This post is a bit of a departure from the mundane minutiae of my life which usually makes up my blog but I couldn’t not weigh in on this one.
As the mother of a girl and a self-professed feminist, how I bring my daughter up and what I do towards “helping the cause” plays on my mind a lot!
Obviously I have a duty to ensure my little one grows up knowing, believing and absolutely insisting that she has equal right to every opportunity afforded to her male contemporaries. If I do my job correctly she will never feel second best, never doubt her capabilities because she’s a woman and never see her sex as a hindrance.
She will also never see men as the enemy.
She won’t see masculinity as the enemy and, more importantly, she won’t see femininity as the enemy either!
This is the crucial point and one made very well on SweetMadeline.ca and also , now I think about it, by Madonna in “What it feels like to be a girl”.
I’ve made this mistake in the past.
When Thea was born, I didn’t want her to wear pink. I wilfully went out of my way to avoid putting her in anything overtly girlie. I wanted her to be neutral but of course there’s not a huge amount of neutral out there when it comes to baby clothes so she ended up in a lot of fairly “boyish” outfits.
She’s more often than not found in a pair of jeans and a long sleeve white babygrow looking very much like a baby builder (complete with ground in dirt and grub all over her.
I didn’t want Thea growing up thinking she always had to be in pink, sparkles, ribbons and looking cute (even if my own outfit choices have often lent towards the Barbie-esque at times). I suppose I felt that dressing her in traditionally masculine clothes would mean she would feel like she could run around, experiment, get muddy and no one would judge her or treat her differently because of her “pretty dress”.
The trouble with this view is that it diminishes the value of “pink”. In taking this attitude towards all things pink, what I’m really saying is that I don’t value femininity as highly as I do masculinity and that dressing in cute, girlie clothes makes you less important, not as good, not as valuable as if you were dressed in “male” clothes.
This is NOT what I believe.
On realising that I was accidentally demonising pink and all those who genuinely like it, I took immediate (somewhat knee jerk) action and bought Thea a pink tutu. She wore it with her parka jacket and brown all-weather boots but still she looked about as girlie as I’ve ever seen her and it did not stop her emptying the wheel barrow or putting gravel into the hosepipe. She loves that tutu. It’s the one item of clothing she selects and presents to me to wear. It’s her second favourite “look”, mostly she prefers to be pelting about nude but then who doesn’t?
She now has quite an array of pink clothing (not sure how this has happened as I still don’t really buy pink clothes – Grandparents? Friends? It’s hard to resist cute clothes if your not obsessing over whether or not your letting down the feminist movement). I now try to not discriminate when I dress her. I’m quite calculated in this because I want her to eventually develop her own tastes and opinions and she can only do that if she’s offered the choice of outfits across the colour spectrum and without bias against trousers or pants or pretty dresses.
However I realise, if this is how I raise Thea, if I was to have a boy I would need to give him the same opportunities… And here is my problem…
Despite my beliefs, I know I would not dress my son in a pink tutu. Why? Because everyone would think he was a girl…
I hate myself for this.
I don’t mind people thinking Thea’s a boy in her khaki pants and parka but I would feel judged as the mum who takes her son to nursery in a frock and tights…
Society will need to do a lot of changing before it’s acceptable to dress little boys and little girls in the same way and we can only start to take steps towards that day by refusing to judge others based on their gender especially when expressed by what they’re wearing.
Thea can play with her whopping great construction toy or push her dolly in the pram and no matter whether she’s dressed in pink or blue – she’ll still be having fun!