Family · Feminism · Kids · Parenting

How Gender Normative Attitiudes are Damaging Our Kids

I’ve written before about how we don’t believe in gendered toys and that we encourage the girls to forget gender conformity when it comes to pursuing their interests, and for the most part it’s worked well. BB plays just as happily with toy cars and Nerf guns as she does with her Barbies, and Sausage goes to a martial arts class where she’s often the only girl. A phrase often uttered by me is “as long as you don’t need a penis to operate it, it’s not just for boys!” and despite the cringe caused by the word “penis” the girls are happy with this rule.

However, just recently, BB has run into some issues. It started a while back when she asked for some Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles underwear, and we discovered that they didn’t make them for girls. We did, however, find some stretchy boxers on the boy’s section of H&M which had TMNT print on them and decided that they were just as good as knickers and would probably be quite comfy. BB has worn them, happily, for months.

A couple of weeks ago, she was getting dressed for school and I’d laid out her TMNT boxers for her to wear, and she got a bit upset and said she didn’t want to wear them that day. I asked why and she said that it was P.E. day, so she’d have to get changed in front of her classmates, and she didn’t want anyone to see her in her boxers. It transpired that a few kids in her class had been taking the mikey and telling her that she shouldn’t be wearing that underwear because it was for boys. She told the girl who was mocking her that “Mummy couldn’t find any others for me to wear today”, but she shouldn’t have to feel like she needs to make an excuse.

She’s quite a resilliant kid, our BB, but it was clear that it was bothering her to have her classmates telling her that she was doing something “wrong”. I started trying to ensure that I gave her girly underwear on the days she had swimming or PE, but the whole thing sat really uncomfortably with me.

It gets worse.

BB’s school, like the rest of the country, offers free school meals in key stage one, but they recently got rid of their cold food provision, so if a child wants a cold lunch instead of a hot meal, they can now take a packed lunch. BB was super excited about this as she’s a little fussy with food AND wanted to show off her new lunch box. Her new Spiderman lunch box.

She’s used it twice, and BOTH times been told by some of her peers that her lunchbox is for boys.

The problem I’m having is this – what want her to do is to tell them all off about their gender normative attitudes and carry on using whatever she wants to cover her ass and carry her lunch. However, it’s not me who has to fight the battle, it’s her. I can encourage her to stick up for herself and tell her classmates where to shove it all I like, but at the end of the day, she’s the one who has to do it. Part of me wants to protect her feelings, buy her the pink knickers, buy her the LOL lunchbox and let her conform, but a MUCH bigger part of me wants to encourage her to stick to her guns and wear whatever she damn-well wants. We don’t raise kids to be compliant.

The whole thing has really stuck in my throat. The saddest part is, I’m not surprised. I still see posts on things like Facebook Marketplace on an almost daily basis of people looking for “toys for boys” or a “pushchair suitable for a girl”. We’re STILL, in 2019, so hung up on the outdated rules we’ve had drummed into us about what is for girls and what is for boys and it’s being passed onto the next generations.

We’ve given BB a pep talk and told her that the opinions of others are not important, and that she should carry on liking Spiderman and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles without worrying about what people think, and I’m hoping it sticks but there’s a chance that the damage has already been done. Daddy also made sure she had undies she felt comfortable in for PE days and bought her some in pastel colours. NOT that we should have needed to…

If you’re reading this and still teach your kids that toys and charachters are only for a specific gender, please join us in the 21st century and update what you’re teaching your kids, because I will NOT be teaching mine to tolerate that kind of bullshit.

(Also, is it any wonder we’re still having these problems when THIS is what comes up when you Google “TMNT girls”…because obviously, no ninja goes anywhere without their handbag and fucking stripper heels. EYEROLL)

Feminism · Fitness · Lifestyle · Opinion · Sport

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!

Family · Feminism · Home

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 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.


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?