12 articles Articles posted in Feminism

Is it Time for an Intersex Olympics?

Intersex” is a general term used for a variety of conditions in which a person is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male.

(I apologise in advance if I use any incorrect terminology, my aim here is not to offend anyone, only to start a conversation)

If you’ve been anywhere near the news in the past few days, you can’t fail to have missed the furore surrounding South African middle-distance runner Caster Semenya and the questions over her gender. In case you have missed it, here’s a TL:DR of the situation: Caster, born in 1991, won a gold medal in Rio in the womens’ Olympics, however there have been complaints from other athletes because she has high levels of testosterone, which they claim gives her an advantage.

Caster Semenya

When I first started reading about this, I came across an article where they said that it had become common practice for Semenya to go into the bathrooms before a race to show one of her competitors her genitals to “prove” her femininity, which sounds absolutely appalling and like a gross invasion of her privacy and I was genuinely shocked to read that she had to go to such lengths to confirm her eligibility to race.

However, the controversy takes a slightly different slant when you consider her internal physiology. You see, according to official reports, Semenya has high levels of testosterone which is produced by internal testes and she also lacks a uterus and ovaries. The officials who deal with eligibility to race have stated that there’s insignificant evidence to suggest that testosterone gives her a significant advantage over the other athletes, however, several other athletes with the same physical attributes as Semenya took steps to change this, as reported in the New York Times:

At the London Olympics, four female athletes, all 18 to 21 years old and from rural areas of developing countries, were flagged for high levels of natural testosterone. Each of them subsequently had surgery to remove internal testes, which produce testosterone, as well as procedures that were not required for resuming competition: feminizing vaginoplasty, estrogen replacement therapy and a reduction in the size of the clitoris.

One could argue that many athletes have physical attributes which make them “unusual” in the grand scheme of things, but which give them an advantage when it comes to sporting prowess. Take Miguel Indurain, for instance. He’s a Spanish cyclist who won FIVE consecutive Tour de France in the early to mid-Nineties and is considered cycling royalty to this day. However, he has a huge physical advantage; his blood took almost double the oxygen of a normal person and his cardiac output was 50 litres a minute; a fit amateur cyclist’s is about 25 litres. No-one suggested that his physiology was an unfair advantage, just a happy anomaly which, ultimately, made him a legend.

So, if the issue isn’t physiological, then is it a gender issue? Well, Semenya identifies as a woman and has spent her entire life living as a woman; from what I can gather there’s never been any suggestion in her life of any sort of gender dysphoria or questions over how she identifies, which makes it clear cut, right? Maybe not.

Fallon Fox Tamikka Brents

Fallon Fox in white, before her fight with Tamikka Brents (pink bottoms)

Another similar case in sport was that of MMA fighter Fallon Fox. Featherweight champion Fallon underwent gender reassignment surgery back in 2006 and entered the MMA as a female fighter. Not only has she had her male reproductive organs removed but she has been on hormone therapy for many years, however she’s faced massive opposition and controversy within the MMA community because people feel that her physicality gives her an advantage, not least of all when she fought Tamikka Brents, and “Brents suffered a concussion, an orbital bone fracture, and seven staples to the head. After her loss, Brents took to social media to convey her thoughts on the experience of fighting Fox: “I’ve fought a lot of women and have never felt the strength that I felt in a fight as I did that night. I can’t answer whether it’s because she was born a man or not because I’m not a doctor. I can only say, I’ve never felt so overpowered ever in my life and I am an abnormally strong female in my own right,” she stated. “Her grip was different, I could usually move around in the clinch against other females but couldn’t move at all in Fox’s clinch…””

Fox argues that her hormone therapy probably means that she actually has LESS testosterone than her competitors, but this doesn’t alter the fact that testosterone played a part on how she developed physically in the first place, until her reassignment surgery.

It’s all such a grey area. Traditionally speaking, men and women have never competed against one another because of the clear physical differences, but that doesn’t mean that there’s no middle ground. Obviously, it’s rare to see a woman who’s the size of say, Mike Tyson, with the same bone structure and heavy musculature, but there are plenty of female fighters who probably make Conor McGregor look like a leprechaun with his featherweight frame. But does size equal strength? No, definitely not.

All of this is leading to a point…honestly!

While I’m not suggesting that being intersex or hormonally different is a disability (quite the opposite, in fact), is it time that we offered an Olympics for competitors where gender isn’t clear-cut, in the same way that we have a Paralympics for differently abled athletes? This way there can’t be any suggestion that they’re somehow exploiting a physical advantage. Issues of gender have become far less taboo in recent years, allowing people to live exactly as they wish to without the previous levels of prejudice, which is great, although there is still a long way to go. Should be we accommodating people for whom gender/sex isn’t black and white? A ‘third-sex’ Olympics? It would certainly level the playing field, but is it getting into dangerous levels of classification and potential prejudice from different angles? Is submitting to hormone tests before being allowed to enter a step too far, or is it no different to submitting to a drugs test to ensure that performance-enhancing drugs aren’t used? Is it all just sour grapes from the losing athletes?

I’d love to know your thoughts on this, so please do leave me a comment below!

Pink Jobs/Blue Jobs?

pinks jobs blue jobsOne of the things on which I pride myself is my willingness to give things a go. I come from a family of do-ers, choosing to mend cars, decorate houses and generally fend for themselves, rather than hiring someone in, and Husband’s family is like this even more so than my own. Husband has an aunty of whom I’m constantly in awe, who’s a true role model for my girls. She’s genuinely one of the most knowledgeable people when it comes to cars that I’ve ever met and she’s never fazed by a building project or getting her hands dirty in a multitude of ways.

I know that in a lot of houses, there are jobs which are characterised as ‘pink jobs’ and ‘blue jobs’, with domestic chores such as cleaning and child-rearing falling firmly in the female camp, whilst the men do the heavy lifting, car maintenance and rubbish-taking-out. This isn’t the case in our house. Husband is just as at home changing a nappy as changing a tyre, and I’m certainly not shy when it comes to getting involved in DIY.

A few months ago, I was talking to some friends at Sausage’s school when one of the Grandads who regularly does the school run approached me. He mentioned that he’d noticed that my break light was out and suggested that I “get the Husband to look at it” for me. I had to laugh. Yes, Husband would be more than capable of changing a bulb, but as it happens, I’m the only driver in the house and actually deal with car maintenance myself. When our car needed a new battery, I bought one from BuyCarparts.co.uk and fitted it myself, with no more than a YouTube video to give me confidence that I was doing it correctly and it never even occurred to me to think that I wouldn’t be able to do it myself.

For me, I’ve always tried to be as independent as I can be. Husband and I are a team and pitch in together with everything that needs doing, but I still like to know that I can do things myself. It’s also hugely important to me that the girls see Mummy as a capable human being; I remember, as a kid, seeing my Nan and Grandad living an oddly symbiotic life; he’d NEVER set foot in the kitchen and conversely, she never used a cash point, set the video and rarely even changed the TV channel. It worked for them, as it so often does in marriages from a bygone era, but I also remember worrying about how they’d cope if the other wasn’t around. I had visions of Grandad living on fish and chips every night, or my Nan only ever watching one TV channel!

A few years ago, my Uncle kindly gave us his old Honda Civic as we were without a car at the time and although he didn’t need it anymore, it was far too good to scrap. It really invigorated my thirst for independence and I relished taking care of the car myself, doing the vital maintenance as well as the non-vital things like fitting a new stereo, something I’ve done myself in almost every car I’ve owned.

I’ll definitely be encouraging Sausage and Burrito Baby to learn these kinds of self-sufficiencies, so that they’re both able to take care of things for themselves, as well as having the comfort of knowing they’re capable enough to do so. Having that confidence can be the making of a young woman and I can only hope that by seeing other family members doing things themselves rather than always deferring to someone else, they’ll see that there are so many things that you can do at home, without spending huge amounts on labour.

What can 2015 bring us after the year of feminism?

Those of you who are loyal followers of my blog will have noticed my recent post about the re-introduction of Page 3 models. The scandal was just one of a long string of offensive controversies involving The Sun newspaper in the past, but, other than highlighting just how low some will go to sell papers, it also contributed to the latest feminist debates of the decade. 2014, it seems, was the year of the feminist, largely thanks to many scandals empowering movements that changed our perspective on women in modern society. While some of the issues carry on into 2015, what have we learned from 2014’s most salient moments in feminism?

#GamerGate

Back in August last year, female gamers were the subject of social media abuse when it emerged that a female video games developer was in a relationship with a video games critic. In a bid to promote ethics in video game journalism, the hashtag #GamerGate was created, but it soon became a symbol for feminism in gaming, much to the ire of many Twitter trolls, who saw it as an excuse to bully others.

It’s completely ridiculous to think in 2014 that women are any less valued in the gaming world, but thankfully, games developers are ignoring us no longer. Mr Smith Casino has a range of games specifically targeted towards the female market, while studies have shown that 52 per cent of modern day gamers are women. So if there’s one thing we’ve learned from feminism in gaming in 2014, it’s that we have a voice.

Emma Watson’s touching UN speech

In September 2014, Harry Potter star Emma Watson took the brave step to address the UN and inform them of her #heforshe campaign, promoting equality between the sexes. The 24- year-old showed an astounding display of integrity as she told of how she was sexualised by the media at age 14, and highlighted the issue that men in modern society cannot be seen to be doing ‘feminine’ things such as crying.

Watson’s campaign was particularly poignant as it demonstrated to us just what it means to be a feminist, throwing out the idea that being a feminist is synonymous with hating men. Her speech truly highlighted the need for equality between men and women, and it was refreshing to see such a well-respected figure campaigning for such important issues.

Kim Kardashian’s backside…and Alyssa Milano’s response

In November 2014, in something of a crass move, socialite Kim Kardashian attempted to “break the internet” by posing completely naked and covered in baby oil for Paper Magazine. The photos went viral within minutes, particularly amongst Kim’s 25 million Twitter followers, and soon spawned their own parodies, debates and arguments.

Kim claimed she took part in the shoot as she wanted to celebrate getting back into shape after having a baby. Of course, loving you for who you are is one of the central tenets of feminism, but the photos did inspire something of a debate for actress Alyssa Milano. The star posted a photograph on Twitter of her breastfeeding her child, one of the most natural things in the world, but was soon subject to criticism. She promptly asked her followers:

“Wait! I don’t get it. No disrespect to Kim but… people are offended by my breastfeeding selfies & are fine with her (amazing) booty cover? ”

Alyssa had a point well made, and in an age where it is considered offensive to do what we were put on this Earth to do, it was refreshing to see her questioning people’s standards. Of course, as Alyssa said, there was nothing wrong with Kim’s shoot, but nor is there anything wrong with breastfeeding – both photographs served the highlight the true beauty of the feminine form, which, like motherhood, is the epitome of feminism and something to be celebrated.

Do I Support ‘Ban Page Three’? Well, I’m Just Not Sure…

Before I begin, let me just say that I hate The Sun newspaper for far greater reasons than a few pairs of boobs. The Sun’s involvement in the aftermath of the Hillsborough disaster, it’s lies and disgustingly misreported version of events, has caused pain to many people for almost 30 years and members of the Hillsborough Justice Campaign have waited far too long for the truth to be exposed.

Obviously, The Sun caused more waves last week by pulling a pathetic switcheroo whereby they claimed to have ditched topless images on their page three, only to make a joke of it the next day and put the tits right back where they’ve always been. My antipathy toward the whole affair is almost enough to stop me from writing this post, because let’s face it, it’s all just a boring PR stunt, but I have some really conflicting feelings about it all. See, on the one hand, I back the Ban Page Three campaign wholeheartedly. But on the other, I have huge reservations about it.

I completely agree that putting female breasts in the first few pages of a newspaper seems incongruous and unnecessary, but  think we can all agree that what The Sun reports barely passes for news on any given day. This isn’t a broadsheet, or serious paper containing hard-hitting journalism. The paper is full of overblown, sensationalist bullshit and really shouldn’t be given shelf space alongside other papers. However, I saw a Facebook post this week, in which the poster said something along the lines of “Oh, what’s next, banning FHM?”. Well, no, because FHM is a men’s magazine largely aimed at young, heterosexual males who want to look at boobs, and whether you like it or not, it seems a wholly more appropriate place to put pictures of scantily-clad women, so I feel this misses the point spectacularly.

As a mother of girls, I don’t like the idea that seeing topless models might give them the idea that it’s okay to objectify women, but they also see women in almost as scanty a state of undress in music videos and even fashion magazines, so where do we stop the censorship? Also, I err on the side of caution when it comes to the potential for passing the message on to them that the female body is something to be ashamed of, or hidden from view. We think nothing of seeing men on billboards, dressed only in a pair of Calvins and no-one campaigns against that, or complains about objectification. The women on these pages are there because they want to be – is it not hugely patronising to assume that they’re hapless rubes who’ve been railroaded into taking their bras off for the camera?

Just recently, a whole bunch of new legislation was put in place regarding what’s allowed to be shown in porn, and much to my dismay it seems that anything which shows females enjoying themselves too much has been cut from the agenda. (SEE HERE FOR A LIST OF WHAT’S BEEN BANNED). Now, while I’m not saying that hardcore pornography showing people weeing on each other or leather-clad dominatrixes sitting on faces is everyone’s cup of tea, surely if this is what people want to see and it’s done in a safe environment with consenting participants, why should anyone have the right to say they cannot? It seems to be an attack on female sexuality and it scares me to think that females who exert power and preference through their sexuality (or choice of job) will start to be marginalised in ever more serious ways, especially if we ban things like Page 3, which you could argue goes some way to normalising nudity.

I hear the “what about naked men?” argument quite frequently, women who feel that there should be an equal and opposite for Page Three to re-dress the balance, but I’m really not sure it would work. Anthropologically speaking, men are far more visually driven, sexually, than women so although plenty of women like the odd perve at a nice looking bloke, sales of newspapers would not be driven up by a ‘Page 7 Fella’, otherwise someone would be making money off of it already. Same goes for magazines – publications like FHM sell because they contain stuff that men want to look at. If women wanted to regularly look at images of naked men, Cosmo would be doing it already and MORE! wouldn’t have gone out of business.

I’m not against nudity or toplessness in principle, I hate The Sun, I’m not a fan of censorship and I really don’t think having scantily clad men in papers would add any sort of balance (or value) to the debate…and yet, I still don’t feel 100% comfortable with the idea of Page 3. See what I mean when I said I felt conflicted?! I’m aware that this post is ALL over the place, but this is basically just a snapshot of the inside of my brain at the moment, when thinking about this topic.

Where do you stand on this? Am I spectacularly missing some sort of point? Please leave me a comment below.

Why I Won’t Be Raising My Daughters to be Feminists

egalitarianismIf you’d have asked me, ten years ago, if I was a feminist, my answer would have been a resounding, high-kicking, air-punching ‘YES’. Yes with bells on. Yes with all the ‘girl power’ my 20 year old self could muster. These days? Not so much. Why? Because I hate what ‘feminism’ has become.

Back in the days of throwing ourselves under horses, women had a clear objective: equal rights. Unable to vote or have anything even vaguely approaching equal rights, women rose up and made themselves heard in order to gain the same rights as men and they were ultimately successful. While suffrage may have been the earliest form of feminism, it’s certainly not the last time women have had to fight for equality. Glass ceilings prevent women from earning the same as men or gaining the same positions within the workforce and its thanks to women challenging boundaries that we’re getting towards a more equal society.

However, in recent years, the word ‘feminism’ has been taken to mean something completely different and it’s this version of feminism that I’ll be counselling my girls against.

Feminism is NOT Beyonce singing songs about getting drunk while her Husband makes light of domestic abuse in the background.

Feminism is NOT Kelly Brook thinking it’s funny and cute to punch and physically assault Danny Cipriani and Jason Statham because she’s just a tiny female.

Feminism is NOT protesting a Men’s Rights meeting by pulling a fire alarm. 

Feminism is NOT putting men down and considering one sex to be superior to the other.

Feminism is NOT considering other women to be gender-traitors because they choose to raise a family instead of forging a career.

Feminism is NOT calling other women ball-breakers when they choose to advance their careers.

Feminism is NOT assuming that there’s no such thing as domestic abuse against a male, just because he’s male. 

Feminism is NOT demonising men for everything they do

Feminism is NOT assuming that every man is a rapist/abuser.

Feminism is NOT diminishing a man’s masculinity for fun or malice.

Feminism isn’t any of the things above and yet I’ve lost count of the sycophantic articles I’ve read, claiming ‘Queen Bey’ to be a paragon of feminism, I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve seem blatant man-hating held up as part of feminism. This is what feminism has come to represent and that’s what I don’t want my girls learning.

Beyonce’s ‘Drunk in Love’ contains the line ‘eat the cake Anna Mae’, which is what Ike said to Tina Turner in the biopic of her life, right before he rapes her. I’m completely baffled as to how that’s a reasonable thing to put in a pop song, or how they, as a parent of a little girl, could make light of such an act. Kelly Brook is said to have punched both Danny Cipriani and Jason Statham in the face and when questioned about it, she giggled and said that she’ll look for partners in future who don’t make her want to punch them in the face. Not “maybe I should be a handle on my anger issues and abusive behaviour”. Nope, she’s just deciding to engage in victim blaming which would cause uproar were it the other way around. Imagine if Charles Saatchi had said “Well, next time I’ll marry someone who doesn’t give me the urge to throttle her in public?

The video of the protest has been doing the rounds on the internet for some time now and is on the front page of Reddit today. It shows a group of feminists protesting a Men’s Rights group and setting a fire alarm off so that the group has to discontinue its meeting. Again, let’s play switcheroo – a group of men aggressively breaking up a women’s rights meeting? Unheard of. Wanting equal rights for oneself shouldn’t be at the expense of others. 

These are the things that I’m seeing on a daily basis, masquerading as feminism and if I’m honest, it’s starting to look really ugly. I’ve lost count of the amount of adverts I’ve seen on the telly which openly mock men and deride them in a completely puerile and bullying way, just because they’re male. If we did the same thing to women, all hell would break loose and rightly so, but it’s okay to do the same to men?

That, to me, is not equality and that is not what anyone fought for. Equality should really be self explanatory. Equality means that things should be EQUAL. If I thought my girls were being persecuted because of their gender or being passed over in favour of males, I’d be riding my high horse all the way to the door of the person doing so, but I can’t help but feel that if I was the parent to a boy, I’d just be expected to put up with gender discrimination because anything else is patriarchal oppression.

So, if this is what feminism looks like, in 2014, it’s not what I’ll be teaching my daughters. I want to raise women who don’t abuse the fact that they’re female to further themselves, or take a pot-shot at someone else, or raise themselves above anyone else for any reason. Perhaps I’ll teach them that we’re egalitarians, or maybe I won’t give it a name at all. Maybe we should all just learn that equality – true equality – is the only thing we should be teaching our daughters AND sons to believe in.

Who’s with me?

#IWantToBe – Blossom Magazine and Female Aspirations

Sausage is an avid reader of just about anything she can get her hands on; books, comics, road signs…but most of all, she’s a huge fan of magazines. Blossom Magazine is one which has just started to catch her eye – it’s aimed at 5-8 year girls and their mix of crafts, stories, popular characters and regular inclusion of stickers (I think if Sausage ever had an x-ray, she’d be made of about 90% stickers – girl can’t get enough!) makes it very popular with my almost-6 year old.

Blossom I Want To Be Edition cover

Blossom Magazine’s latest competition is one which has us super excited. They’re asking girls to make videos in which they share their career aspirations with the world, and as a mum to two girls, I find this really encouraging.  One of the carers they’ve featured is quite poignant for me; they’ve interviewed a female pilot and if you’ve read my blog recently, you’ll know that this is what I wanted to be for most of my childhood, only to be thwarted by my terrible eyesight!

Blossom I want to be a pilot

Best of all, they’ve this week launched a brilliant competition for their readers.  The #IWantToBe campaign is asking young readers to submit a video entry of what they want to be when they grow up. Entrants have until 6th September to submit their video to the email address of hello@blossommagazine.co.uk and one winner will be selected to win a VIP London family trip which includes one family ticket to ZSL London with a Meet the Meerkats experience; one Rainforest Café voucher worth £100; overnight accommodation in one family room at 3-star hotel, in Central London and a visit to Blossom HQ plus a Blossom Goody Bag.

Blossom I Want To Be

I don’t put Sausage or BB on the blog, so I can’t post a video of her here, but I asked her what she wants to be when she’s older and she said that she’s planning to become a primatologist, studying and caring for monkies and apes. She’s always been absolutely mad about animals, so I have every faith in her that this is what she’ll do, but her Dad and I would support her no matter what she decides to do with her life.

So, what does your little one want to be when they’re older? Leave me a comment below!

T&Cs:  Terms and conditions: Promoter: Immediate Media London Company Limited. You must make sure that we have your entries by 11.59pm, 6th September 2014. 1. You can enter if you live in England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland or the Channel Islands, unless someone who lives in your house works for the Immediate Media Company. 2. By entering the competition, you promise to us that you have read these rules and that you will follow them. 3. We can’t include entries which arrive too late and we can’t accept responsibility if your entry is lost. By entering this competition, parents/guardians grant permission to Immediate Media Company (publishers of Blossom) to post the winner’s video and entrants’ first names in its publications, websites and on its social media sites. 4. Winners will be chosen at random. 5. One entry per household. We don’t allow bulk entries or entries made by other people on your behalf. We will disqualify all entries which break this rule. 6. If you win, you will receive the prize described. We won’t swap the prize for cash. No alternatives or substitutions for any unused elements of the prize. If there’s ever a reason why we can’t give you exactly the same prize, we’ll give you something  j ust as good or better instead. Prize is one family ticket to ZSL London valid for 2 adults and 2 children aged 3-16. Children must be at least 5 years of age and be accompanied by an adult for the Meet the Meerkats experience. One Rainforest Café voucher worth £100, see voucher for expiry date and additional T&Cs – includes drinks. Overnight accommodation in one family room at 3-star hotel, in Central London selected by Immediate Media Company. Visit to Blossom HQ includes a Blossom Goody Bag. Travel and other personal expenses are not included. Prize must be redeemed before 31st December 2014. 7. Winners will be contacted within 28 days of a competition closing date, either by post, telephone or email. 8. If we contact you to tell you you’re a winner, but you don’t reply within a month, we may have to offer the prize to a runner-up or give it away in a future competition. Your details: We will use your name, address and any other details that you give us to run this competition. If you win, we will pass them to the person who’s providing the prize so that they can post it to you, and we may use your first name and county in the magazine or on our website but we won’t provide them to anyone else without your permission. You can find out the winner’s first name and county once the competition is over by sending a stamped addressed envelope to Competition Rules, ATTN: Marketing Assistant, Blossom Magazine, Immediate Media Limited, Vineyard House, 44 Brook Green, London W6 7BT. Remember to tell us which magazine, issue number and competition you’d like to know about.

 I am receiving a year’s subscription of Blossom Magazine in return for writing this post.

The Pronoun Game

We’re still at that stage where we can’t walk more than 10 feet without someone sticking their head into the pram and cooing over BB, which obviously becomes exponentially worse in Waitrose because the main demographic of shoppers is already drawing a pension and therefore are drawn to small babies like a fly to the proverbial ‘you know what’. It’s sweet that people are so nice and want to pass on that positivity, even if answering the same 3 questions (“Yes, she’s very little.” “She’ll be 6 weeks on Monday” “She sleeps brilliantly for a newborn, yes”) does get a little tiresome at times.

But today, I went renegade. I battled against conformity and threw everyone through a loop. I took BB out dressed…IN BLUE! This, so be specific:

IMG_20140317_145212

It’s a hand-knitted cardie that used to belong to Sausage and she was wearing it with a red babygrow,

I immediately noticed a change.

“OH! Isn’t she beautiful!” instead became “OH! Isn’t your baby lovely!”

Because, by dressing her in blue, I somehow seem to have challenged the gender perceptions of the septuagenarian population of Essex. They could see the pink blanket, my very pink changing bag but the addition of blue knitwear made everyone err on the side of caution. It made me think about MY perception of gender. If I saw a baby dressed head-to-toe in pink, I’d automatically assume it was female, but would a parent not have as much right to dress a little boy in pink, as I do to dress BB in blue?

I’m constantly telling Sausage that pink isn’t just for girls, girls can play with cars and Meccano if they want to. Just yesterday, Husband and I were telling her what it is to be transgender and that some people may appear to physically be one gender but actually feel like they’re something completely different. But how can I expect my daughter to understand gender issues when I buy into them myself?

And then, it occurred to me.

The reason people play the pronoun game is so as not to cause offence. People say ‘your baby’ or ‘they’ rather than ‘he’ or ‘she’ because they think it would be rude to guess wrongly at a baby’s gender. But…why? I guess parental pride could play a part, plenty of parents would find it offensive if someone guessed wrongly at the gender of their little darling, but that seems crazy to me. Sure, some babies really do look overtly masculine or feminine, but let’s face it, most of them are fairly neutral.

We need to stop treating gender as some hot-button of embarrassment and quit being so ridiculous about it. Dress your boys in pink and your girls in blue – colours shouldn’t automatically signify gender, they should be accessible to all, and when a myopic old lady calls your little dude “she”, laugh it off. It’s really not the end of the world, is it?!

What do you think? Would you be cross if someone got your child’s gender wrong? Do you dress your baby in the ‘wrong’ colours for its gender? Let me know!

Why I Don’t Care if Ellen Page is Gay

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I became aware of Ellen Page back in about 2006, when Husband told me about this film he’d watched where a young woman entrapped and brutalised a paedophile, mostly for shits and giggles, which had an awesome actress playing the lead role. If you’re aware of Hard Candy, you’ll know that a young Ellen Page gave a performance which was as convincing as it was memorable and if you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it.

Skip forward a couple of years; Husband and a very pregnant me sat and watched Juno, a film which handled the issue of teen pregnancy with a grace that had never been seen before. Here, we were faced with a young woman who, while on the surface may have been a bit off-beat, was conscious and uncompromising in her decision about what to do with the life of the child that she knew, ultimately, she wasn’t ready for. Juno was a kid who fucked up, had an accident, did what so many others do, but the way she dealt with it (and the space and respect that her parents showed her in dealing with it) reflected what a kid can really do, under such enormous pressure. I cannot imagine anyone else playing that role.

Over the years, I’ve enjoyed watching Ellen in various films, such as Inception, X-Men, The East and Whip It (a particular favourite which has made me desperately want to learn to skate so I can try roller derby!) and I can honestly say I don’t think she’s made a bad choice or put in a bad performance.

Aside from her impressive career, she seems to be a pretty impressive person, too. Away from the spotlight, the (self-confessed) “tiny Canadian” has involved herself with various humanitarian issues, such as campaigning to end the military dictatorship in Myanmar, Burma and also appealing for The New York City Food Bank.

Of course, there’s long been speculation as to her sexuality. Her ‘conspicuous’ lack of male escort at various award ceremonies never fails to set tongues wagging and her graceful but slightly awkward avoidance about whether she ever had a crush on Leonardo DiCaprio in various press junkets leading up to the release of Inception caused even more hyperbole (although, quite why anyone thinks that’s an appropriate question of a professional actor, I don’t know. Would it ever have been asked of a man?!).

Ellen’s self-outing was delivered at the Human Rights Campaigns Time to THRIVE conference, where she decided to use her personal life, and effectively sacrifice her well-protected privacy, to campaign for the safety and well-being of other gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people across the globe. She’s unleashed her truth in the most conscientious way possible, in a way that doesn’t benefit her, but will hopefully help millions of other people across the globe. She says she’s “tired of lying by omission” and hopes that her coming out will help others to have the strength to be open about their sexuality, too.

So, while the title of this post may come across as slightly glib, I really do mean it. I adore this young woman and everything she stands for. As a mother to (almost) two girls, I feel that I can breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that there are women like her out there, setting an example of strength and selflessness and showing that above all else, being yourself is the best thing you can possibly be.

Who Ellen Page chooses to fall in love with is of absolutely ZERO consequence to anyone but herself and her chosen partner and what I hope is that we can start to end the process of defining people by their sexuality. It simply does not matter whether a person is gay or straight or any of the other shades of the Rainbow. What matters is how they choose to live their life and the way they treat others around them. Of course, I believe people should be proud of who they are, and their sexuality, to an extent, factors into the person as a whole, but there’s so much more to everyone than that one small factor.

Anyway, its 4.16am, I’m sitting in a darkened maternity ward and probably rambling somewhat now, but I wanted to get my thoughts on the page and say that I wish Ellen a lifetime of happiness and love.

That’s all. 

Dyson DC59 and The James Dyson Foundation

Historical: The first Dyson, the DC01.Historical: The first Dyson, the DC01.

Before Christmas, I was lucky enough to be invited to Dyson HQ in Chelsea to check out their range of cleaners, specifically the Dyson DC59 Animal, their newest handheld cordless vacuum. We saw Dyson vacuums through the ages and were chatted to by their top designers and engineers about all of the innovation which went into making the DC59 their smallest device, yet still giving it the same amount of suction as a full sized cleaner.

Dyson DC59 motorThe motor from a Dyson DC59. I still think it looks like Tony Stark’s ARC reactor…

The DC59 is a cordless device, which comes with a wall-mountable charger, which makes cleaning stairs and various nooks and crannies an absolute doddle, and the folk at Dyson HQ even got us bloggers involved in showing off exactly how powerful their machines were, in comparison to other popular brands of cordless cleaners (I’ll give you a hint…the Dyson whooped the butt of every other machine there!) We were even lucky enough to be given our very own DC59 to take home, and having been a Dyson devotee for the last 8 years, this was a real treat! (more about that in another post)

Tested By Bloggers - the DC59 gets a thorough workoutTested By Bloggers – the DC59 gets a thorough workout (that’s the lovely Amanda of Ana Mum Diary in the green cardy, wtsanding with Jen from Love Chic Living!)

However, as much as I was impressed by the technology on show, the thing that really got me thinking, and what I wanted to talk to you about today, is the James Dyson Foundation.

For those of you who aren’t familiar, James Dyson, the inventor behind all of the Dyson products, has set up a foundation which provides educational materials to schools to encourage children (and especially girls, from what I hear) to consider careers in technology, engineering and innovative fields. As a mother to two girls, this is hugely appealing to me as I think girls are often steered away from technological fields of work and, to me, that’s a crying shame. Females have just as much to offer to the world of technology and engineering as boys and by ruling them out, we’re not only perpetuating the glass ceiling but severely slowing down the technological advancement of the human race by cutting off half of our potential.

James Dyson himself said “At school I opted for arts, put off by all the formulae in science. There was nothing that combined the two – like design engineering does. I resolved to be an estate agent, then a painter, a surgeon, an actor, and an artist again. I only stumbled on engineering by accident and immediately decided what I wanted to do – make things that work better.”

Further to this, the Dyson Foundation website explains “Engineering is one of the most useful and exciting careers. Engineers are the people who can create practical solutions to the 21st Century challenges of sustainability, housing and an aging population. And we need more of them. We want young people to discover the satisfaction and creativity that’s bundled up in design engineering. With a little encouragement, natural curiosity for how things work leads to creativity and problem solving. And eventually the design engineers of tomorrow.

Science lessons should inspire students. Experimentation should live in hands not in books.

The Ideas Box and Engineering Box are free resources for teachers to bring design engineering to the classroom. Whether building a prototype out of cardboard or taking apart a Dyson machine, students discover engineering by using their heads and their hands to solve problems.

In schools and universities around the world we challenge young people to design solutions to everyday problems – all in 90 minutes. The outcome? Compost bins that combat climate change, inventive DIY tools and energy efficient ventilation systems.

We’re working to support the future Edisons and Brunels.

Each year we award over £650,000 to students around the world. The funding supports their project work – allowing them to develop and research new ideas, spend more time in the fabrication studio, designing and testing, and less time paying bills.

A £30,000 prize goes to the international winner to help transform the idea from a prototype to a commercial product.Our main focus is design and engineering but we also encourage and support medical and scientific research. We’ve donated over £9 million to these causes through grants, machine donations and fundraising endeavours lead by Dyson people.”

James Dyson Foundation

If you’d like your child (be they in primary, secondary OR university education) to benefit from the resources offered by the Dyson Foundation, their class teacher or head can request one of the educational packs straight from the website; either direct them to the site, or tell them to email The James Dyson Foundation to request an Ideas Box.

Role Models for Girls

The 2012 Olympics was a fantastic event which really hailed some positive changes in the UK. As a mother to (almost) two girls, I’m pleased with the coverage that female athletes received and that names like Jessica Ennis, Victoria Pendleton and Katherine Grainger are now known to many. Of course, there are plenty of highly successful female athletes out there but with football, rugby, cricket, and golf dominating the TV coverage, it’s easy to think that sports are for men only.

Two of my Husband’s cousins are female and in their tweens. Both are excellent at football, though they couldn’t be more different in other ways. The eldest is into girlie stuff and loves nothing more than clothes, make-up and having her hair and nails done. The youngest…well, I think the last time I saw her in a skirt was when she was a bridesmaid for my sister-in-law in 2007, but either way, they’re promising little sportswomen. There seems to be a preconception though, that ‘girlie girls’ can’t be sporty and that anyone who’s sporty has to be a total tomboy, which is rubbish – did any of you see Jessica Ennis is that dress?!

Jessica Ennis Red Dress

For one of Husband’s cousins, we decided that we’d start the indoctrination early and get her a Liverpool FC shirt for Christmas. We didn’t have time to do it in the end, but we had planned to get ‘Bonner’ printed on the back – Gemma Bonner is currently the captain of Liverpool Ladies team, and we’re also proud to say, part of the Senior England Women’s Team. Aged just 21, she captained Liverpool to the 2013 FA WSL title, which is an incredible achievement for a woman of her age.

I’m so much happier for my daughters and female relatives to be looking up to sportswomen and people with genuine talent than the type of so-called “role-models” we see churned out of the X-Factor machine every year, or on the pages of fashion magazines with their hideous messages about body image.

All I’m saying is, next time you write a girl off as a ‘Tom Boy’ or think that girls should be ‘girlie’, try and bear in mind the example that our sportswomen are setting, think about the fact that it’s more than possible to be both accomplished and radiant, like our Jessica, and think about letting our girls be exactly who they want to be. When I was little, I was constantly told that I couldn’t do certain things – I wanted to do drama at University and was told what a waste it would be because I was ‘too intelligent’ to waste my brain on a creative subject (let’s not mention that the vast majority of British actors started at Oxford or Cambridge…). As an adult, I wish I’d done exactly what I wanted because I’m now without any higher qualifications at all and have no real idea of what I should be doing. I’m happy, but I wish I’d been allowed to follow my own ideas.

It’s not just our girls who are benefiting from seeing strong women in the media, either. When boys see women as strong, successful and capable, it adjusts their perceptions too and will hopefully mean a progression towards women being taken more seriously on all platforms.

What do you think? Who do your kids look up to? What does ‘strong woman’ mean to them and you?