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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Mama Bear Moxie: Navigating changing gender roles

By Kristina Phelan For The Spokesman-Review

I have been having an ongoing debate with myself over the past few months regarding gender and identity. I am a staunch feminist that believes in the right for women to receive equal pay and opportunity. However, I have noticed recently some overlaps in my life that make me realize my thinking might not be so rigid.

For example, I have a son in Boy Scouts, and, recently, girls were recently allowed to join Boy Scout Troops. I disagree with this change. With girls in the mix, my fear is you’ll no longer see the same kind of camaraderie among the boys. I doubt you will see boys open up and work together as well if they are trying to impress or perform for a girl in the group. I was already worried about my son having overnight camps, but mixing boys and girls is just asking for trouble

Now, just because I don’t think girls should be allowed in Boy Scouts doesn’t mean that I am against girls learning all the same curriculum. Girls should learn how to do all of the stuff that Boy Scouts do but in a group of only girls. Does that make me a hypocrite? Maybe. But keeping girls and boys separate in the trooping world would be better no matter what kind of curriculum learn.

The toy aisle with my daughter continued these questions. We were looking for a few new toys to add to her room, and I battled with the entire experience. I was taken down memory lane looking at toys that I used to play with for hours and hours. However, I quickly questioned why all of the toys geared toward girls were based on how to cook, clean, dress, do hair and makeup, and take care of kids.

The “boy aisle” was noticeably different. My daughter said, “I can’t pick any of these out because they are boy toys.” We had a nice discussion about how girls and boys can play with any toys no matter the color of the packaging. Why can’t they all just be toys? I was proud of her for picking out a hot wheels set that looked way more fun than the pet care toy she picked out from the “girl aisle” and went home feeling a mixture of empowerment and confusion on this entire subject.

The part that I struggle with most is that I want to have a hard line of being a feminist and having the same answer for every situation. But I don’t. The world is throwing new ideas and pushing boundaries on what it means to be a girl and a boy. There are parts of me that agree with the old school ways of thinking and also parts of me that agree with throwing gender specific roles out the window. Every situation is going to be different in how I teach my sons and daughter how to form their own opinions.

I just hope that I am teaching them when it is OK to respectfully question the norm.

Kristina Phelan is a former Spokane-area resident now living in Illinois. Visit her website at www.mamabearmoxie. com.

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