With the #metoo campaign, the light on gender differences is firmly switched on again. I have nothing to really say about the #metoo campaign that hasn’t already been said. However, as a parent to both a boy and a girl, I do wonder how their lives will play out differently, despite my best efforts to parent them the same.
Within my bubble of parenting I surround myself with equally idealistic parents that strive to offer their girls the same as the boys, at no point would anyone suggest that one activity is for boys only, or just for the girls to do. When I found out I was pregnant with my daughter, I was keen to stress that she wouldn’t be dressed in pink and lace. The sad reality is that pink tends to equal dresses and is unpractical for joining in “with the boys”
A close friend of my often reckons she can find the parents who practice gentle/attachment parenting just by the fact the children are dressed in rainbows and “Scandinavian” clothes. I’m not suggesting for one second that only attachment parents tend to dress their children in gender neutral clothing, but it’s certainly a common sign. In the UK, unlike the Scandinavians brands, we do tend to promote the gender stereotypes, Jules Oliver’s “Little Bird” collection is certainly making waves presenting more gender sharing styles. Ironically with this brand, it’s inspiration comes from 70s/80s fashion. A time people tend to say, “well no one cared about gendered clothing in the past” perhaps this suggests that it was actually happening less then, that’s why.
More recently in the media, there has also been discussions about the trend in a shift to gender-neutral parenting, Russell Brand was one celebrity who was criticised by the Mainstream press for suggesting that he would bring his daughter up gender neutral. I don’t doubt for one second he was suggesting he wouldn’t let his child know her gender, but like myself wants his daughter to know that being a girl doesn’t or shouldn’t come with any limitations.
Let’s look this recent advert for children PJs in from a supermarket chain.
- The logos here read “be your own superhero” and “Daddy is my superhero.”
I have a few things wrong with this. 1) why do girls clothes have to be pink. Now granted I could actually dress my daughter in the advertised “boys” version if I wanted, but the marketing has directly insinuated that the girls ones are the pink ones. Let’s face it take any child into the shop and given the choice of which set they want they will pick the one they feel they are represented by ergo – my daughter would pick the girl and my son the one with the boy. Ever tried to give a boy something with just a girl on the front? good luck with that. 2) on my list of complaints is the slogans. Let’s really think what this is saying. Boys version -I’m am/can be a superhero, in fact I’m a boy I can do what I want when I want and I can do it all by myself. Girls slogan – I’m a defenceless little girl and if I want to do anything I need daddy to help me. Not mum, because let’s face it she’s a women too, but daddy he can sort it out. Wow aren’t I lucky I have daddy ! This slogan it’s exactly the point raised by Reese Witherspoon in 2015 at the Glamour awards, when she talked about how women portrayed within the movies as weak and needing men to provide the solution. It’s spine tingling to watch and I highly recommend.
In 2017 shouldn’t we be promoting equal power and potential to both genders ?
And yet I still see women defend the position of supermarkets and clothing brands, undermining girls and engaging with the “but my daughter only likes pink”. Of course she does ! because whether you want to accept it or not, despite all our well intentions, even those of us working tirelessly to raise our children gender equal, society is not on the same page us and the capitalist system does not see girls and boys as equal, they see two markets to sell things to. Even Lego, a once gender neutral toy, comes in a pink version – just for girls, because you know they might struggle to build with them if they are in any other colour. I asked my son if he would wear pink and his answer was “no, that’s for girls” when I asked where he’d heard that “Cbeebies” the holly grail of innocence was his answer ! B Thornes studies titled Borderwork illustrates that despite parents efforts, gender stereotypes are ingrained in our society, a quick peep into schools let’s us see girls and boys spilt doing “girl and boy jobs”. Even our Female Prime Minsiter promoted the idea of boy jobs and girls jobs within the home. As a society we can’t help but seem to think girls are these delicate flowers that need protecting whilst men are there to take on the roles of the protector, acting out as police officers or fire officers in childhood role play. Now don’t get me wrong these limits apply to both genders, boys are equally affected by this, any boy even remotely interested in pink or “girlie stuff” (sigh) is instantly seen as weak or picked on by the other boys. – there’s that thing, remember, pink and girl stuff equals weak and the victim !
It’s not a coincident that whilst we fight to show, “that women are as equal as men”, that revelations of sexual assault are coming out in the press. Women are finally showing they are strong enough to fight back. I almost feel sad for the countless women I have seen protest and protect these predators. Not to dissimilar to the comments raised about pink pjs, I see women suggest that it’s PC gone made. But when was it ever acceptable for a man to decide he held the power over a women and could touch her how ever and when ever he wanted, when has it ever been ok to suggest women are the weaker gender. Don’t these comments (pc gone mad, it never used to be a problem) actually mean, damn life was easier when women were suppressed ? Look at the recently disgraced Michael Fallon, who in his interview to BBC, admitted that the reason for leaving his post was that his past indiscretions were no longer acceptable as they were 10 years ago. Someone needs to remind him, they were never acceptable, just women felt disempowered enough not to speak out. But whilst parents find slogans on pink pjs suggesting girls need a hero to save them acceptable, so will an unwelcome hand on the knee be seen as “not that big a deal”
I hope as more parents become aware of the negative impacts gender division causes a greater good evolves. There’s an irony that as capitalism has grown we have actually seen an increase to gender separation, evidence of this can be seen just on the examples already given, Lego pre-pink and Little bird going back to retro roots. However, in other places we are seeing movement, with the wrath of the #metoo campaign, taking power away from the offender and giving back to the victims.
So the answer, It’s times to dress our children in rainbows, teach them to respect people’s personal space, And always let them know whoever they are they are always OUR hero’s.