Advertorial · Feminism

#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.

Baby · Family · Feminism

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:

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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!

Feminism · Happiness · Life · Opinion · Parenting · Politics · Relationships

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. 

Education · Feminism

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 motor
The 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 workout
Tested 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.

Feminism · Football · Kids

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?