Today I seem to have written one of my most popular tweets for a while. Not in a viral way, I’m not that kind of tweeter, but five retweets and three favourites makes it stand out to me!
She loves pirates, Lego, vampires and insisted on sleeping in a pink ballet dress. She’s just herself, not a gender…
The picture I posted with it was rubbish, so here’s another of DG, three and a half, being utterly girly:
She loves that pink ballet dress, she loves to wear it all the time. She wears it when she’s building Lego, she’s wearing it running around outside in the freezing cold today (mummy and daddy made her put leggings and a long sleeve top under it, aren’t we mean?!)
Her current two most favourite books are The Princess and The Peas by Caryl Hart & Sarah Warburton and The Spider and the Fly by Mary Howittz & Tony DiTerlizzi. She loves them both, quotes from them both, and requests that I read them both again and again. One has a bright pink cover; one is entirely black and white.
Other than the fact she is a child, and all children are extraordinary, she is not exceptional. She just is. She likes what she likes. She is who she is.
MG (almost six) wants make-up for Christmas, loves princess stories and spends all her spare time drawing and creating. She also loves Doctor Who, superheroes, wizards and aliens. She just is. She likes what she likes. She is who she is.
When MG was 26 months old, and I was eight months pregnant with DG, we went to an open day at a local manor house grounds. It was somewhere new and exciting that was rarely open to the public. MG ran everywhere. Her Dad and Grandpa were chasing her around the grounds constantly as she disappeared out of sight. Being pregnant I stayed in one place, with two friends and their little boys, both roughly the same age as MG. These two little boys stayed playing nicely near their parents.
About two weeks later, as these two same boys were chasing each other and wrestling at a toddler group, their mothers looked at each other smiling and saying “Boys will be boys…” MG was also chasing after them, MG was also an active toddler, MG had been the more daring of them all. But boys will be boys…
If I had sons, I would be just as anti gender stereotyping. Boys and girls do mature differently and in different ways. Boys aren’t ‘behind’ in reading or whatever tick-box check has been invented, they may just need a different approach. I was disgusted that one of those boys I mentioned above was described as being behind in reading to his mother last year, an August-born boy in reception class and already being categorised as ‘behind’.
I have been places with my two daughters bickering and play fighting and been told it was lovely to see little girls doing that too, not just boys. They’re just children, siblings, they just are. I won’t tell them it’s unladylike to be themselves, although I do try to cover manners and not hurting others or ourselves!
If I had sons, they’d have both dolls and trains, in the same way my daughters had both dolls and trains. Yes, my daughters love playing “mums and dads” with baby dolls. They also play trains with crashes, and cars running over people, and vampire Sylvanian families, and whatever has captured their imagination.
MG loves to write stories. They start “Wons pon a tim” and have a princess and prince in most of the time. The princess and prince are equal in both bravery and fear, plus the stories have many other characters in. But the princess will be drawn in a dress, and the prince in trousers, of course…
I feel like I am battling against gender stereotyping constantly. DG will tell me that blue and green are boys colours. MG will tell me that boys don’t do ballet or have long hair. They get these views from school and television and it’s hard to battle against them when, as their mother, I’m the person they’re least likely to take any notice of half the time.
DG’s favourite colour is orange. She’d like an orange coat. But then she gets sad that we have to look in the boy section to find an orange coat, because she identifies with being a girl so wants a girl coat.
MG’s favourite colour is pink. Or sometimes purple. So she’s very easy to buy for, but it makes me sad that pink is the default. It makes her sad too, because although it’s her favourite colour, she likes lots of other colours too. She wants the freedom to choose.
For after-school clubs, MG has chosen Tag Rugby and Science. She loves them both. She has a great time, lots of fun, and enjoys all the different things she learns. But will this change? Will she get too influenced by gender stereotypes to think that she mustn’t like these things?
Gender stereotyping is always on my mind, but even more so than usual with the obligatory xmas gift lists. Boys, Girls, Men and Women categorised by our gender and age, rather than our interests and experiences. There’s an interesting gender test on the BBC website. Apparently I have a completely average male brain!
Jennifer O’Connell has a blog post on her six year old daughter’s complaint to Hasbro about the lack of female characters in Guess Who? Raising My Rainbow is a wonderful blog about bringing up a gender non-conforming boy which resulted in lots of discussion with my eldest who started by laughing at seeing a boy in the dress Everyday Sexism collects examples of all the ‘harmless’ things that are taken for granted daily but are just adding to the gender stereotype problem. Baby Gender Diary tweet about how their children are treated differently according to gender, and collect other examples of gender stereotyping.
There are plenty more blogs and tweeters well worth following for information on fighting gender stereotyping, please add your recommendations in the comments.