The windy city’s gender enrichment classes


As a mother, I am always looking for ways to keep my son busy and socialized, and this includes enrolling in our local park district kids’ classes. We just received the winter season catalog and I was flipping through it, and came across two class descriptions that dumbfounded me. Keep in mind that each of these classes are directed at 3- to 5-year-olds.

1. Princesses on Parade: Have fun with your favorite princesses and just celebrate being girls! Each week we will talk about different princesses and do other fun girl stuff. We will read a story, make a project and do some singing and dancing. On the last day, we will wear our princess costumes and have a tea party. Parents, we will be talking about the princesses’ strengths and good deeds, as well as having fun.

2. Totally Dudes: Calling all boys! Pirates, dinosaurs, trucks, trains, sports, jumpin’ and playin’. This class is just for boys. Each week will be a different theme and we will make a project, include a little science and math, have time in the Motor Room, and just celebrate being boys.

Am I the only one disturbed by these descriptions?? Notice how the boys’ class lists stereotypical things boys may like as well as learning science and math. There is no mention of any academic activities in the girls’ class, unless you consider talking about strengths and good deeds of fictional princesses to be learning activities. As a little girl, I didn’t particularly like princesses or dress-up games or tea parties. I had toy cars and Legos, and I happened to like science and math. What class would I have joined then? I can’t believe that in 2010 they are still reinforcing those good ol’ gender stereotypes.

Don’t get me wrong; there is nothing wrong with little girls liking princesses and little boys liking pirates and dinosaurs, but…to me this is just silly. Maybe I wouldn’t have such a problem with it if they offered some science and math to the girls’ class as well. But what do I know?


RA, Chicago

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10 Responses to “The windy city’s gender enrichment classes”

  1. Doomed Lapels Says:

    Broadly agreeing, but this part interested me:

    “Maybe I wouldn’t have such a problem with it if they offered some science and math to the girls’ class as well.”

    You don’t make any mention of including any of the “girl” things in the boys’ classes! 🙂

    • adev0tchka Says:

      Honestly, I didn’t even consider that! But why not? There isn’t anything right or good about teaching little boys that anything pink and “girly” is something to run away from. One specific element from the girls’ class that I would like to see in the boys’ class is the singing and dancing. I think all kids would benefit from musical play.

      I was just really bothered that math and science aren’t even a consideration for the little girls. Maybe the people putting the class together don’t think it’s something the girls will even be interested in, which is a dangerous notion considering they’re only in preschool. Ugh.

  2. jesurgislac Says:

    Wow. That’s really pretty bad.

    I liked doing stuff from both these classes. I liked playing dress-up (though not as a “princess” … I wanted to be a pirate!). At three, I’d have liked storytime, singing, and dancing. I wouldn’t have liked “making a project” if it had meant making a princess outfit… but there ARE a lot of good stories about princesses, fictional and non-fictional. The kind of projects I liked to do were the ones that involved science and maths, and I liked learning about How Things Worked.

    (It would be unfair for your son to be used as an example … but if he DOES like playing dress-up, I’d try to enroll him in the Princesses class….!)

    It’s like the little-kids costumes: girls can be nurses or witches. Boys can doctors, devils, pirates, engineers, etc, etc, etc….

  3. trixtah Says:

    It’s amazing that I’m glad to have grown up in the 70s, because at least they didn’t pull this shit back then. While Girl Guides and Scouts were strictly segregated by gender, they wouldn’t have dreamed doing this kind of thing for something run by a public authority.

  4. rae57 Says:

    It’s a shame to say, but this just doesn’t surprise me. My nephew’s favourite colour is pink and he is constantly told that he “can’t like pink, it’s a girl’s colour!” He clearly knows better than this sort of thing though, he had seen a mermaid cake in a Marks and Spencer book that he told his mum he wanted for his birthday. She read him the little blurb underneath it that said something like “Treat your little girl on her special day”. With no mention or prompting from my sister, he turned to her, laughed, and said “That’s so silly, mermaids aren’t just for girls are they mummy?!” Thankfully it looks like not all children’s tastes are ruled by gender stereotypes!

  5. popesuburban Says:

    Maybe a “fantasy” themed class for the fairies, princesses, pirates and knights that does costumes and history, and a “science” themed class for the dinosaur and space enthusiasts (these being the two Big Deals I remember from childhood) that does experiments and math. You cover both spheres without anyone feeling weird, and without one class being total fluff. Mostly fluff, sure, because “experiments” where you make candy and “historical reenactments” that are really just running around in costumes are fun, but not total fluff. That it would be so damn easy to address the issue is what bothers me; it smacks of either extreme laziness or deliberate sexism.

  6. piewackett1 Says:

    Totally out-fucking -rageous!

    This is state subsidized discrimination and gender apartheid. Public park money is funded by tax -payers, by YOU.

    Can you possibly get in touch with your local chapter of NOW, or a similar feminist or woman’s group? Chicago is fairly sophisticated. If you can’t find feminist allies there we are all doomed.

    I know many women who would split a gut over this type of continued crap, and no, it isn’t just you!

  7. thornofplenty Says:

    I wonder if any parents attempted to enroll their male child in the princess class. In a number of ways I almost feel like it is worse that we assume that boys don’t want to be princesses in out of school activity than that we assume that girls don’t want to do math and science outside school.
    Especially given that school has never really been a place to develop the ability to imagine.

  8. veronicaeye Says:


    I figured out where these classes are.

    Have you called to inquire about this? I’m sure they will say, “This is what moms ask for!” But you need to voice your opposition to this as a tax-payer to this fair town. I’m gonna give them a call too.

    • adev0tchka Says:

      I was actually at the center, taking my son to a different class, and talked to the program coordinator while I was there. She at least heard me out, but said that these classes won’t be removed due to their popularity.

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