“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.
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!