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, www.usatoday.com/story/news/2017/09/21/gender-stereotypes-destroying-girls-and-theyre-killing-boys/688317001/.