14 months: A room of one’s own OR how to make a girl

Isn’t it funny how today our women’s rights are the best they’ve ever been and yet there’s never been so much pink in the world. I’m not saying pink in and of itself is bad but it is seen as being representative of being a girl/girly…weak. Some of the mums I know that would call themselves feminists hate pink. They are also the same mums who get annoyed when people can’t tell if their child is a girl or a boy and will dress them up in pink in order to prove their point. Are we not affirming the same stereotypes? I for one don’t really mind if people think Lo-Lo’s a boy or a girl. It’s not her gender which defines who she is. And who she is is an energetic, noisy, rambunctious, loud, adventurous little person.

So, do we ‘create’ girls? Old Virginia talks early on in her book about a library and a church she was not allowed to enter because she was not accompanied by a man. By stopping girls from being able to do the same things as boys, I think we create girls. Aren’t boys just uninhibited versions of girls? She talks about how men and boys are free to do, explore, create. A girl’s and woman’s place is more restrained. If we all have the freedom to do and learn as we want, surely we’d all end up being more like men? Virginia makes several points but a big one for me is that men just crack on with their life and do the things they want to do. Society however has expectations of you if you are a girl which can stop you from doing certain things.

I decided I wanted to buy some new things for Lo-Lo to play with. I looked at the boys toys – ALL were blue, green, black. Either action figures, building, sport. We want our boys to be super hero like, good with their hands and sporty? The girls toys were pretty much all pink, soft, about looking good/dressing up, unicorns (I’m not knocking Despicable Me), fairies and, well, girly stuff. So from this I take it all girls are to be daydreamers, sedentary and if they’re not good looking they will never fit the social norm? I’m sure there are those of you rolling your eyes at this – they’re just children! This is true but this is nonetheless how we’re setting up our children’s core set of values and beliefs. What else informs them other than the world around them? In the end I bought her some plastic encased crayons (genius bit of design), a colouring in book, a see-through pencil case with butterflies (super gorgeous and you’re right I would not have bought it for a boy) – and volleyball for kicking, throwing and generally chasing around the house. It is light, orange and nothing to do with football. In as much as I want to keep all her options open – I also don’t want to make her into a boy. Does that make sense?

I came across the Always campaign ‘Like a girl’ which I thought was fascinating. If someone asks you to show them how to run like a girl for example, people demonstrate it as faffy, ‘girly’, weak etc. But girls aren’t really like that, that’s just what society thinks of us. And I think it all starts from the very start.

I was watching Lo-Lo the other day and she’s started to climb everything. Sure climbing a chair or the sofa is dangerous-ish. But isn’t it also a massive developmental leap? Rather than trying to stop her climbing everything, isn’t it more about teaching her how to come down safely? She fell off the dining room chair yesterday and cried a lot. But then after 30seconds wanted to climb it again. Kids are smart and they learn really well so I doubt she’d forgotten what had just happened. Do I say – no, didn’t you learn the first time? That’s dangerous, you failed once don’t try again? Am I teaching her not to bother persisting if she fails? She’s not scared of trying again – if I stop her wanting to try things again – am I creating fear in her for the future? Would I think too deeply about these things if she were a boy?

Growing up should be about fun and development. It should also be about the freedom to choose or more precisely at such an early age of 14months, being given less of a predetermined route? It’s up to everyone if they want to dress their son or daughter in pink or frills, but then that’s your choice and not your child’s. At the end of the day, again it’s not about the colour of the outfit – it’s about the girls we are making – the lives we are shaping, the assumptions we are creating. I want to give mine the opportunity to do whatever she would like to do by making sure she does not start off with a set of blinkers on.

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