Monday, June 16, 2008

My Cutie-Smartie Kids

My posting has been kind of slow lately, mostly because I'm still getting used to my full time job. I'm a nanny for three kids: a ten year old boy, a nine year old girl, and a five year old girl. The job is both mentally and physically exhausting, but we have a good time together. And I've been taking little feminist mental notes.

One thing I've noticed during the last week was about nicknames. When I'm talking to the two girls, I sometimes address them as "cutie" or "beautiful." I don't call the boy by any name like that, and I've been wondering about the effect on them in the long term. I've decided to call them "smartie" instead of "cutie" or "beautiful."

What do you guys think about this? Do you think that nicknames make a difference in the long run? Do they teach girls to value looks as a defining characteristic? Or are they just sweet, simple names?


The Great American said...

I'd say sweet simple names. But I'm partial nicknames such as "rugrat" or "crumb-cruncher". You should give those a whirl...

Amelia said...

Interesting, Kate.

As I've grown as a feminist, I have realized how pervasive some forms of sexism have been in my life...even without my notice. For example, I never realized I was being taught to hate my body and grow into having such a messed up relationship with food until I became a feminist. But I was still being affected by outside sources, even when I didn't realize it.

So I would say that there is a possibility for such gender-specific nicknames to teach children to value certain qualities based on their gender.

But I also think that just hearing words may not mean as much as how ones peers behave, how one is treated by others, etc. So if you treat a girl like a smartie, but still call her a cutie, I think it may have a slightly different effect. But then again, I don't know for sure.

The only person I call by a "pet name" like that is my boyfriend. We both call each other "babe," and it is endearing only because I know him and I know that he respects me and values me as a person. I get offended when other people call me babe, even in jest.

P.S. I wish you were my nanny! :)

Habladora said...

You know, I've had to watch out for the same thing with my nieces and nephew. Sure, cutie and beautiful are fine every now and then, but not if they're the only terms of endearment employed - and only for the girls while my nephew gets 'tiger' or 'champ.' I do think that continual use of 'beautiful' for girls and 'tiger' for boys teaches kids something about who they're supposed to be, or at least who we expect them to be.

For whatever reason, my parents used 'misket-mousekit' with me when I was a kid. I loved it, in part because it was original.

Lindsay said...

My grandpa used to call me "skinny minnie" when I was a kid, and I can't remember when he stopped, but I'm sure it was sometime around puberty.

I think if the nicknames (for both genders) focus on beauty in addition to personality, smarts, etc, it's ok. Or you could always base it off of their names - then it's a good nickname without being based in a beauty or knowledge standard.