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CHILDREN – It would be a lie to say that we have never heard or asked this question. To our niece, to our best friend’s son, to the little one held by our daughter. As soon as children are old enough to talk and interact with others, adults are quick to ask them if they have a lover or not.
In some cases, it is downright projection, a kind of fantasized relationship with another child that is put between their legs. And if the reflex seems quite innocuous because it is phrased with tenderness, it actually lays the foundation for harsh – and later destructive – gender stereotypes.
However, more and more parents are trying to ease this angry question, inspired and encouraged by important feminist writings. Pihla Hintikka and Elisa Rigoulet are precisely those who work every day to deconstruct these little sentences that have more impact than you might think. In their book 30 discussions for an anti-sexist education (ed. Marabout), a collection of dialogues that provide keys to address various sexist biases in education, when confronted with them, they evoke the very theme of love that adults project onto children.
For Terrafemina, they suggest in more detail what is wrong with this phenomenon and how it contributes to conveying and reinforcing harmful heteronormativity. And then the two authors conclude with practical advice: how to react when a third person asks our child if he/she has a lover. Maintenance.
Terrafemina: Where does this reflex come from to put the term “love” on the relationship between two children? Why is it so common?
Pihla Hintikka and Elisa Rigoulet: It is a normalized reflex that comes from adults. A projection that we have on the relationships between children. We project our own relationships onto them. It comes from both a parental norm and a couple norm. We often instill that in spite of ourselves, such as the notion of gender. The question of the lover is a trite question that has entered the culture of discussions that we engage in with children, like asking them “do you like football?” or “how was school today?”.
Are friendships between little boys and little girls more likely to do so?
Naturally. This reflex fulfills the norm of heterosexuality. We impose this standard and this model without knowing it. We would never talk about love between two little boys or two little girls. In this way, we forget to value the friendship between a girl and a boy as the relationship between two women or two men.
Why is it harmful to ask a child if he or she has a lover?
It brings adult problems back into a child’s sphere. Even if he/she hasn’t asked for anything, he/she is not yet old enough to understand what it is to be in love, and he/she doesn’t need to know it yet! It is also unconsciously fueling sexist considerations, as if the girls already wanted to seduce and the boys already wanted to flirt. It sexualizes and genders the affective relationships between children.
What are the consequences in his life as a child, teenager, adult?
It builds in them and them the idea of and the norm of gender and heteronormativity. And that imposes it as much as any sexist reflection. It is a trivialization of sexual and gender roles. Children before the age of 7 often have not yet constructed their gender identity. It is not necessary to build this notion in them and them when they do not talk about it. And if they talk about it, explain to them that they have a choice and don’t limit their freedom.
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