Nephew - 6 (7 in June) Niece - 4 (5 in Feb)
I've had these feelings since before I had my baby, but I always kept quiet because my sister has never thought of me as mature.The age gap between us IS considerable, so in a way I don't blame her, but she can come across downright offensive if I ever disagree with her at anything. I could argue more, but that's not the point; I'm sure someone has experienced this and can relate.
Anyway, the different treatment started out real small, sort of a gender-specific sort that should be harmless, but honestly my nephew always took a liking to girly stuff even before his sister was born. It didn't used to bug my sister--she WAS a big equal rights supporter if that says anything--but after she and her husband had a messy divorce she joined a Church--very unlike how she was before--and suddenly she was trying to have him cut back. She still made an attempt to say "people can be/like whatever they want" but I've always been suspicious that there was a change in her acceptance after the divorce. It could also be in an attempt to show respect for the father's wishes, but her contempt for him---and his wife--make me think otherwise.
Now, the gender-norms don't seem to be a particular issue, unless it has funneled into how my sister handles discipline. My nephew can play with his sister's toys and vice-versa, though the latter doesn't happen often. However, if he wants to try and play with her stuff when she doesn't want him to, it can escalate into something as severe as a spanking. Admittedly, my nephew can be a little butt, and he displays this behavior far more often than his sister, but when his sister becomes just as stubborn about playing with his stuff it only ever halts at timeout. Note that while my nephew does it more often, when my niece does act out she acts out like it's going out of style.
This is actually the way it happens with every time they get in trouble, and often for the same sort of offense--such as attempting to poke or otherwise touch eachother--my nephew will get a tongue lashing while my niece is told over and over again to go to timeout. The event that triggered this post was actually my nephew getting yelled at because he wouldn't let his sister give him a hug.
What alarms me most is that I see my nephew get spanked, but not my niece (Whatever the stance is on spanking, I'd think it should be for both children). I don't see them all the time, but I'm sure this is the norm. I wish I had said something sooner because now I'm afraid my sister will think I believe I'm some sort of expert just because I've had one baby and thus she will simply write off anything I say. I don't think I'm an expert on child-rearing; I feel I'm just seeing an obvious difference, and I'm afraid of the potential damage to my nephew, as well as my niece.
Any suggestions for going forward? There's not really anyone else I could ask to do it for me, though if no one else has said anything yet I'm pretty sure they're staying quiet.