If you’re a parent of a young kid, especially a female kid, how many times have you heard “oh she’s flirting with you!” or “She’s such a flirt”? My kid is just slightly more than a year old and I’ve heard this a bunch. Surely there are more grating phrases folks can say, but this one was been on my mind.

Here’s the thing: Babies cannot flirt. This person describes the issue well:

It’s creepy when someone says “she’s so coy” when a girl baby engages with you and then looks away with indifference. Because if a girl baby engages with you and then looks away, indifferently, it’s because she’s indifferent. Because she’s a baby and she’s lost interest, like babies do. Coy implies that the baby has some intent, some ulterior motive to make you, the helpless victim of her charms, to do something you wouldn’t have otherwise done, because she’s a wily female.

Sure, this is just a passing remark, but

We already know that our culture starts enforcing gender stereotypes very early—on babies and toddlers—and that they respond to those cues. The “she’s such a flirt” or “she’s so coy” comments are an earlier, milder version of the comment “she knows what she’s doing” when people accuse tween and teen girls of being sexually provocative.

To summarize:

No one is flirting with anyone. They’re babies. They don’t know what they’re doing.

What should you say instead? Some ideas: “Oh she’s teasing you,” or “she’s very playful” or “so fun!”

Read It’s Creepy When Parents Say Their Babies Are 'Flirts' by Leigh Anderson (Scary Mommy)
If you're reading this, you're probably already pissed that I'm making something out of such an innocuous comment about a baby, like, 'She's such a flirt!'

One response

  1. I would try to remember to yell at somebody “WE PREFER GENDER NEUTRAL PRONOUNS” because that would shut them up, but it would also be reinforcing other stereotypes that aren’t helpful. 😀

    I finally know somebody in real life who prefers they/their, and it’s weird but good.

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