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Feminism, Parenting

Such a typical boy!

20 June, 2014

I have the child that people use to make a point about how boys and girls are just *so* different, even as babies. “I hate to stereotype but my child is SUCH a typical boy! Completely different to my daughters!”

ME TOO! Look:

My child is unstoppable, a thundering, prowling, into- everything child.

My child is a clambering climber, and has always attempted to mount every piece of furniture in a room, even before crawling.

My child is so, so brave- falling down without a peep and getting straight back up to tackle the challenge again. Two bruises gracing the forehead just now.

My child loves to throw. Balls, ornaments, shoes, knickers, everything must be tested against gravity. Often thrown with force at my head.

My child is immensely strong- an item grabbed will never, ever be recovered from those intense, grasping fists.

My child is physically aggressive. I was given a small black eye when my kid was only 9 months old. My elder daughter cowers before her fisticuffs loving young sibling.

My child loves anything with wheels- zooming toy cars and trains about as if on some kind of advert for toy cars and trains.

My child is passionate about construction- building up towers and knocking them down (and throwing the blocks at people’s heads.)

My child even hides for a poo, and you KNOW boys always hide when they’ve got to do their business.

But you know what? My child is a girl.

Juno is so, so different to her older sister, Ramona. She exhibits so many of the behaviours and character traits associated with boys. Instead of proving the rule, she disproves it.

You know what? Children are different! They show different personalities not because of their gender but because they are different people!

It’s a funny thing, but people communicate with Juno in a much more masculinised way. Ramona was always Sweetie or Honey where as Juno is nearly always called Buddy, Lil Fella, even Brute by one particularly nice stranger. It’s almost as if people can’t reconcile this quite physical disposition with a little girl.

How about, instead of ring fencing certain behaviours go specific genders, we give freedom and space for our children to become whomever they are? Where instead of a subtle rejection of our son’s love of dolls, we welcome it as entirely natural. Where instead of being shocked at our daughter’s physicality, we give her ways to express it fully. Where we let research debunk gender myths, rather than allow anecdotes to perpetuate them .

We will eventually create a world where all character traits belong to all children, where they can follow their passions with gusto, and where not one child feels oppressed by someone else’s inaccurate expectations.

Bring that on.


Have you ever addressed “typical boy/ girl” remarks? How has that gone? Any tips?

PS- This book, How Gender Myths are hurting our relationships, our children and our jobs, looks FASCINATING! And I really enjoyed this blog post from a mother of farting, naked girls!


DIY Peg Wonderwoman (because children need more female superheros)

16 June, 2014

I was putting together some materials into a jar for a little friend’s fifth birthday- it was to be a DIY Peg Doll. “Perhaps I’ll make it a DIY Peg Fairy Doll, or a DIY Peg Ballerina” I contemplated… followed immediately by “WHAT KIND OF FEMINIST AM I?!”

She shall be a SUPERHERO, my better self decreed. Because, yes, those pointy pins do naturally evoke pirouetting ballerinas and flying fairies, but they are also, clearly, the strong, mighty legs of a Wonderwoman – and I bet most five year old girls have quite enough fairies and princesses in their lives.DIY Superhero Peg Doll

I put in some fabrics and buttons and bottle tops and also a glow stick to snap (her magical sword, obviously.) I also drew up an Instruction sheet and folded that in and presented it in a nice little jar.DIY Superhero Peg Doll

Do I genuinely believe fairies and ballerinas and princesses are against equal rights for women? No. I like ’em. Ramona spends most of each day as the “Pirate Princess” and I happily don a crown alongside her. I *do* think boys and girls will benefit however from a wider range of female characters in their lives. I *do* think that many toys are very limiting and offer only stereotyped versions of a female.

I welcome Legos decision to creative a female scientist. And I was happy to transform my peg into Wonderwoman, because if we want our girls to set their sights on being the head of CERN or Rescuing the World wearing Pants and a Cape these figures need to EXIST to them when they are small. They need to be able to touch and feel and play with them.

Behold! Peggy the Wonderwoman is here to save the day!

(She will begin by taking on that sexist Murdoch alongside the No More Page 3 campaign. Hehehe.)


Of course that glue stick isn’t just for girls! Oh, wait. Sorry, it seems it is….

4 April, 2014

There is a creative fella out there who has designed some wonderful posters using sentences that he has found himself saying to his children.

I love them. My favourite is “Stop riding that penguin, we’re leaving!”

At least once a day I finish a sentence and find my eyebrows furrowing in wonderment at what I just uttered.

“Oh! You did a poo in daddy’s shoe?!”

“You are really worried that the evil witch that lives in the drawer might lick you, huh?”

And lately, far, far too many sentences along these lines “Ah, see, I am not sure that that fork/ clothes peg / dog IS just for girls/ boys. I like to think ANYONE could use it?!”

If I wasn’t bothered by it it would be funny. Ramona is forming strict ideas about what is for boys and what is for girls along quite arbitrary lines and without being wholly sure about different genders to begin with. Ramona was wearing her daddy’s hiking boots and when Juno tried to grab the laces Ramona announced that she mustn’t because “You are a boy! And these boots are for girls!” (Juno isn’t and they aren’t.)

These conversations are okay, of course. Ramona is simply processing the idea of gender its meaning and the language we use around it all. I don’t have (many) worries about her forever believing that forks are only ever to be used by womankind.

However, I can’t say I don’t care. My response to her when she says these things doesn’t reflect my normal response when she says something that isn’t factually correct – normally I just repeat what she has said back to her “Ah, you think x x x x?” because I think constantly correcting children must be a pain in the ass for them. But I can’t help myself when it comes to this boy/ girl stuff… I tend to say something like “Ah, you feel these are just for boys, eh? I wonder if it could be for everyone?”

And when she came to me with a Marvel comic and told me it was just for boys I had a CONNIPTION. She loves Spiderman and it pained me that somehow she had decided it wasn’t for her. I went through the comic and showed her every female superhero in there. (There were none. I had to pick them out as arbitrarily as Ramona decides who is a boy or girl.)Gender ISSUESIs it a boy or a girl? *sigh*

I shouldn’t worry. I am fairly certain that Ramona is going to grow up eventually knowing that colours belong to all people and that no one product/ idea/ career belongs to one gender.

I don’t really know many adults that hold fast to the idea that pink is just for girls and that if you like pink you must be a bit girly.

But there must be some.

Because apparently the new pink Pritt Stick is “just for girls.”  Clearly the people sitting around the board room believe that not all children are allowed to love all colours and that there are some products that 50% of children can’t have.

Or that they can have but only after admitting that there is something wrong or weird about it.

And this is what winds me up. I mean *really* winds me up.

By scrawling “Just for girls” on anything pink/ to do with baking/ to do with dolls / certain items of clothing companies are saying that the boys that like pink/ baking/ dolls/ skirts are strange. This is CRUEL. It gives pre-schoolers the impression that they don’t fit. It makes the playground a bully arena. It gives other kids ammo to start firing at anyone who is a little different. It sets them up for life to repress their real desires in order to suit society’s idea of them.

Pink Pritt Stick?The non-discriminating kind of stick

Pritt Stick don’t actually believe that pink is just for girls. I don’t imagine the Pritt Stick boardroom to be  filled with women in pink tutus on one side and men in blue suits on the other side gleefully discussing the merits of a “Just for Girls” glue to help girls feel so much more in touch with their feminine side.

Oh no. I am pretty confident that they are all too aware that this is a false distinction (and it is false – the majority of boys and girls under two choose colours with pinker tones as their favourite colour – then they get older and half of them realise they aren’t allowed) but these marketing folk are pushing it out as a way of further commercialising childhood.

Because if they can convince parents and children that boys and girls can’t share products than we will have to keep buying more, a pink glue stick for the daughters and a blue for the sons. Each new child will need a whole new set of clothes, a whole new set of toys and, clearly, a whole new set of craft supplies.

(Craft supplies, for goodness sake!)

And it is just another deadlock on the door that traps us into consumerism and another bar in the cage of society’s oppressive gender limitations.

Pink Pritt Stick? *harumph* We are not buying it!

PS- I sent them an email about their stupid glue and you can too, if you like, using this contact form.


Help! My toddler isn’t a feminist! (International Women’s Day Blog Link Up)

8 March, 2014

“Right, now, you be the patient, I will be the nurse and he will be the Doctor.” Yesterday three year old Ramona was carefully and patiently directing the game of Hospitals. She went on to clarify “I have to be the Nurse, ‘cos I’m the girl, and he’s a Doctor, ‘cos he is a boy.”

You know that most tragic of movie scenes, the one in My Girl at the funeral and Macauly Culkin is in the coffin and the little girl comes in and cries all over him saying “Where are his glasses? He can’t see without his glasses!”  Well, that was pretty much me. Wailing over my toddler’s lost sense of gender equality, the death of her ambition, shedding my tears upon her liberation, imprisoned in a casket.

Ha. I jest. But I was well mad.

It is a pretty big thing, eh? For a little child to feel that the most responsible, highest paid role within a medical team isn’t for her because she has the wrong genitalia?

How on earth had this happened and where had this come from?

All those fairytales I have done a cut and paste job on in order to place females in significant roles, all the times I change “He” to “She”, all those stereotyped films we have boycotted, all the princess clothes we have avoided. I regularly consider our lives and my own role modelling, making sure we have strong female leaders about us and having conversations about how all attributes and all colours and all toys are for all children.International Women's Day Link Up

And then she comes out with that, the day before International Women’s Day, for goodness sake.

I guess all it takes is one game of Hospitals and one snippet of conversation from some older kids and BAM, her feminist spirit begins gurgling out of the bottom of her Spider Man trousers.

Because however conscious and determined we are as parents to allow our children to grow into whoever they want to be, regardless of gender, we simply can’t balance out a whole skewed society.

Gender inequality permeates every bit of our culture, every single industry. Even if we try and control the media in our lives, and the conversations in our own home, the presence of limiting gender ideas and biases will somehow soak through.

We can’t do it by ourselves.

So, this International Women’s Day, where the theme is Inspiring Change I want to celebrate a few people and projects that are doing THEIR bit in challenging sexist and oppressive ideas about women.

1- A Mighty Girl. The world’s largest collection of books, films and toys that don’t submit to stereotypes and instead encourage girls to be smart, confident and courageous.

2- Marks and Spencers. Marks and Sparks have committed to gender neutral packaging for all their toys this year, which shouldn’t really be a big deal but when you consider most toy aisles are fairly strict about what is appropriate for what child I think this could set a new standard for a pretty sexist industry.

3- Miss Representation. It is both a movie and a movement that challenges the lack of strong female roles in the media, and subsequently across industries. They are full of scary stats and hard hitting infographics and I like their work! (Thanks to Mel, for highlighting it.)

4- Tootsa Macginty. It is just one of a few stores committed to unisex clothing and yes, clothing is superficial but it is norm-forming! WHHHHYYYYYYY do we dress our tiny children so differently? It is ridiculous! And it just gives children another reference point for choosing to play with some and not others. Hooray for gender-neutral threads and the parents who dress their children in them.

5- Egalia Kindergarten. Egalia is a gender-neutral Kindergarten in Sweden. It is extreme but what a healthy environment for children to grow up in? I am not convinced all preschools should be this way but I am convinced that preschools like this can inspire change in sexist and stereotyped practices in other education and childcare establishments.

6- All the other parents committed to feminism. Are you one? Do you make sure your children are aware that no matter what gender they are they can achieve anything? Thank you. You are awesome. You are changing the world.

Happy International Women’s Day. Here is to a future where our children can grow up to be surgeons or sculptors, mechanics or M.Ps, bakers or bouncers.

Below is the International Women’s Day Blog Link Up. If you have blogged about an inspiring woman or an issue facing women please stick your URL in the box below!

IWD14 blog link up


Annual International Women’s Day Link Up

5 March, 2014

Calling all bloggers!

Who are the women who have inspired YOU to change?

What are the most exciting projects happening that are changing the face of equality?

What issue facing women do you most want to see serious change on?

It is International Women’s Day on Saturday, 8th March, and once again I would love you to blog on the topic INSPIRING CHANGE and come over here and link your blog up.

On the day I will post a blog with my own thoughts and there will be a simple form for you to add yourself to a growing list of blogs. Simply include a link to my own International Women’s Day post so all your readers can come here and read all the linked up blogs.

This will be the third year this has happened and it is an fantastic way of meeting other equality loving bloggers!

Look forward to reading your thoughts.



Why we changed our names

8 July, 2013

It was our first argument, sitting in my little yellow Toyota Starlett. I can remember it vividly. We were outside my university, we had happened upon the topic unexpectedly and I was already late for class. I always had to park on a hill facing down as the engine of my beloved piece-of-crap would only fire with a push-start and as I stared glumly out the window I imagined rolling it out of the space without Tim around to egg it on. The engine really responded to a bit of verbal encouragement. (It was a well rubbish car – once I left it parked in the middle of the city while I went out for dinner. I came back to find I’d left the door unlocked. And wide open. And with the keys in the ignition. It was so rubbish it couldn’t even get pinched.)

We’d only known each other for five months but we were already engaged and planning a shotgun wedding. We barely knew each other; it shouldn’t have been a shock that we didn’t know where each other stood on hugely important matters like whether I’d take his name.

I rushed off to class with firey words pinging around my head. There was no WAY I was giving up my name and taking another! But Tim had made it clear he could never marry someone who didn’t.

It was an agonising few days. We’d thrown everything to the wind, committing to spend our lives with each other forever. It was a wild and delirious kind of love but we were now stuck on this most mundane detail.

But for us, it was a big thing. I was new to ideas of feminism – that not only are women still not equal in all things and that must be fought for, but that there were some serious structural and systemic reasons for this inequality- and it was clear to me that women taking their husband’s name was not a liberated thing to do. Would the suffragettes change their name? Hell no. So I wasn’t going to let these historical heroes of mine down.

Tim is from a pretty traditional background, and already people who knew me had warned him about my, er, ah, robustness. He was worried that people would think I wore the trousers, that he was subject to my whims when many in his Christian circle were adamant it should be the other way round. (*counts to ten* Don’t even get me started on how wrong religious teaching on female subjugation can be!)

We talked for hours over several evenings and spent each day wondering how we’d reconcile our views.  It was with an enormous sense of relief that a few evenings after our initial barney Tim told me that he now understood my position and agreed that it was unfair that women give up their names and unjust that this was the general expectation. I was elated! WHAT A GUY!should i take husbands name

It still took hours to work out what to do. We worried about having two different names- what would we do with our kids? We worried about double barreling- when would it stop? (Would our GreatGreat Grandkids be called Aitken-Read-Smith-Jones-Langley?) Could Tim just take Read? (No.) Could we mesh them? (Hey, Readken doesn’t sound too crackerjacks!) Or maybe just take the name of someone we admire, like Thatcher? (HAHAHA JOKES!!!!)  In the end we felt that boshing them together and BOTH taking it was the only way to respond.: AitkenRead it was!

A few peculiar things happened that first year of marriage.  Tim’s school (he was a teacher) originally tried to tell him he couldn’t change his name and it took some serious persistence to make it happen, which really confirmed just how sexist the world of names can be. We also have different versions on our passport as the NZ one didn’t accept AitkenRead- they insisted on a dash in the middle.

7 years later and many a A-I-T-K-E-N-R-E-A-D conversation later and it just seems utterly natural.  I still get a strange sense of pride when I discuss our name. It is simplistic but I am stoked that people must know how strongly I stand for gender equality and I love that my husband shrugged off convention and opinion to embrace something that was right for us.Picture 125
I looked like quite a normal bride, but my mum did walk me down the aisle 🙂
A recent Facebook report suggests that a third of young women are keeping their name. Although I know that women who take their husband’s name can be feminist too, I reckon this is a BRILLIANT thing for equality.

I am surprised at how little the name-changing tradition is challenged in my generation. I literally know ONE person who has kept their name and NONE who went for a shared new name with their husband. It’s interesting as the majority of my friends and family are ALL strong women and feministy men.

Loads of people think the married name thing is trivial. Sure, equal pay, rape and the rights of women in developing countries probably should take precedence but I’m not one to think that issues need prioritising all the time.  It’s not like we can to tick them off before we move onto the next one – it’s all tangled up.

Names are important and symbolic. Most women have their father’s and will take another man’s name upon marriage. What is this apart from a nod to barbaric historical bonds where a women was the only ever the property of a man? Is it possible that by continuing the tradition we are honouring that oppressive practice?

A few months ago I asked Twitter why strong, feminist women change their name. About 30 women responded. Around a third said they were young at the time and would do differently now, a third said they couldn’t see a good enough reason not to and a third had deeply personal reasons for doing so.

I’m going gently here, because so many of the women I admire and love have taken their husband’s name, and it is clearly (as my Twitter survey, a most scientific measure backs up) an intimate decision that chiefly concerns the bewedded, loved up pair.

But I don’t think it ONLY concerns them. I wonder if there are wider implications. Might it be a leettle bit like walking into the office block of a chocolate company and the door being made out of licorice? (*croons* “Chocolate’s always on my mind… it is always on my mind”) The company SAY they love chocolate but, even though it might not matter that much, their facade gives another impression? Society says “Women are equal! We expect to be treated as such!” but a peep at our envelopes and online accounts show something different. When it requires breaking from tradition perhaps women feel less confident about their equal status?

I think the Facebook research (nearly as scientific as my Twitter study) shows that at least this is s a question being asked. People are discussing it, yeah, most still going with tradition, but that conversation is happening. People will have great and wise reasons for going with their husband’s name and so of course, that is PERFECT, but reasons ARE needed. Rather than just walking down the aisle with the status quo.

Finally, I reckon men could get more involved here. I want to see more of the progressive, liberal Kingdom of Bloke NOT expecting to bestow their name upon women. Imagine if men had to add in their reasoning (much like I do, sticking up for our name-crash upon questioning) for why they both have his name. “Well, I know it’s Old Skool but neither of us fancied being Scrumbledingers…”

What do you reckon? Does it matter? What did you do?

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