Who Are You Calling a Brat?
By Jahleese Ladson on Mon, 09/03/2012 - 23:00
Jahleese Ladson contemplates the double standard regarding spoiled behavior in boys and girls.
In my family, everyone says that Saniya is spoiled. And honestly, she is. It’s no surprise to me though. My niece is seven years old and an only child. Raised in a household where she has had constant access to not only her mother but both grandparents, and an aunt and uncle --and being cute as a button to boot-- she has gotten away with a lot more mischief than the average child over the years.
In my opinion, she is a typical child. She can be extremely helpful at times and unwilling to cooperate at others. She is as quick to aggressively defend her peers as she is to antagonize them herself. She is very headstrong, and while she is developing an acute sense of self, it is tinged with insecurity. Like any normal child, she can be obstinate, and because she is “spoiled," she is obstinate more often than not.
It’s an annoying character trait to deal with on a regular basis, but to be both blunt and fair, we made her this way. So it was not surprising to me when a few weeks ago while visiting my mother’s home, I witnessed a disagreement between Saniya and her grandmother (my mom).
My mother had asked Saniya to pick her things up from the living room floor and put them into her room. Interrupted while watching a Disney channel sitcom, Saniya grudgingly picked up her items but balked when asked to pick up some socks that did not belong to her. Angered at her stubborn disobedience, my mother threatened to punish Saniya if she did not do what she was told, and Saniya made her displeasure with the situation abundantly and audibly clear through grumbles and stomping.
This kind of thing happens regularly.
My mother exclaimed, “She is so spoiled!” To which, I replied, “You know who she sounds like when she does that, right? Poppa.”
Poppa (a.k.a. David) is my younger brother by 10 years. The youngest sibling and long-awaited only son, he has had a upbringing similar to Saniya’s. He’s fourteen and spoiled.
Given how similar they are to one another, I expected my mother to acquiesce to my explanation of Saniya’s behavior. Instead, I was shocked when she nodded and said, “Yeah, I know. But it’s worse because she’s a girl.”
In seconds, my mind produced dozens of questions. What does spoiled behavior look like in a boy versus a girl? Saniya’s model of behavior is a male child who is not regularly chastised for his behavior, but she is discouraged from exhibiting the same behaviors that he does. Why is that? Are generational differences driving this double standard in gender roles and expectations? Is this a question of gender at all? If so, then why? How does my mother’s relationship to my brother as her son versus her relationship to my niece as her granddaughter affect the way she views Saniya’s behavior?
My inner ultra-supersonic-lightning-power, feminist revolted and I prematurely blasted my mother for her statement. I insinuated that she was a sexist and that my niece’s behavior was her fault.
My impulsive response cost me the opportunity to have what could have been a interesting conversation with my mother about her motivations as a parent and grandparent and her perspective on gender roles given our generational differences. And that conversation just might have provided answers to the questions her statement had elicited.