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Is my child a dog?

2009 March 19
by Cat Durante


Last Sunday, right before I got back from spring break, I visited the Museum of Natural History in New York with my sister. I hadn’t been there since I was a toddler and it was fun to catch up on the exhibits (the dinosaurs are breathtaking!). Nicole and I are just walking around the North American mammals section (which is ironic for what I’m about to say) and we saw a mother with two twins, one boy and one girl. She had the boy strapped to one of those “child leashes” that have become so popular nowadays but her daughter was just holding her hand next to her. I know the two children were twins and of the same age since she gave a hint when she spoke to her husband. So why does her son get to wear the collar and not the daughter? I watched the little boy closely and he had the overactive tendency to touch things and puch through people to press his face up against the glass of the cases. The little girl was just as active as the boy but she seemed to show a little restraint. She of course was running around to look but she never touched or bumped into people to get a better view. What I found most intriguing was that the woman’s son seemed to always come to back to his mother after he saw what he wanted to see. Whether it was because of the leash, I don’t know but it seemed that he was also consciously looking to mae sure his mother was in plain sight. The girl on the other hand, didn’t even look back. In fact, the mother spent more time calling out for her and catching up with her and the leash seemed to be on the wrong child. I’m against these “ropes” completely but it was interesting to watch the gender and technology dynamics at play. The technology of the leash did seem to be upholding the gender stereotype of male children being more rambunctious and thus needing to be restrained while female children are more fragile and passive. In this case, it seemed the little girl was more reckless than her brother, not caring where her family was at any given point in time. BY the way, these observations occurred over the course of maybe 10 minutes, the time it takes to get through one of the rooms in the exhibit. I was not deliberately stalking these children (!).


The leash also made me have this sense of a freedom disparity. The boy seemed to have very little freedom and was on a short leash (literally) but he didn’t seem to mind since I suppose he was used to wanting to be near his mother anyway. The girl on the other hand, had all the freedom in the museum and would probably have walked out without a care if her mother wasn’t calling her name every two minutes. It’s interesting to see this switch in gender stereotypes as well that stem from this technology of the leash. Girls usually want to be in close proximity to their mothers and her kept protected from such predators as “boys.” That girl did not want to have anything to do with her mother, even when she wasn’t interested in the display she was standing in front  of. In contrast, boys are suppose to have this disconnect and individuality to them that gives them an independent character. It was fascinating to see this boy on a leash…and liking it.

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