“Mummy, today I got called a bad word.”
This is not an uncommon event in my house. My seven-year-old thinks ‘shut up’ is a bad word (I tell her it isn’t really and even if it was it is actually two words). She is also at that stage of life when kids are copying adult behaviour more, having shaken off the shyness of kindergarten.
So I probe. Who called you the bad word? She didn’t want to give it up but I gently got it out of her. A boy who likes her a lot, makes her laugh, lovely parents, a firm friend. What was the bad word? This was the next bit of information to coax out of her before I could respond appropriately. She really didn’t want to tell me this. I asked her to write it down. She did.
My first reaction? There is a ‘t’ between the ‘i’ and the ‘ch’.
Probably a nervous reaction but bad spelling is a bugbear of mine. Yes my lovely daughter, all of seven years old, got called a bitch by a little boy I thought was her friend.
I tried not to overreact. I said the usual things you say. "That’s terrible." "He shouldn’t have said that." It turns out he said sorry of his own volition. The cause of this outburst? They were playing tips. He is usually too fast for her but that day she managed to catch him. In his frustration at losing, he called her a bitch. My daughter tried to explain to me that he probably used that word because he couldn’t find a better one. She is always generous even in the face of this kind of playground sexism. And that’s what I think this is. Playground sexism. She was too fast for him. She beat him at a game. She was a bitch.
I am sad to say that even in this world of women prime ministers and presidential candidates (a.k.a. bitches), sexism is all around and it starts early.
A few weeks before the ‘bitch incident’ one of the boys in my daughter’s friendship circle – again someone who I have always liked – said she sucked at the drums and tried to kick her out of the garage band she formed with some other boys her age. My daughter is the only girl member and has been playing the drums since she was four and is (pardon the brag) pretty good. “You’re a girl, you can’t be in the band," she was told by this friend (who by the way can’t play an instrument). The usual things I say were said. "That’s terrible." "He shouldn’t have said that."