24 May 2012
When I was pregnant, both times, I secretly wanted a boy. I'd have been thrilled to have daughters too, of course, but I really wanted sons. I've had a tough time being a woman. I've been better at my job than men, worked harder, but been paid less. I've been overlooked, particularly at work, and I've been ridiculed for having (large) breasts. Now, as a fat, frumpy, forty-something mother, I feel invisible.
The grass is always greener, but life seems altogether easier if you have a penis. You can pee anywhere, for a start.
I have two sons, Presley and Cash. They are aged four and three and are becoming aware that there are differences between boys and girls.
I am raising them to be civil children. I chose the word civil carefully. You can not be civil if you despise one half of the population. I am also raising my sons to be feminists, like their parents.
We're not nearly as extreme as some parents in our dislike of gender stereotyping. We currently have no gender confusion. They are boys. They love playing with cars, they love trains and dinosaurs, aliens and pirates. All pretty typical of boys their age. They also push their teddies around in pink pushchairs, wear hair clips and spend a lot of time colouring-in. They fight over who has the pink cup at breakfast time. They are still boys.
Recently they told us that they were playing a game at nursery and they wouldn't let the girls join in. When we asked why not, they couldn't answer. They've never watched Peppa Pig, but Cash told me 'only girls like Peppa Pig'. Again, he couldn't tell me why, he was simply observing or repeating something from nursery.
I am appalled in shops that there is such a pink/blue divide. Feminism has been around for decades, but the obsession with pink and princesses is escalating. What does that teach girls? Madonna summed it up for me on The Graham Norton Show. She said that even when we're strong, powerful grown-up women, we still have a nagging feeling in the back of our mind that our prince is out there, ready to rescue us. This is Madonna talking. Madonna.
The obsession with 'pinkification' continues as girls get older. As tweens and teenagers they're bombarded with passive female sexual images in magazines and music videos. Andy's friend has a daughter. On her 13th birthday a friend bought her a present in a Victoria's Secret bag. Her father felt nauseous as her friends chanted 'thong, thong, thong'. She's 13. The Playboy bunny is a huge brand, plastered all over pencil cases and other products aimed at young girls. Let's not even mention Primark and their hideous padded bikinis for seven year olds. Urgh.
Of course, it's not just girls this is aimed at. Our sons see this crap too.
I need to figure out how I'm going to counter this superficial nonsense and teach my sons to respect girls, even when girls don't appear to respect themselves.
I get it though, I really do. I know how girls feel. I remember being a teenager and wanting to look sexy, to get a boyfriend. Hey, I remember being single in my late twenties and I still didn't have much self-respect. I chased after 'bad boys'. Sure, they wanted to get into my pants, but they didn't want to be my boyfriend. I confused sex with love. I think Jerry Hall has a lot to answer for with her statement that 'a woman needs to be a cook in the kitchen and a whore in the bedroom'. No, Jerry, a woman needs to be loved and respected.
It's even worse now that the porno look seems to be so mainstream. The boob jobs, fake tan, ratty blonde extensions, plumped up lips and bald fannies. Yes, I'm looking at you Katie Price. These girls are in newspapers and magazines, and on television. You can't get away from them. Who is telling women they should look like dolls? My guess is there are a lot of men who hate women and some of them run the media. No matter how far feminism has come we're still being kept in our place by men who want to have sex with passive, pouting, bald-from-the-neck-down dolls. These men are suggesting to my sons that women are only worth shagging if they look - and act - a certain way.
Well, I am going to rage against this. I am going to teach my sons about equality. I'm going to teach my sons to respect men and women. I'm going to teach my sons to be civil. Once they are older we'll have the big awkward conversations about relationships and condoms. For now we're going to lead by example. They have loving, caring, feminist parents. They have strong grandmothers, one a fantastic matriarch. We are all civil.