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Weirdly stereotyped gender ideas in 9 and 10 year olds


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My 10 year old son and my nieces have developed some very stereotyped ideas about gender.  They have divided everything up into "things boys like" and "things girls like" and 2 of them are adamant that they do not like things associated with the other gender.  To be clear, those two will happily do things associated with the other gender, they just deny liking them.  For example, math is for girls (I know this is not the common stereotype, but this is what they tell me) so my son who does a lot of math on his own accord will tell you he doesn't like math, he just does it because he's bored.  Cooking is apparently for boys.   The fact that my 9 year old niece will happily come help out if I'm making dinner, isn't because she likes cooking.  She's just being helpful. 

The third kid, my 10 year old niece, mostly likes things that are stereotypically boy.  She dresses in boys clothing, and likes to play contact sports.  If you ask any of the kids they'll tell you that she's a girl who likes boy things.  Often they'll act like there are 2 teams, with the 2 10 year olds on the "boy" team, and my 9 and 7 year old nieces on the "girls" team.  

The whole thing is so weird that I can't decide if I should keep trying to dissuade them, or just smile and think about how weird they are in my head.  

Is anyone else's kids this weird?  How do we sort through this, or is it even worth trying?

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I don't know if I'd try to dissuade them, but I would definitely keep engaging them in questioning these ideas.  "But why??? Tell me why you think that math is only for girls".  Lead them down a path where they will trip over their own faulty logic. 😄  

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5 hours ago, BaseballandHockey said:

Is anyone else's kids this weird?

I don’t know what to say about sorting through it, but my 10yo is pretty weird. He recently told us that he wants to be a dad “that just cooks and works out.”  His dad does neither, lol.

Kids definitely like to categorize things. My four youngest put themselves into teams when they were younger. I might have assumed girls v boys, especially given birth order, but they were blonds and browns. Sometimes phrased lights and darks. 😬

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My 11 and 9 year old(boy and girl) are very much like this these days.  I think it’s probably a developmental thing and trying to figure out their places in the world as  “boy” and “girl” as they head towards puberty.

Their gender non conforming 6 year old sibling drives them nuts. 

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4 hours ago, MissLemon said:

I don't know if I'd try to dissuade them, but I would definitely keep engaging them in questioning these ideas.  "But why??? Tell me why you think that math is only for girls".  Lead them down a path where they will trip over their own faulty logic. 😄  

Logic does not work.  They have an answer for any logic we throw their way, that they say with such confidence that just for a minute the rest of us feel like we must be the mistaken ones. 

Here's an example: Both my older nieces the 10 year old (the girl who likes boy things) and the 21 year old love lacrosse, and they have been playing a lot in the backyard with my boys.  Since both of the real lacrosse players are girls and play on girls teams, they all 4 use girls' sticks and they play by the girls rules.  

My youngest niece asked to play and the 9 year old explained that she couldn't because lacrosse is only for boys.  My oldest son said "You do realize it's called women's lacrosse right?  Why would they name it women's lacrosse if it's just for boys?"  my niece told him "Well, there are lots of girls who like boys things so they needed a sport to play." My son replied "Well, what about DN21?"  This is when we learned that DN21 has told them that she's a "girl who likes human things".  This led to a discussion of how there are three "teams" in our family -- girl, boy and human.  Each member has been assigned to one.  I am on team "human", because I like to cook.  It turns out that many of the members of the family over the age of 10 have been assigned to team human.  

Meanwhile, while those two are arguing about this, my youngest son is offering his little cousin his stick, and is showing her how to hold this.  At first I thought he was being sweet, but he explained that he is trying to convince her to change teams so that the boys team can "win".  

 

 

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re "three teams: boy, girl and human"

18 minutes ago, BaseballandHockey said:

...example: Both my older nieces the 10 year old (the girl who likes boy things) and the 21 year old love lacrosse, and they have been playing a lot in the backyard with my boys.  Since both of the real lacrosse players are girls and play on girls teams, they all 4 use girls' sticks and they play by the girls rules.  

My youngest niece asked to play and the 9 year old explained that she couldn't because lacrosse is only for boys.  My oldest son said "You do realize it's called women's lacrosse right?  Why would they name it women's lacrosse if it's just for boys?"  my niece told him "Well, there are lots of girls who like boys things so they needed a sport to play." My son replied "Well, what about DN21?"  This is when we learned that DN21 has told them that she's a "girl who likes human things".  This led to a discussion of how there are three "teams" in our family -- girl, boy and human.  Each member has been assigned to one.  I am on team "human", because I like to cook.  It turns out that many of the members of the family over the age of 10 have been assigned to team human.  

Meanwhile, while those two are arguing about this, my youngest son is offering his little cousin his stick, and is showing her how to hold this.  At first I thought he was being sweet, but he explained that he is trying to convince her to change teams so that the boys team can "win". 

I don't think you've yet girded your loins and sallied into the Mondo Gender Thread, but I do believe you've managed to untie its Gordian knot right there....

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23 minutes ago, Mrs Tiggywinkle said:

My 11 and 9 year old(boy and girl) are very much like this these days.  I think it’s probably a developmental thing and trying to figure out their places in the world as  “boy” and “girl” as they head towards puberty.

Their gender non conforming 6 year old sibling drives them nuts. 

We have one very gender nonconforming kid in the mix, and we used to have two. None of the kids seem fazed by that.  

My SIL, the mother of the 3 younger girls, is expecting a boy.  The two teams are planning how they will recruit him.  There doesn't seem to be any sense that the boys team (which is 25-50% girl*) might have a head start.  So, there's this weird mix of sexism, and freedom.  

*exact percentage is debatable as some of the adults are hard to assign.  For example, Pop, their great grandfather, likes to have tea parties with the members of the girls team and their dolls.  This might be a girl activity, which would get him booted to team Human, since he also likes to watch ice hockey and thus can't be on team girl, but my son argues that when Pop is smiling broadly and pouring tea for the dollies he is not enjoying "playing with dolls", he's "being a family man" which is clearly a very manly activity.  

 

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8 minutes ago, BaseballandHockey said:

We have one very gender nonconforming kid in the mix, and we used to have two. None of the kids seem fazed by that.  

My SIL, the mother of the 3 younger girls, is expecting a boy.  The two teams are planning how they will recruit him.  There doesn't seem to be any sense that the boys team (which is 25-50% girl*) might have a head start.  So, there's this weird mix of sexism, and freedom.  

*exact percentage is debatable as some of the adults are hard to assign.  For example, Pop, their great grandfather, likes to have tea parties with the members of the girls team and their dolls.  This might be a girl activity, which would get him booted to team Human, since he also likes to watch ice hockey and thus can't be on team girl, but my son argues that when Pop is smiling broadly and pouring tea for the dollies he is not enjoying "playing with dolls", he's "being a family man" which is clearly a very manly activity.  

 

Oh my word, that is hysterical. Give them all a hug for me!!!

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Your family is so completely adorable and hilarious.  I really have no advice.  I would keep probing for logical fallacies, not because I was trying to improve their critical thinking skills, but because I would find the reasons so hilarious.  I would also write all these things down.  

I wouldn't try to really dissuade them.  I think that might make them double down.  

I love the Team Human.  

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That's pretty cute and I also think it's totally normal for kids this age to want to categorize and organize things.  It's interesting watching them think in more grey tones as they get older and it comes later for some than others.  I'd keep nudging them to think broader and keep reminding them it's not an excuse to be unkind.  

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18 minutes ago, FuzzyCatz said:

That's pretty cute and I also think it's totally normal for kids this age to want to categorize and organize things.  It's interesting watching them think in more grey tones as they get older and it comes later for some than others.  I'd keep nudging them to think broader and keep reminding them it's not an excuse to be unkind.  

For the most part, it doesn't feel unkind.  When my nieces first moved here, I worried more about that, but no one seems to be telling my 10 year old niece that she can't like boy things, or that she's wrong for liking boy things.  

The dynamic with the 7 year old old makes me a little uncomfortable.  Part of the problem is that we have 3 kids close in age who would spend every minute playing sports, and they play hard.  The 9 year old really doesn't like rough and tumble, and so she's left out.  Since they aren't seeing kids outside the family, that leaves her with one possible playmate, and she campaigns hard for the youngest to choose the things she likes -- ballet, tumbling, music, art, reading, board games etc . .  For a long time, this worked, in part because I think the 7 year old found the more active play with much bigger kids to be overwhelming.  But now, DN7 seems to have realized that it's not a binary choice, and is trying more things.   And so her sister feels a little left out, and keeps reminding her that she's a "girl who likes girl things".  

But there is some movement.  All the kids together have been training for a triathlon, which is less overwhelming to the 9 year old than something like basketball because there is no contact.  My 10 year old has been spending time drawing with the two younger girls.  Drawing is a girl's activity, but since 3D art is a boys activity, he just announces that he's not drawing, he's "planning things" that he might someday build in 3D.  She cooks with him, even though cooking is for boys, because he needs help.  

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9 hours ago, BaseballandHockey said:

Is anyone else's kids this weird?  How do we sort through this, or is it even worth trying?

I'd personally just be glad that their ideas don't match society's, because it means that they'll be dissuaded by society and you won't have to lift a finger!! 

It's fascinating to see how a limited social circle results in TOTALLY UNUSUAL stereotypes but doesn't eradicate stereotypes in any way. 

Really, what this shows is that categorization is natural for kids. I wouldn't find it -- I'd just keep talking to them about it. 

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9 minutes ago, EKS said:

When I was around 4, I believed that all dogs were male and all cats were female.

When my oldest was 4 he believed that children had penises and no breasts and adults had breasts and no penises.  This came up when he made a comment about "when he's big enough to wear a bra".  I realized that he'd seen lots of naked women at the locker room at the pool, and lots of little boys peeing in the boys room at school and put this together.  

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3 minutes ago, BaseballandHockey said:

When my oldest was 4 he believed that children had penises and no breasts and adults had breasts and no penises.  This came up when he made a comment about "when he's big enough to wear a bra".  I realized that he'd seen lots of naked women at the locker room at the pool, and lots of little boys peeing in the boys room at school and put this together.  

I wonder where he thought his penis would go?? 

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33 minutes ago, Not_a_Number said:

I'd personally just be glad that their ideas don't match society's, because it means that they'll be dissuaded by society and you won't have to lift a finger!! 

It's fascinating to see how a limited social circle results in TOTALLY UNUSUAL stereotypes but doesn't eradicate stereotypes in any way. 

Really, what this shows is that categorization is natural for kids. I wouldn't find it -- I'd just keep talking to them about it. 

So, the thing is that their stereotypes don't match the people in their limited social circle.  Like the cooking thing.  There are 4 people in our family who like to cook, and pursue cooking as a hobby and not just a way to feed the family.  2 of us are female.  Their aunt, who loves high heels, make up, jewelry, and crushing people on the basketball court, is the best chef in the family.  But they don't look at her and think "auntie likes to cook, maybe cooking is for girls too".  They look at her and think "well clearly she's not on the girl team".  

My experience also tells me that when my kid encounters the outside world, his ideas will win.  For example, he decided that he wanted to take Algebra 1 next year.  Usually sixth graders aren't allowed to take Algebra 1, so I made an appointment for him with the Assistant Principal at his new school to argue his case.  AP said "So you like math huh?" and my son said "No, I don't like math, math is boring."  AP said "But you think you're ready for Algebra?  How did you get ready for Algebra?" and my son said "Well there was a pandemic (paused and looked at the guy's face like he wasn't sure if he had to explain the concept?) and that was REALLY boring, so I had to do something.  And so I did a lot of math, and I finished some grades, and now I don't want to do those grades again because that would be even boring-er."  I was sitting there thinking this had to be the worst argument ever, but the AP was like "well you've made a compelling argument.  I will make an exception.  You can take Algebra." as if he'd said "these are not the droids you're looking for."  

So, I'm guessing that once we release him back into the wild, the entire world will quickly decide that cooking is only for boys and other people who like boy things.  

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1 minute ago, BaseballandHockey said:

So, the thing is that their stereotypes don't match the people in their limited social circle.  Like the cooking thing.  There are 4 people in our family who like to cook, and pursue cooking as a hobby and not just a way to feed the family.  2 of us are female.  Their aunt, who loves high heels, make up, jewelry, and crushing people on the basketball court, is the best chef in the family.  But they don't look at her and think "auntie likes to cook, maybe cooking is for girls too".  They look at her and think "well clearly she's not on the girl team".  

But perhaps he sees the males DO it more? 

 

1 minute ago, BaseballandHockey said:

My experience also tells me that when my kid encounters the outside world, his ideas will win.  For example, he decided that he wanted to take Algebra 1 next year.  Usually sixth graders aren't allowed to take Algebra 1, so I made an appointment for him with the Assistant Principal at his new school to argue his case.  AP said "So you like math huh?" and my son said "No, I don't like math, math is boring."  AP said "But you think you're ready for Algebra?  How did you get ready for Algebra?" and my son said "Well there was a pandemic (paused and looked at the guy's face like he wasn't sure if he had to explain the concept?) and that was REALLY boring, so I had to do something.  And so I did a lot of math, and I finished some grades, and now I don't want to do those grades again because that would be even boring-er."  I was sitting there thinking this had to be the worst argument ever, but the AP was like "well you've made a compelling argument.  I will make an exception.  You can take Algebra." as if he'd said "these are not the droids you're looking for."  

That's amazing, lol. I'm glad you got a reasonable Assistant Principal with a sense of humor!! 

 

1 minute ago, BaseballandHockey said:

So, I'm guessing that once we release him back into the wild, the entire world will quickly decide that cooking is only for boys and other people who like boy things.  

Hah. Perhaps!! 

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13 minutes ago, Not_a_Number said:

I wonder where he thought his penis would go?? 

Well we had talked a lot around them about how babies were formed.  Not the sex part, although we'd talked about that too, but we'd watched a video that showed how the embryo looked like a ball, and then it grew a tail and giant alien eyes, and then the tail got reabsorbed and arms emerged.  Plus he'd seen some of the teenagers we knew gain new body parts like facial hair, or Adam's apples or breasts, so i think he just thought that unneeded parts got absorbed and new parts emerged when you hit puberty?  



 

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Just now, Not_a_Number said:

Huh. OK, I have no idea. Do you know where this idea comes from?? 

It comes from the fact that he likes to cook, and he'd rather reclassify cooking than reclassify himself.  Similarly, he knows full wll hat the majority of people who play Women's lacrosse are women, and girls.  I mean, he's a bright kid, and super observant.  He did not miss that fact. But he wanted to play lacrosse, and his cousin wanted to play lacrosse, and they apparently don't want to examine their belief that they are people who like boy things so they just reclassified women's lacrosse as a men's sport.  
 

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2 minutes ago, BaseballandHockey said:

It comes from the fact that he likes to cook, and he'd rather reclassify cooking than reclassify himself.  Similarly, he knows full wll hat the majority of people who play Women's lacrosse are women, and girls.  I mean, he's a bright kid, and super observant.  He did not miss that fact. But he wanted to play lacrosse, and his cousin wanted to play lacrosse, and they apparently don't want to examine their belief that they are people who like boy things so they just reclassified women's lacrosse as a men's sport.  

Ah. Interesting. Makes sense. 

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Just now, Not_a_Number said:

Ah. Interesting. Makes sense. 

See, he got you too!  It's starting already!

It does not make sense.  What would make sense is admitting that activities can be for anyone.  Arguing that dolly tea parties are manly doesn't make any more sense than believing that they are just for girls.

 

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1 minute ago, BaseballandHockey said:

See, he got you too!  It's starting already!

Hahahaha, it does make sense from my personal sense of how people deal with information!! It doesn't make purely logical sense, of course, but then if you try to deal with people via pure logic, you don't get very far!

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At 9/10yo, I would probably ask them where they got those ideas and give examples that debunk their theories.  More so nowadays, as there seems to be a counterproductive trend of tweens/teens promoting gender stereotypes, leading to issues discussed in another recent thread.

If they were 3/4yo, I would probably just chuckle.

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33 minutes ago, SKL said:

At 9/10yo, I would probably ask them where they got those ideas and give examples that debunk their theories.  More so nowadays, as there seems to be a counterproductive trend of tweens/teens promoting gender stereotypes, leading to issues discussed in another recent thread.

If they were 3/4yo, I would probably just chuckle.

Oh believe me, the two oldest grandchildren DS13 and my 21 year old niece have made explaining to the little ones that they are nuts and offering counter examples, their new favorite pastime.  So far all the counter examples have been countered.  

In some ways the whole thing is really archaic, but in other ways I kind of feel like their insistence that someone can like boy or girl or human things, and that doesn’t determine their identity is kind of progressive.  I am holding out hope that at some point, when they have reassigned everyone else to “human” on technicalities they will realize that when it comes to activity preferences humanity is all “people who like human things”.

They all understand the concept of being trans, and there was discussion about whether my niece is trans, but she says she isn’t and their attitude seems to be that she would know so they dropped it.

 

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6 minutes ago, Seasider too said:

I could firmly latch on to the notion that cooking is for boys! I’m ready to mostly retire from it. If only I could get dh to absorb that logic without having meals rotate between grilled brats and some dessert item. 

See, I like to cook, and find it hilarious that the thing that got me kicked off team girl was not that I never ever wear dresses, or make up, or visible jewelry other than a wedding ring.  It's that I cook dinner for my own children.  Or that my SIL who is a high powered corporate attorney, who plays all the sports, got kicked off because she likes to bake cakes. 

There was a brief period of time when the kids discovered that since the boys do their own laundry in our family and girls don't (this is because all the boys have me for a parent), perhaps laundry is a boy specific activity?  I thought "Let's not debunk that one.  I'll be the best MIL ever when my DIL's find out that my sons insist on doing the laundry"  

6 minutes ago, Seasider too said:


OP, this would only worry me if you knew they were spouting ideas forced on them by narrow minded adults.

Yeah, that is definitely not the case. 

6 minutes ago, Seasider too said:

 

This does not sound like the case. It sounds like something that will have them laughing hard together at some future Thanksgiving reunion.   

Yep!

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2 minutes ago, BaseballandHockey said:

No, but we will check it out!  

Oh, it's so sweet and funny.  I actually like it better than Anne of Green Gables.

The narrator is a boy (named Beverley 😉 -- I wonder what your kids will think of that).  He and his brother are spending an extended period of time with their aunt and uncle and they get to know their cousins.  It is a lovely book and so funny. :)

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7 hours ago, Pam in CT said:

ME TOO, that is awesome, I've never heard of anyone else!

Me Three! It seemed super obvious to me. 

OP, your boys sound like mine in that mine like to take completely illogical weird stances about things and passionately argue for them. It’s kind of how they bond. To me, it sounds like your kids aren’t really using gender stereotyping to exclude people or to stop from doing things they enjoy. I’d probably roll my eyes and tell them they are weird and enjoy their weirdness. 

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OP, I think your kids are awesome.

It kind of reminds me of a time many years ago when a group of my extended family was staying in a hotel, I think because we were in another state for a family funeral.  We were all in the hotel pool, which had a volleyball net and balls.  Almost everyone was from our group, but there were two kids, maybe 10-12 years old who we didn't know.  After throwing the balls around for awhile one of my cousins suggested a game, kids vs parents.  The unrelated kids looked around in horror until my sister clued them in that all the 20- & 30-somethings in the pool were "kids" in this scenario.  

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In my family cooking is most definitely a boy thing. My dh, all of my dsil's or so's and dgs do almost of of the cooking while me and all my dd's would have you think that the kitchen is like kryptonite and we can barely make toast ourselves.

Come to think of it the males also do the majority of the laundry.

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On 6/25/2021 at 7:20 AM, Katy said:

I’d probably go on a rant about sexism and not wanting to hear lies like that again.  But that’s the sort of thing that drives me crazy. 

So hubby and I decided early on that when something was going to drive us rant-y, we would take it to the other adult first -- sometimes in the heat of the moment -- then after we had worked out the emotion, we'd have the conversation with kids.  We had a few overblown moments, but not nearly what could have (disastrously) been. 

You may have some coping mechanism that keeps you from actually doing the above, or you may have been a bit hyperbolic in the post, but if you are literal in saying this, it's the sort of thing that has the potential to shut down healthy conversations. Even as an adult, when a colleague does this, I flag it as an "area which must be avoided with them" not as a "oooh, let me learn something from whatever made them angry" moment. It makes it harder work for me to get the truth out of what the colleague was angry about. I'm not sure children are capable of separating the emotion from the message. 

Pardon me if I've taken you too literally, and I am *not* trying to pick on you.  :-) 

 

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13 minutes ago, Halftime Hope said:

So hubby and I decided early on that when something was going to drive us rant-y, we would take it to the other adult first -- sometimes in the heat of the moment -- then after we had worked out the emotion, we'd have the conversation with kids.  We had a few overblown moments, but not nearly what could have (disastrously) been. 

You may have some coping mechanism that keeps you from actually doing the above, or you may have been a bit hyperbolic in the post, but if you are literal in saying this, it's the sort of thing that has the potential to shut down healthy conversations. Even as an adult, when a colleague does this, I flag it as an "area which must be avoided with them" not as a "oooh, let me learn something from whatever made them angry" moment. It makes it harder work for me to get the truth out of what the colleague was angry about. I'm not sure children are capable of separating the emotion from the message. 

Pardon me if I've taken you too literally, and I am *not* trying to pick on you.  🙂

 

Yes, too literally but I understand. Someday they’ll come out with a sarcasm font. 

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On 6/25/2021 at 10:52 AM, EKS said:

When I was around 4, I believed that all dogs were male and all cats were female.

My father is 73, and despite their current dog being female and their recently deceased cat that they had for 16 years male, he still appears to believe this by his pronoun use. 

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34 minutes ago, Terabith said:

My father is 73, and despite their current dog being female and their recently deceased cat that they had for 16 years male, he still appears to believe this by his pronoun use. 

On the other hand, like 3/4 if he people we meet when walking our fluffy male dog seemed shocked that he is male.  We live not to far from the sweetest female mastiff, who has the opposite problem, and her owner and I like to laugh about this together.  

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