A Guy Game

Today Oot came up to me and asked me if I’d like to play a game.

“What kind of a game?” I asked him.

“Oh you know,” he explains, sounding very matter-of-fact. “A guy game. Because we’re both guys.”


I hear this, and I sigh a little inside. We’ve tried really hard to keep the gender stereotype stuff away from him. I don’t want him to think that trucks are for boys and dolls are for girls. That boys are tough and girls are delicate. When I tell him stories, the heroes win because they’re clever instead of being strong, and sometimes it’s the prince that needs rescuing, not the princess.

But I can’t watch every piece of media before he does. Or every book before he reads it. Besides, this stuff is insidious. It’s everywhere. And I know that despite my best intentions I sometimes tend to reinforce stereotypes without meaning to.

It’s like trying to keep dust out of your house. You can do a lot, but ultimately, *you* are one of the main reasons there’s dust. You track it in on your clothes without knowing it. And even if you somehow managed to avoid that, you’d still shed skin cells. Even if you don’t want to. This constant, low-grade sexism is everywhere. It sneaks in.

But they can’t all be learning experiences. Sometimes you just want to play a game with your kid. Sometimes you watch The Princess Bride because you love it, and it’s a really great movie even though there is only one woman in it, and Buttercup is pretty much the epitome of a useless trophy damsel.

Sometimes you’re going to lose a little. That’s the way of things. It stings, but all I can do is try my best and hope he grows up having internalized less of this cultural bullshit than me. Then he won’t have to work so hard to be a halfway decent human being.

Then, years from now when he has kids, he can help them be even better than he is. And so on. I might lose a battle here and there, but I’m taking the long view. I’m aiming to win the war.

So it’s okay. We’ll play a guy game.

“What sort of guy game would you like to play?” I ask him.

“Well,” he says. “Maybe me and you could play a game where we make a house.”

I’m okay with that. It’s a good game. I did a lot of construction projects with my dad when I was little. At least it’s not killing-things game. It’s a making-things game. I’ll take what I can get.

So we go into the room and he explains the game to me. We’re dragons, and we’re making a house. In the house we’re going to make a nest. And in the nest we have some eggs. Our job is to take care of the eggs, keep them warm and safe until they hatch.

After they hatch, we’ll take care of the baby dragons. We’ll bring them food to eat and toys and soft things to cuddle up with.

You know. A guy game. Because we’re both guys.

Some days you lose despite your best efforts. Some days you win without even trying.

Be good everyone,


This entry was posted in Achievement Unlocked!, Beautiful Games, Because I Love, Oot. By Pat84 Responses


  1. ShaneJ
    Posted September 24, 2014 at 4:37 AM | Permalink

    I always love to hear that someone is trying to keep gender stereotypes away from their kids.

    I work at Target and one of the things that upsets me the most there is to hear a parent tell their son they can’t get the Barbie that he wants, that they should go look at the boy toys. Or telling their daughter they can’t get a wrestling action figure, they should get a baby doll.

    When I had a guest in my store the other day and he was helping his son pick out the right My Little Pony and Monster High dolls, I wanted to hug him.

    Instead I just gave him my discount. Makes me wish we could see more of it.

    • ertccvjjvcknn
      Posted September 25, 2014 at 5:38 AM | Permalink

      Buying a child a Barbie doll, boy or girl, perpetuates the stereotype that women need to have a certain body shape to be pretty.

      • Posted September 25, 2014 at 9:44 AM | Permalink

        It can, I’m sure, but it’s not a given. I never got the idea that all women were supposed to be shaped like Barbie, despite playing with them a lot as a kid. I just got the idea that that’s how Barbie dolls were shaped. Maybe this is because some adult at some point explained this to me, but I might’ve just figured it out on my own because none of the women around me were shaped like that and none of them were obsessed with trying to look a certain way. I think examples of how to live have more to do with how a kid turns out than one toy does.

        • ACDragonMaster
          Posted September 28, 2014 at 5:33 PM | Permalink

          Ditto here. Well, I can’t say I played wit Barbies (or any other doll) “a lot” as a kid, but I HAD them, and frankly to my pre-school mind the supposedly “idealized” figure of the Barbie doll was no different from the highly stylized Fisher-Price playset people that consisted of a cylinder body with a sphere on top for a head. Or heck, I played with Legos and Lego people all the time, for that matter. Obviously real people aren’t shaped like that, and I never thought that they SHOULD be, because toys are toys and people are people and toys don’t always look like the real thing regardless.

      • Aynaet
        Posted September 26, 2014 at 4:26 AM | Permalink

        As long as the parents set an example in healthy body image and being happy with your shapes, I don’t think it’s a problem.
        But I’d really like to see more healthy, pretty body shapes!

        A friend of mine is a designer for toys. She has to use certain genderstereotype colors, because those toys sell far better than the others. To everyone out there – give other colors a chance!

  2. Nat
    Posted September 24, 2014 at 4:51 AM | Permalink

    I recently posted a comment on a popular nappy company website in Australia asking them politely to lift their game. Their entire tv advert had boys in blue, reading books with ‘truck’ on it, girls in pink, reading books with ‘Princess’ on it… etc etc. Bleurgh. It was horrid.

    Then one ‘lovely’ lady challenged me for being ‘precious’. Sigh…

    Yay for Oot!

  3. Posted September 24, 2014 at 5:09 AM | Permalink

    You guys are doing so good with Oot. I just had my first baby this week, I never spent much time thinking about how I’d raise a kid since I hadn’t really planned on having any but you know.. surprise!
    It’s great to get tips like this…even if that’s not exactly what you meant the post to be. I never would have thought much about gender stereotyping, but reading about how you and Sarah try to keep thatstuff to a minimum has really put it on my mind for my own child.
    We’ve already been trying to be especially careful on the media we’ve collected for her thus far, I’ve noticed it’s hard for some friends and family to understand, but such is life. I like to think the world will be a better place in the next few generations if parents put their minds to things like this.

    • LynnC
      Posted September 24, 2014 at 8:47 AM | Permalink

      If you are interested in more, I follow a facebook page called Pigtail Pals and Ballcap Buddies

      They are a company that the mother created because she couldn’t find clothing for her children that didn’t play into stereotypes. So she started making her own clothes with positive messages.

      She also has a blog which tackles everything from the gendered problems, to how to teach your daughter to have a good body-image, even from a young age. To how to talk to your children when tragic events happen in the news.

      Another thing is that she shows ways that you can talk to your child about the media in a way that even if you can’t shelter them from things, helps them think critically and say “Hey! That’s Wrong and I know why!”

      Its both on her blog and regularly through her facebook page. You should check it out :)

  4. Mickey
    Posted September 24, 2014 at 5:13 AM | Permalink

    Then you have the balancing act of trying to keep the girls effeminate but empowered and the boys masculine yet equalist when dealing with strong women. As a house husband whose wife brings home the bacon while I cook and clean and do the school runs I applaud your strategy. I too am fighting the long war !

    • Rcox13
      Posted September 24, 2014 at 6:29 AM | Permalink

      I would like to,respectfully suggest that words like effeminate and masculine are archaich terms that embody the very gender stereotypes that we need to avoid. Effective, imaginative, and happy should be words used to describe children. Those other words limit theur possibilities and their ability to define themselves and the world.

      • Mickey
        Posted September 24, 2014 at 9:53 AM | Permalink

        Perhaps I’m just old fashioned then, preferring to use archaic words because I believe that girls can feminine and still be leaders and innovators later in life. Also I am raising kids who are going to live in Africa and the Middle East. Boys who cannot defend themselves and their families don’t get along very well in those parts of the world. I think, however that you missed the point. I am trying to raise kids who will be balanced in all aspects. My daughter plays with Barbies but still understands that Harry would be lost without Hermione to figure everything out. My son has toy cars but still knows that Hawk Girl is every bit as valuable to the Justice League as Batman.

        Happiness, creativity or any other attribute does not have to sacrificed to raise kids who are confident in themselves because of their gender, not in spite of it.

        • bishoprook
          Posted September 24, 2014 at 5:04 PM | Permalink

          Here’s the thing though: boys too can be “feminine” and still be leaders and innovators in life. And girls in Africa and the Middle East can defend their families too.

          To teach one set of children that it’s their job to be pretty and empathetic and chased after, and teach another set it’s their job to be strong and goal-oriented and to chase, based purely on what their reproductive organs happened to look like at birth… Well, that’s kind of silly when you get right down it.

        • Rcox13
          Posted September 24, 2014 at 6:08 PM | Permalink

          I expected this response, almost word for word, minus the context of living situation. But where we live should not dictate our values. However, I am not surprised that you are the type of person who would use the “term old fashioned” as a type of banner or pennant to fly in the wind. :)
          I didn’t miss the point. I just believe that everyone should be well rounded and able to create without boundaries. Gender should not define masculinity or femininity. In fact, those words are so archaic that and archetypal that they shouldn’t even apply. Characteristics of both “stereotypes” should exist in all of us.
          I hold up precious Oot as an example. He knows that he’s a “guy”, but he is excited about creating, providing, nurturing, and developing. Those characteristics are present in both stereotypes. It’s not that we should not be feminine or masculine. We should strive to embody the best of both, to be whole people.
          This way, we are not chained by these rigid definitions that our parents and grandparents were handed down by Puritanical ancestors, who were handed their codes of behavior by feudalistic society. None of those people are people we should emulate. *Well, except in play.*

          • Caedmon
            Posted September 24, 2014 at 11:33 PM | Permalink

            I am new to this blog, thanks for your reply, could you expand more on your thoughts? Specifically on what one should use to define masculine and feminine if gender is not to be used

            You mentioned that you shouldn’t let your location determine one’s values or that you shouldn’t let the values passed down to you from ancestors, parents and grandparent mentioned specifically, determine one’s values. How have you come to determine your values? You seem to have a clear understanding of what’s appropriate for kids when it comes to self determination. How did you reach that conclusion?

  5. BrendanTWhite
    Posted September 24, 2014 at 5:42 AM | Permalink

    On top of that, he also writes pretty damn fine stories.

    • Migitmagee
      Posted September 24, 2014 at 8:58 AM | Permalink

      Damfine? Wasn’t that an apple…?

      • Rcox13
        Posted September 24, 2014 at 6:08 PM | Permalink

        Got a whole bushel of damfine apples and didn’t even know it. :)

  6. Gus
    Posted September 24, 2014 at 5:42 AM | Permalink

    Someday, I might have a child. I hope that day is still many many years away, in a a vague and ever-changing future, but if (when?) it finally comes, I know for certain one thing I’ll do. I will come back here and read all your parenting posts, because this is exactly the kind of parent I want to be.

  7. cynrtst
    Posted September 24, 2014 at 5:48 AM | Permalink

    Kids will surprise you in so many ways if you just keep your mouth shut and listen to the whole thought rather than respond thinking you know what they mean. Thanks for keeping your trap closed until he exceeds your expectations. You’re a good dad.

  8. Jellybutton
    Posted September 24, 2014 at 6:04 AM | Permalink

    Pat after seeing what you said about not forcing gender stereotypes upon children I would request that you please become an advocate for the He for She gender equality campaign I think you could reach a lot of people with it and after reading this blog post of yours I think you would be very passionate about it. If you havent seen Emma Watson’s speech about gender equality I would strongly suggest that you give it a look.

    • Aynaet
      Posted September 24, 2014 at 8:21 AM | Permalink

      Don’t get me wrong – I really like the speech and the cause, but why “heforshe”? Wouldn’t “weforus” or “heandshe” be a better slogan for a gender equality campain? It feels wrong, like the princess in the castle, sending pigeons to her prince for rescue.
      I also fell that it’s impossible to preserve a little critical thinking in that matter without being torn to pieces. It’s easy to spread the word, but use your brain first!

      • klaxon12
        Posted September 24, 2014 at 8:55 AM | Permalink

        I think the point is that this initiative is also looking to make change in the many many many countries where women have a lot less equality than developed nations. It wants change worldwide, but much more can and needs be done in developing nations–there’s simply a much broader gap in power. If men take part in the push for equality in those countries and cultures, things will move much smoother and much farther, faster.

        In developed nations, as Ms Watson prefaced her speech, feminism is getting somewhat of a bad name among both men and women. It seems to be a reactionary push-back similar to the anti-gay rights movements. If more men openly support feminism and its goals then the arguments about misandry and so on start to fall apart–a few people might, but the majority of people won’t support a cause that belittles or reduces the rights of themselves.

        Not that I don’t see where you’re coming from, but I can see why they chose that name as well, and I think the focus is largely on the developing world, as a successful program in those countries could have massive effects. In the US and many other developed countries, the gap is significantly smaller, so the project’s return would effect fewer people to a lesser extent. Plus developed countries already have established organizations promoting feminism.

        • Aynaet
          Posted September 26, 2014 at 4:15 AM | Permalink

          But how do they want to make a change? I can see that people get inspired by this speech and it’s also kind of sad, that it needed to be a celebrity to point gender equality out, because media won’t give a shit otherwise.
          When I look at the heforshe campain homepage I only see quotes, pretty pictures and the map with all male supporters. Is that it? Do they only want to draw attention and dissapear?

          “We don’t often talk about men being imprisoned through gender stereotypes but I can see that that they are and that when they are free, things will change for women as a natural consequence.”

          I feel, that this sentence is overly simplified. How far do they have the courage to criticise Partrichal structures, religion and other cultural issues?

          If men would take part it would defenetly be easier, but in general people in power prefere to keep it.

          I just hope, that following generations will be more and more open minded. Also the church, because it still has impact in many lifes in multiple nations.

  9. justajenjen
    Posted September 24, 2014 at 6:09 AM | Permalink

    That is a great guy game. My son just asked my husband to play My Little Pony with him. Only I had to do Fluttershy’s hair because Papa never learned to braid.

    We try to keep gender stereotypes away, too, but it is SO HARD. Especially when your kid(s) go to school. Another boy once told him that his Rainbow Dash plushie was for girls. My son said, “No, it’s MY Rainbow Dash.” He’s 5. Playing with a pony is just playing with a pony. It means nothing. Why is it acceptable when he takes his Iron Man plushie and not Rainbow Dash? For him, they are exactly the same, a soft toy that he likes. Thankfully, his school and his teachers have the attitude that toys are just toys and everyone can play whatever they want, as long as they play nicely without trying to kill each other, which is a pretty good rule for life.

  10. Posted September 24, 2014 at 6:25 AM | Permalink

    You give me hope for the future.

  11. Richard
    Posted September 24, 2014 at 6:31 AM | Permalink

    Here’s my take on it: it’s not mainly “the media”. It’s not mainly “society”. It’s just that boys are, on average, different from girls in their interests and in the way they express themselves, because they’re wired that way, and that becomes amplified when you stick a bunch of them together, and they develop a group identity as boys or girls. It happens naturally and spontaneously, and it doesn’t go away just because people get more freedom to express their interests. If that bothers you because it sounds “sexist”, then the world is going to bother you, a lot, because the world IS “sexist”, in the sense that there are differences between the sexes (again, on average, not applicable to every individual).
    Here’s one anecdotal example: among my nephew’s first words were “hammer” and “screwdriver”. Among the first things my niece talked about were skirts and dresses – and she grew up with two older brothers and a mother who consciously tried to keep stereotypes away from her. Are we supposed to believe that a one- or two-year old who is just beginning to speak is capable of extracting, from a flood of information about the world, the bits “I’m a boy” and “I’m supposed to behave like other boys do” and “building stuff is typically boy behavior” and concludes “okay, I better ask for a screwdriver, then”? But at the same time, he doesn’t pick up on many many things his parents explicitly tell him to do or not do, like “eat your veggies”, or “don’t hit your brother”. How’s that supposed to work? Are kids easily malleable or not? And the answer is probably, they easily pick up things they’re predisposed to, and they have a hard time with stuff that goes against their grain, and the predispositions are partly determined by their sex.
    So how do we deal with it? It’s impossible to please everyone. LEGO got criticized for being one-sided and only offering toys aimed at boys (when, strictly speaking, building brick houses or cars is not a gendered activity). Then they developed “LEGO friends”, and now they get criticized for pandering to gender stereotypes about girls.
    With my kids, I try to keep away from the most extremely stereotyped toys – no toy guns for the boy, no Hello Kitty stuff for the girl – and try to curb the most annoying gender-typical behavior – bouts of aggression, and excessive whining, respectively. I’m also a living example of ignoring stereotypes – I cook, I sew, and I do my part of the cleaning. Apart from that… there’s not a lot I could do that makes sense.

    • Tove
      Posted September 24, 2014 at 8:56 AM | Permalink

      And my younger brother loves my little pony. And, reading the comments here, a lot of boys seem to like “girly” stuff, and other way around. We can not know (or at least it´s very hard) if or how much of our behavior that is “natural” and that is social. But even if 7 out of 10 boys like cars better than dolls “by nature” it still make sense to not just assume they do but give them the opportunity to choose what they want, and maybe both? So those 3 out of 10 that would rather play with dolls can do that without getting mocked? If my male friends have interest that isn´t stereotypical male I wouldn’t consider it my business, and wouldn’t make comments. If my brother bring girly stuff to school the other children make sure to tell him he is doing something wrong. In that way a n children are under a harder pressure, when not behaving mainstream.

      Also i think it´s kind of crazy that toys for playing games where you cook, shop for food or take care of your babies are just for girls. But grown up men are expected to be able to make dinner and take care of their children. Constuction lego is for boys but it’s nothing suprising with a woman to be a constuction engineer? I don’t get it.

      • Richard
        Posted September 24, 2014 at 9:47 AM | Permalink

        Oh, I’m totally in favor of letting kids play with non-stereotypical toys if they want to, and to tell them to be tolerant if other kids don’t conform to the stereotypes. Achieving that tolerance society-wide is the best we can hope for, IMO.
        And yes, some stereotypes are arbitrary… but some general patterns (tools and weapons for boys, beauty, nurture and care for girls) are pretty clear and, as far as I know, universal across cultures. We shouldn’t be surprised or embarrassed if they manifest in our children. The aim should be to guide the children so they build on their dispositions to become happy and constructive human beings, not to suppress what’s in their nature in favor of some “gender-neutral” ideal.

        • bumblingbee
          Posted September 24, 2014 at 6:23 PM | Permalink

          Not necessarily true. There are money studies that show that stereotypes in regards to toys are learned.

          Some examples are studies done by Furby and Wilke, 1989; Alexander et al, 2008; and Serbin et al, 2001. These studies showed that from birth to around 6 months there are no differences in toy choices. At 9 months other studies (Campbell et al, 2001) show there are differences but social learning is already deeply being done. Studies also show that the older the children get, the greater the gender differences, which makes sense because society and parent interactions have greater effects. The same thing with perceived gender colors.

          • bumblingbee
            Posted September 24, 2014 at 6:24 PM | Permalink

            Meant many…not money…although theu are pretty money heheheh

          • edwardyvette
            Posted September 24, 2014 at 7:45 PM | Permalink

            Yes, they also did studies on how adults behaved towards babies of a said gender type (they used a male baby dressed in a dress and told various adult he was female.) They found that the way we interact with babies of a perceived gender is different, more active for boys and calmer for girls.

          • Richard
            Posted September 25, 2014 at 6:38 AM | Permalink

            Okay, a couple of points:
            – I skimmed the paper by Alexander et al., and it does find significant differences in children of 6 months average age. “Our findings suggest that the conceptual categories of ‘‘masculine’’ and ‘‘feminine’’ toys are preceded by sex differences in the preferences for perceptual features associated with such
            objects. ” There are also studies finding differences in interest even in newborns (Connellan et al 2000).

            – even if the differences emerged later in life, that doesn’t necessarily mean they result from social learning. Boobs and beards develop from age 13 onward, and they’re not exactly the results of societal expectations.

            – to all you parents here: do you really feel that your expectations have a big influence on what toys the child actually plays with? In my experience, you can throw all kinds of toys at a child; he or she will look at them and then decide what is worth playing with, and what isn’t. The link between “society’s expectations” and “child’s behavior” is not as clear as many seem to think.

            I apologize to Pat for hijacking this blog and going off on a tangent, but I find this stuff interesting and relevant, and I hope that others do as well.

    • kennyj
      Posted September 24, 2014 at 11:45 AM | Permalink

      I posted something similar below. I largely agree with you. I think some of the gender stuff is definitely cultural, but I also think much of it is biological.

  12. MommaAng
    Posted September 24, 2014 at 6:49 AM | Permalink

    I think Oot must be the smartest and sweetest little dude ever. I have four girls and wowsers….honestly I get so sick of dolls and lipgloss. When we go to the store our main goal is to avoid the dreaded ‘pink aisle.’ Not because I want to deprive my girls of pretty girly things but because I want them to see beyond the glitter. But thankfully deep down my girls have some good old rugged qualties like ‘I will play in the dirt and read a book that mostly the boys are reading’. I hope once they are grown I have taught them enough of how to be a strong loving person and not just a pretty lady.

  13. MommaAng
    Posted September 24, 2014 at 6:55 AM | Permalink

    Extra two cents worth; my brother in law won’t even let his boys drink out of a girly looking cup when they are at my house. I had to buy superhero ones but it was okay because hey my girls love superheroes too. My other nephew loves all things boys but he would play with a doll or colour me a Hello Kitty because it might make me happy. And truthfully it is all parent related. So yes I think parents make a huge impact.

  14. chaelek
    Posted September 24, 2014 at 7:20 AM | Permalink

    Nothing manlier than taking care of your Dragon eggs.

  15. leecinn
    Posted September 24, 2014 at 8:23 AM | Permalink

    This made my day. I absolutely love this post…being a mom of a 4 year old boy who loves to read. There has been a new trend lately in fantasy that has ruffled my literary feathers and has put my surreptitious feminist side on alert. Why does a woman who is strong, exceptional with a sword, a military leader, or a covert operative on the front lines need to be a lesbian. The last three military-type fantasies I have read wandered down this road. I love the diversity, don’t hear me wrong…but why is there so much fear in creating strong, straight female fantasy leads. Is it that hard to write, or are they worry about losing readers? If I were a character in a fantasy, I would be one bad-ass, sword wielding vigilantly -all 5’6″ 115 pounds of me – slaying dragons and ridding the world of a evil.

    • bishoprook
      Posted September 25, 2014 at 7:08 AM | Permalink

      Lesbian sexuality has often been associated with butch presentation. Authors sometimes make lazy unchecked associations. This hurts the representation both of straight women who are not traditionally “feminine,” and lesbians who are.

  16. ghevalt
    Posted September 24, 2014 at 8:51 AM | Permalink

    I have twin 5 year old girls. One of them is fairly feminine. She likes stuffed animals, dresses, and ‘pretty things’ in general. She sometimes pretends to be a cat. She says she wants to be a doctor when she grows up.

    My other daughter likes cars, power tools (no, we don’t let her use them, but she wants to), and basically anything ‘manly’. She sometimes pretends to own the cat that is her sister. We asked her what she wants to be when she grows up. She said she wants to ‘make buildings’. We asked her, “An architect? Someone who designs the buildings on paper?” She replied, “Do they get to hit stuff with a hammer?” We told her architects don’t normally do the actual construction of the buildings. Those are construction workers. She said, “That’s what I want to be then. I want to build things with a hammer.”

    They also both love the Ninja Turtles, which their grandmother started allowing them to watch without my wife or I knowing. We try to keep them from watching anything scary or violent. One day we came home and they were sitting there watching it. My wife and I took them aside and asked them, “Why do you like watching that cartoon? It is full of violence and people hurting each other. They fight all of the time.” My wife and I were then corrected. “The Ninja Turtles are good! They don’t fight people because they want to! They fight bad guys to protect people. They don’t want to hurt anyone. They are like Police, but they hide because they’re turtles and people would be scared of them.” So our girls still watch Ninja Turtles, and now Power Rangers as well.

    I think that, as parents, our actions have a huge impact on how our children view the world. But I also think that sometimes, our kids just are who they are, no matter what you do or don’t show them.

    We also have an 11 month old son. So far he likes food, laughing, ceiling fans, and shoving everything in his mouth that he can get his hands on. So far I think he is following a pretty gender neutral path.

  17. MaryL
    Posted September 24, 2014 at 9:02 AM | Permalink

    Pat, using my secret kid translator decoder ring, I think what Oot was asking was to play with his Dad, while trying not to be too “baby” about asking. WHERE he picked up the “guy game” jargon is another matter…

    In terms of gender and nature vs nuture, I am reminded of my mother’s story. She had 4 girls before my brother, and tried to be gender neutral. He did play with our dolls, all the time, but would load them into the wagon with the blocks and send it at high speed crashing into the wall. Dolls everywhere, sisters sceaming,brother laughing…she concluded there might be some fundemental differences, but still treated us all alike in terms of chores/housework etc. Worked too. HE is doing the same with his only child, a boy.

  18. Woozle
    Posted September 24, 2014 at 9:08 AM | Permalink

    My husband always tells me about the books and music that were allowed or taken away from him as a child. Neither of his parents have even considered reading a book for pleasure in their entire lives so the decisions they made were based entirely on titles and the pictures on the covers. The only “manly” music was classic rock so when my husband became obsessed with Phantom of the Opera, his father was furious. They approved of Guns n’ Roses screaming obscenities (it was manly) and they strongly disapproved of any books written by women. He particularly remembers the fury when his dad caught him reading Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. His parents didn’t know enough to be impressed that their 12 year old son was reading the LOTR trilogy, every Stephen King novel, War and Peace…
    Luckily he realized at a young age that he was smarter than they were.

  19. RegistrationIsStupid
    Posted September 24, 2014 at 9:11 AM | Permalink

    Not all stereotyping is bad, though. Boys are supposed to be gentlemen after all. For all the bitching about equality, a girl will always appreciate it if you hold the door for her. Just as I will always enjoy holding that door.
    But I guess it is just the stereotyped me, that sees little romance in a girl holding the door for me.

    Maybe it is due to me not wearing skirts and high heels, that i don’t see the need for a girl to hop around the car and help me out. I think all the men out there running around in mini and pumps would appreciate it.

    You do all accept the fact, that there is a difference between men an women, no?
    Says nothing of their individual worth and I fancy the thought, that we left Darwin behind in modern society. But still I will teach my boys to hold that door open and I will tell my girls that a decent man would do just so.

    • Posted September 24, 2014 at 9:30 AM | Permalink

      This woman will not always appreciate it if you hold the door for her, unless it’s a circumstance where you’d be holding it for a man too, such as me not having a hand free. There are few things that annoy me as much as someone doing something for me just because I’m female. I’m sure I’m not alone in this.

      • DShannon
        Posted September 24, 2014 at 10:02 AM | Permalink

        Please understand that if I am holding the door for you, it had nothing to do with chivalry, oppression, or your gender. It is entirely because there is a door and you are within a few steps of me and I’m not an a-hole.

    • Valhalla.
      Posted September 24, 2014 at 2:11 PM | Permalink

      I think you’re basing that justification of a stereotype on quite a few other stereotypes.

      I like having someone hold the door open for me- if it seems natural. If I’m by the door and somebody is nearby, I’ll hold it open regardless of their gender.

      Similarly, not all women wear skirts or heels, nor do we necessarily appreciate being treated differently. A lot of perceived differences have a basis in society and culture rather than biology.

      • RegistrationIsStupid
        Posted September 25, 2014 at 11:47 AM | Permalink

        I did so very intentionally. After all everyone and everything is a stereotype in the end. The trick is, as Patrick obviously knows, in not pushing people into stereotypes.
        There will always be a lot of boys playing soccer (sry European) and a lot of girls enjoying painting their faces with makeup.
        And there is nothing wrong with those stereotypes as long as neither feels pushed into something he or she didn’t really want for him- or herself.
        Maybe chivalry was a bad example and I knew I was pushing buttons with the “bitching about” phrase, but I was trying to call the stereotype of 100% emancipated woman of her own making out. It worked and so now some of you know their stereotype. I have known to be the perfect smart ass stereotype for quite some time. I try to make the best of it.

  20. christie
    Posted September 24, 2014 at 9:20 AM | Permalink

    My son is now ten. We raised did out best to limit gender stereotypes and he played with his workbench and his kitchen set. He liked pink and purple as well as blue and green. But I remember when it happened…

    He was in first grade. He had a small plastic toy for show and tell. And it was a one inch tall type of transformer that changed from a mammoth to a robot he had gotten from an Easter egg in France…and it was hot pink. And he said he was afraid to be “made fun of” because a boy in his class said pink is for girls.

    We talked. We talked about how some people label things for a boy or a girl and he felt that was “stupid and made no sense”. He decided it was a cool toy and be a and braved the possible taunting by bringing it for show and tell. Everyone thought it was cool and no one teased him. However his awareness of the ignorance of people made me a little sad. I also find it interesting that disregarding gender norms is something that was listed to test for the gifted and talented program at his school.

    I have to add that he likes “guy time” with his dad. Spending time one on one with a parent is important and fun. But when it’s just the guys they pass gas without saying “excuse me” and he thinks that is pretty funny.

  21. Posted September 24, 2014 at 10:07 AM | Permalink

    When I was really little, we lived in the middle of nowhere so my only playmate was an uncle six years older than me. We just played, with no one commenting on the gender appropriateness of anything. When we’d play with Star Wars figures, he was just as likely to play with Leia as I was with Yoda.

    Then I started school. I still vividly remember the day I first became aware of the concept of “boys’ toys” and “girls’ toys”. Some boys were playing with Transformers. I asked if I could play. They informed me that Transformers were for boys and wouldn’t let me. Nearly thirty years later, I can still remember how confused and hurt I was. (Somewhat amusingly, one of those boys has since become the only person from elementary school I’m still in touch with. He didn’t give up things like Transformers and Star Wars in favor of sports at the culturally dictated age, so he ended up hanging out with my only friend and I as we were the only other geeks in our grade.)

  22. Fawn
    Posted September 24, 2014 at 10:15 AM | Permalink

    This made me cry a little bit. So sweet!

    Posted September 24, 2014 at 10:18 AM | Permalink

    I’m of the (probably not very popular) opinion that gender stereotypes aren’t all that bad unless they hinder someone doing what they want. Guy things became guy things for a reason – because men did them and liked them. Those things should be just as accessible to women, but Oot wanting to play a guy game (before you found out what the game was) is natural. It’s also probably just him emulating you and that’s not bad at all.
    Your last blog post spoke of D&D. If Oot grows up to be nerdy (and I mean that in a completely positive context, of course. We’re all nerds here) it’ll be because he wants to emulate the father he loves. He would have every opportunity to go play sports if he wanted to, but he’ll likely pick up a book instead.
    The only negative stereotypes reinforcement you’d be doing in this guy game would be if you stopped him raising the dragons and made him fight with them instead.

    • Valhalla.
      Posted September 24, 2014 at 2:18 PM | Permalink

      Stereotypes often do hinder people. If the assumption is that men do this and women do that it can prevent people from stepping outside the norms.

  24. Digitalape
    Posted September 24, 2014 at 10:28 AM | Permalink

    Step two: Once Oot has moved on from this game, you could surprise him and take it to the next level.

    “The dragonlings were discovered by slick, ‘sea-faring entrepreneurs’ and were taken to be sold.

    The two of you must find them and save them! Possibly leading to an outdoor adventure that may or may not involve pre-drawn treasure maps.

    And then build a more secure nest ;) Traps and locks.

    • SpiralSpider
      Posted September 25, 2014 at 7:09 AM | Permalink

      That is adorable.

  25. kennyj
    Posted September 24, 2014 at 11:38 AM | Permalink

    Sometimes they’re not stereotypes. We didn’t try to pass on any specific gender roles to our 2 sons either. My 7 year is still in love with stuffed animals and he had 2 kitchen playsets when he was younger. He also owned baby dolls. But there’s no doubt that he’s more interested in stereotypical boy things. He like playing with cars and action figures. Although, mostly he’s into Minecraft. And he sometimes “embarassingly” watches shows like My Little Pony — which I assure him is just fine (I preferred She-Ra to He-Man when I was a kid).

    My almost 2 year old boy on the other hand is absolutely obsessed with cars. He seems to have no interest in dolls or stuffed animals.

    And both my boys have always seemed “rough” and want to wrestle and play fight. They don’t get that from me. I’m a wuss. :)

    • bishoprook
      Posted September 25, 2014 at 7:16 AM | Permalink

      The only way to shelter a child from all forms of gender-related social biases is to keep them locked in your house, homeschool them, never give them unfiltered access to other people, and never let them consume media. If your kid has ever been to school, watched a movie, or watched an advertisement on TV, they’ve had some of it implanted.

      And even extreme isolation isn’t exactly a panacea: even the most well-meaning, gender-conscious parents who want to raise a child free of gender stereotypes grew up in that culture and still retain some kind of biases.

      Not to suggest extreme isolation as the answer, but don’t assume cultural biases can’t creep in just because you never sat your kid down and said “kitchens are for girls, cars are for boys.” The best you can do is mitigate them, not defeat them.

  26. Posted September 24, 2014 at 1:39 PM | Permalink

    I say, “Vive la difference!” We can do those things we can do the same with all enthusiasm and power to us each, but those things which we do differently… Huzzah! Where there’s love, there’s always complementarity rather than antipathy. And that keeps the lovely energy flowing.

  27. JJLeggo
    Posted September 24, 2014 at 1:48 PM | Permalink

    Sometimes you try to make that difference, only to have a visiting friend say stuff like “you don’t want the pink one, right? that’s for girls…”
    Sometimes your 7-year-old’s teenage sister says “you’d better not cry – boys don’t cry”
    Sometimes you are incredibly envious at just how much better a father your favourite author is…

  28. Jsherry
    Posted September 24, 2014 at 2:38 PM | Permalink

    What I can’t figure out is how to help my (10-year-old) son navigate these issues in school. I can make sure that he knows that he shouldn’t feel ashamed for liking “My Little Pony,” but I also think I’m being irresponsible as a parent if I don’t help him understand that most of the boys in his class are going to ostracize him for admitting it around them. But then I worry that it becomes something to hide (as he will hide his stuffed Rainbow Dash when his friends come over). He’s confident enough to call his friends out when they say something racist or disparaging about homosexuals, but strangely, I think he would find more support from the other kids around him over that than over liking My Little Pony (which quickly appears as a common thread among boys liking perceived “girl” themes – that show in particular is doing something right, clearly).

  29. Posted September 24, 2014 at 3:22 PM | Permalink

    I am quite sure this win was not without trying, but a cumulative effort that has led your son to have a great perspective of what a guy is and what a guy does!

    Bravo, Pat! You are raising a good “guy”!

  30. lambenttyto
    Posted September 24, 2014 at 4:00 PM | Permalink

    Well, I disagree.

    If children want to play with other toys, like boys with ponys and girls with some action figures, fine, but I would not let a little boy wear a dress, because he’s a boy.

    Male and female are different. They’re physically, mentally, and psychologically different.

    This whole “there’s no gender” thing going around and that it’s each person’s choice what they want to be, is immoral and society is going to pay for that kind of attitude.

    For instance, if there’s no gender and men and woman are the same, why is it shameful for a man to hit a woman? It’s not shameful for a man to hit a man, even though it might be illegal.

    Uh, oh, folks, we better get rid of these make/female stereotypes. I can’t wait ti get in a brawl with a few woman! :D

    Not to sound argumentative or start a debate on this post. I just wanted to make a point. Men are men, and woman are woman, so let men be men and woman be woman.

    • Jsherry
      Posted September 24, 2014 at 4:39 PM | Permalink

      You’re missing the point. The argument isn’t about eliminating gender. It’s about the fact that society and culture enforce assumptions about those gender roles that are not inherently true but which too many people accept blindly.

      • lambenttyto
        Posted September 24, 2014 at 6:15 PM | Permalink

        I suppose you’re right.

        On another topic, I haven’t actually read any of Patrick Rothfuss’ books yet, but I’m looking forward to Name of the Wind.

        • SpiralSpider
          Posted September 25, 2014 at 7:03 AM | Permalink

          Did you know that all children used to wear dresses and the traditional color for boys used to be ‘pink’? Gender norms change.

          • justajenjen
            Posted September 25, 2014 at 2:06 PM | Permalink

            My mom has this photo hanging up in her living room of my great-great-grandparents and their 13 children. The two youngest children are in gowns, one being my great-grandfather and the other being his next older brother.

            After having my own son, I see the practicallity of this. So much easier to change diapers. We should bring this back.

  31. Posted September 24, 2014 at 4:05 PM | Permalink

    Although Buttercup’s lack of action in the Fire Swamp makes me *CRAZY*, there is another woman in The Princess Bride: Miracle Max’s wife, Valerie. She’s a pretty powerful female. (Not to suggest that the movie passes the Bechdel test, not even close!) Still, I watched it with my two daughters recently and its weaknesses were topics of discussion.

    It’s still an awesome fun film.

    • bishoprook
      Posted September 25, 2014 at 7:19 AM | Permalink

      And the “boo!!” lady.

  32. Jsherry
    Posted September 24, 2014 at 4:34 PM | Permalink

    Hmm, I’m not sure Valerie helps the argument, since strong or not, she’s just an old crone/shrew archetype. :)

    (Then again, to be fair, Max & Valerie are an intentionally anachronistic contemporary stereotypical “old Jewish couple,” so it’s not like the writer/filmmakers were exactly trying to avoid archetypes there.)

  33. Rothfussyourock
    Posted September 24, 2014 at 4:45 PM | Permalink

    A good friend of mine lent me one of your novels nearly a year ago, and it has been patiently waiting its turn in my to-read pile (it is a BIG pile). I want you to know that I just bought that same novel for my kindle 3 minutes ago, and it’s turn is now.

  34. suckmahbirdie
    Posted September 24, 2014 at 7:32 PM | Permalink

    Ugh, you’re the worst kind of human, pat. It’s extremely unfortunate that you have already reproduced. I don’t know what kind of woman would have been so desperate to have been with you.

    • withrye
      Posted September 24, 2014 at 9:43 PM | Permalink

      lolz silly goose

  35. withrye
    Posted September 24, 2014 at 10:34 PM | Permalink

    I hope one day people will just be indifferent to gender and not care so much. There are physical differences, obviously, but those differences should be a boring and irrelevant thing, like earlobe size. Treating men and women differently because of their physical differences should be as silly as treating big-earlobe people different from small-earlobe people.

    But you say, genitals are more important than earlobes! Well, I think we’ve outgrown our biological priorities and aren’t looking to fuck everyone we meet. Unless you work with genitals regularly for some reason (a porn star, or maybe dildo R&D researcher?), genitals may as well be earlobes, as far as how little impact those fleshy parts have on your day-to-day life.

  36. kaner
    Posted September 24, 2014 at 11:47 PM | Permalink

    My five year old daughter once approached my wife and said “let’s play bomb store.” My wife was a little horrified, but didn’t want to react, so she said “ok sweetie, what kind of things will we sell in a bomb store?” My daughter thought it was obvious, “we would sell lip balm.” If we raise them right, we just have to give them the benefit of the doubt.

  37. davidh219
    Posted September 25, 2014 at 12:21 AM | Permalink

    Your blog makes me cry a million times more often and a million times harder than 99% of the books I read. I don’t know how you do it. The post about wealth inequality and charity, explained with a cake metaphor. The post about how the unselfish and unconditional love you feel for your child is very different from every other kind of love. And now this.

    I’ve never left a comment on here before, but I felt like I finally had to say something. I had to let you know that you being a good person doing good things, with good values based in ethical pragmatism has touched my life more deeply than any book ever has, even your own.

    Normally I don’t care if an author is a good person or not, as long as I enjoy their work, but I love that an author whose books I love is also an amazing person who inspires me to be a better person as well. Your son is very lucky to have a father who actually thinks deeply about things and questions the world around him. A parent’s most important job is to teach, and the best teachers are the ones who never stop learning.

    Keep on learning, and keep on teaching. Your son is going to be an amazing person when he grows up.

  38. SpiralSpider
    Posted September 25, 2014 at 7:28 AM | Permalink

    I’m all gung-ho about raising my kids without gender expectations. It’s not as easy as many believe it is. However, I should be one to talk – I’ve got four daughters. It is infinitely easier to raise your kids without these borders if they’re female because “tomboys” are perfectly acceptable. Any amount of ‘”femininity” in a young boy instantly raises alarms with the more conservative folk. Challenging the status quo and all that….

  39. lewis
    Posted September 25, 2014 at 8:20 AM | Permalink

    As a father of 3 boy’s all I can say is good luck with that!, as to my own personal philosiphy I want my boys to grow to be strong, confident, kind and happy men. Beyond that I care not a jot. My own test is looking in the mirror and if I can be proud of who I see then thats enough for me and be damned everyone elses opinions.

  40. Star
    Posted September 25, 2014 at 9:25 AM | Permalink

    Unrelated, have you seen this article by Neil Gaiman about Terry Pratchett? http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/sep/24/terry-pratchett-angry-not-jolly-neil-gaiman?CMP=soc_567

  41. Posted September 25, 2014 at 11:44 AM | Permalink

    This is awesome. Guys can be great nurturers and home-builders (not just house-builders) too. It looks like Oot understands that inherently. Great parenting! ^_^

  42. priscellie
    Posted September 25, 2014 at 12:17 PM | Permalink

    This is too adorable for words. You and Sarah are fighting an uphill battle, but you’re doing a great job.

  43. lykashii
    Posted September 25, 2014 at 3:56 PM | Permalink

    Random question, I swear I read a blog post that said you guys were going to be sorting out the photo contest over the next few months, and I’ve just checked the photostream and noticed there are a ton of new categories but no blog posts… I was just wondering if you were going to do a post about it or whether the winners have just been emailed or something?

  44. dandvan
    Posted September 25, 2014 at 5:36 PM | Permalink

    Funny how the internet works. I was checking an online order status on Amazon and then saw a new book was coming out. I had forgotten about you. Loved the first two books and then, well, lost track. Anyway, I came on over here to see what was up and came across your blog. And now, find myself feeling the need to let you know that you just changed my attitude about this whole gender thing. Seeing as my children are all grown up now, it’s too late for me to change their up-bringing, but, I had gotten wind of this latest trend of gender neutral upbringing or whatever and had sort of just brushed it off as another one of these trendy “everyone get’s a trophy” things that would create a generation of people unwilling to do a hard day’s work. LOL, OK, that comes off sounding really bad, but lets just say that I’m a bit of a cynic when it comes to parenting theories. And no, I’m not some joe-sixpack who sits around being “manly” and watching football. My children were raised in a similar way… Anyway, just wanted to say. I loved this blog. It was beautiful and from the heart and your son has a great dad. I’m glad you went with it and got your reward! Best of luck on the hardest job you’ll ever have.

  45. J McK
    Posted September 25, 2014 at 7:28 PM | Permalink

    When I was nursing back in the day, some of the best nurses I knew were men who had deconstructed the old trope of men as distant and came to see caring as a higher expression of their masculinity and to take pride in that. If your boy’s there already at like seven or however old he is then I can see him as a young man being comfortable in his own skin in a way that few are until they hit middle age. In today’s world that is no small feat. Kudos.

  46. bray
    Posted October 16, 2014 at 8:08 PM | Permalink

    Gender roles are highly influenced as to how we as fathers react to them. Others that chose to make ever issue or action a “gender” issue often overlook the reality that in many cases there is no gender relationship other then the ones they themselves inject. Love, honesty and confidence solve a lot of perceived problems and can answer many questions.

  47. Bogdan
    Posted October 31, 2014 at 11:48 AM | Permalink

    Hi Pat.

    I understand your concern about letting your young boy fall into worldly stereotypes. When it comes to gender though… I don’t know. Cross culturally men are well… masculine. Maybe you’re having such a hard time fighting against it because you’re fighting against the way of things. Men aren’t really tame things, there is a true part of a man that is wild and dangerous and unbound. It FEELS wrong to think of such a man and have him be… domesticated. A stallion is a stallion, he is wild, and dangerous and that is his essence and IT IS… A stallion can’t be a mare, not without losing something very precious.


  48. Alan Martin
    Posted November 15, 2014 at 4:22 PM | Permalink

    Patrick talks about equality in Princess Bride, and then this happens:

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