childhood isn’t universally a sequential timeline of learning, but rather is a factor of the gender roles enforced by society that shape us into who we are and how we are supposed to act at a certain age. In both “Meet Kirsten” and “Kirsten Learns a Lesson”, we see these gender roles in action. In the story “Meet Kirsten”, gender roles are constituted by Kirsten’s parents talking about how the men will go do the work while the women do the housekeeping and cooking, as the roles traditionally were back in this time period. In the story “Kirsten Learns a Lesson”, one of Kirsten’s new friends mentions that “Sometimes Mr. Coogan hit them with a cane”, referring to the boys in the class. After Kirsten has a moment of terror, her friend goes on to say, “But he’ll never hit you, Kirsten. You’re too nice. Don’t worry.” This perpetuates the gender role that boys are supposed to be strong and girls are too dainty and vulnerable. Additionally, when they were doing classroom introductions, the girls went first and then it was mentioned that “the littlest boys went next.” This makes it appear as though the smaller boys are seemingly in a category with the girls. This furthermore shows the expectation that boys are supposed to be ‘big and strong’. A recent article I found that is cited below states that many norms surrounding gender that come about in adolescence have negative impacts that carry into adulthood. Once girls hit puberty or come of a certain age, they are vulnerable and in need of constant protection. On the other hand, boys are supposed to be strong and independent. These norms can become toxic to our being, especially if we try to defy them. Unfortunately, how we perceive boys and girls is not biologically constructed, but rather is socially driven. 

Dastagir, Alia E. “Gender Stereotypes Are Destroying Girls, and They’re Killing Boys.” USA Today, Gannett Satellite Information Network, 22 Sept. 2017,

14 thoughts on “Girls are Vulnerable, Boys are Strong”

  1. I completely agree this is a major issue that has engraved itself into the social norms of today’s society. Another place it is seen, like in the book, is in everyday conversation with phrases like “you throw like a girl” or “don’t be a little girl” when there are difficult tasks at hand. The issue you have brought up needs to be spread in order to break down integrated social norms.

  2. I believe that this issue is definitely still present in our world today and is constructed by the people in our society. However, I believe that women are trying to change these stereotypes and are taking action to put a stop to this. An example of this is the women’s march where women fight for rights and advocate for strength.

  3. I agree that sadly gender roles were a large factor growing up and reading children’s literature because that molded us and the way we thought as well, going back to the keyword culture, this was the culture that was created for us. Gratefully now the prominence of gender roles is not as much in books and more things have become more inclusive but there is a long way to go.

  4. Other gender roles can also be seen manifesting themselves within children’s literature. Prominent is the idea that young girls are to remain silent and respectful. It’s easy to see in the Kirsten books, even in the quote you brought forth. Kirsten’s niceness is seen as the correct way to be, and it’s reinforced by keeping her from punishment. Likewise, in Little House on the Prairie, Laura and her sister are often told to keep silent and listen to their father. For young girls in many of the books we have studied, silent respect is the preferred state of being. We do, however, see models of how to break this mold, like Kaya, who sees less value in respect and more value in riding off on a horse race. While much of children’s literature reflects an outdated notion of female gentility, it also shows hints of how to subvert and break away from that notion.

  5. I agree with the concerns you bring up about gender stereotypes. Young boys are always told, whether it be by their peers or older adults, to not be such a girl or not to run or throw like a girl. These small statements are degrading especially to the young, and very impressionable, girls around them.

  6. I also agree with your statement. While decades later, this, unfortunately, continues to be a prevalent issue. This idea can also be supported by our Kaya reading. Even though it is her plan to escape, Two Hawks commands Kaya to make their shelter regardless of the fact that if he helped it would go quicker and more smoothly. Two Hawks sees it as the woman’s job, something he considers himself to be above doing.

  7. I think when reading about the gender roles and stereo types as these it is easy to hear in the news and speakers on how women and girls are mistreated and demeaned but what is at most times forgotten is how boys are supposed to be the strong ones and take the most but in reality, they have similar mindsets as children as those of girls and have to live up to expectations just as much as girls which can also begin to take a toll on their mental health at an early age.

  8. The connection that you made between the content in the Kirsten stories and the social views of boys and girls is very interesting and something that I did not catch the first time. I totally agree that society views girls as vulnerable while boys are portrayed as strong and independent, which an unfortunate and untrue perception. Gender roles are very prevalent in our society today and you did a great job of showing that through evidence from the Kirsten stories.

  9. I totally agree that gender roles have evolved over time. Keeping these restrictions placed on genders causes an even bigger issue. Gender stereotypes are destructive for all genders involved and I really liked how you supported this with your media connection. This story helps to prove why the roles that were present in the Kirsten books can be destructive to both genders. I totally agree with your post and I think you supported it well.

  10. I agreeable with your viewpoint because according to society, girls are usually seen as “damsels in distress” and boys are suppose to live by the phrase,”boys don’t cry”. The boys are meant to be big and strong to be able to grow up and be a leader in a household while girls are suppose be protected by the boys, and sort of be behind the scene and listen. This can be seen in Janet Shaw’s, “The Journey Begins: A Kaya Classic”, when Two Hawks refuses to follow Kaya and refuses to do work meant for women. He feels as if he should be the leader and Kaya must listen and follow him even though Kaya knew the way home better than he did. He also didn’t want to do women’s work because he was forced to do it for so long. In the end, they realize they must treat each other like equals and work together in order to find their way back home.

  11. I fully agree with your view on gender throughout your blog post. I think gender stereotypes are still relevant in society today. The example you give in the Kristin reading about boys being “big and strong” was interesting since that kind of thinking still exists today in regards to the wage gap and jobs women can and cannot do. In my blog post, I wrote about the new Microsoft commercial that features the first female NFL coach to coach in the Superbowl, this commercial was interesting in my perspective as it defied the usual stereotypes that society usually associated between women and men, creating a new sense of what society should look like.

  12. I think that gender norms have significantly affected our day to day lives. As being female, and having lots of guy friends, I often am teased about certain things that I “can” or “can’t” do. I feel like things have been changing. Aas Tanyaraemsh mentioned public posts like the Microsoft commercial are helping close the gap of having gender norms.

  13. I agree with your point, and it reminded me of a post I saw on Instagram the other day about how a woman was discussing equal rights with a man and he said, “If women are equal, does that mean I can hit you without getting in trouble?” It really showed how physical strength has always been one way our society draws a clean line between men and women, and the passage you talked about in “Kirsten Learns a Lesson” is a great example of that.

  14. I think you made some interesting points regarding the dynamic being laid out in Kirsten’s school environment. I especially appreciated your analysis of how the “small boys” were asked to go after the girls. This does point to a certain implicit bias in the way girls are seen as vulnerable and meek. The article you cited is intriguing in explaining how these socially constructed needs of boys and girls can negatively impact adult life. What do you think are some ways we could actively work to eliminate some of these negative effects? I believe starting from the beginning (formal schooling) by educating teachers on how their actions and speech affect girls and boys differently would be a great place to start.

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