So this isn’t necessarily about technology but I may try and awkwardly force a link. I was listening to my friends podcast 2 Grown Men, you can find it online at http://www.2gm.co (that’s the ‘lazy link’, there are others). The 2 grown male hosts, Nick and James were talking about their children and gender identity in society. Basically the sum of the discussion was about not wanting to indoctrinate your child with gender stereotypes and biases that are prevalent in society. Particularly, James said he worried about his little girl because society still views females as second class citizens, and Nick seemed to agree that he would be more worried about those issues for a girl.
I must say, although I currently don’t have children, I worry more about having a boy than a girl because of gender stereotypes. I feel there is more to support showing a girl she doesn’t have to be a barbie pink fairy princess (although I can’t say there is anything wrong with that)! Movements such as feminism and the like are useful tools to show a girl she doesn’t have to conform to societies expectations. Although these concepts might be a bit heavy to introduce to a toddler there are still plenty of strong female role models and heroines throughout history to highlight. These female icons go back to Joan of Arch or Boudicia, and can show how women can fight against submissive roles and be leaders or fighters. There are also strong women in movies and TV, and not all of them are even bitches anymore! Some are simply strong powerful women, who are respected by many, even if they do still have to fight for what they want. I’m not saying equality is achieved, extinguish you’re burning bras, I’m simply saying enough progress has been made that there are alternatives to expose a girl to. Things as simple as if you put a girl in trousers then no one would blink. If you decide to put her in a red or a blue outfit rather than pink today, then not too many people will comment.
But a boy…if you don’t want to be stereotypical male, which involves a degree of machismo and interest in sports culture, and perhaps instead you like pink or My Little Pony then you are clearly gay! Of course just because you like, say pink or purple, and enjoy traditionally female toys, that doesn’t determine your sexual orientation. That would be like saying that an enjoyment of sports means you are definitely straight, again that couldn’t be more wrong. So who do you tell you’re son about? Okay there are some famous transvestites such as Eddie Izzard that could be used as an icon, and I’m certainly grateful for them…but I don’t know of many. In fact Izzard is the only one I can think of right now who isn’t homosexual. That might just be my ignorance, and I would appreciate any guidance to help me learn more on this issue. But I can guarantee you in modern British society, if you put a baby boy in a pink onesie, you will definitely raise eyebrows. Even having a son with long hair, whether it is due to participation in a sub-culture with a masculine energy or not, he is going to attract comments.
All of this concern is not because I want my child (male or female) to be an outcast, of course I will be happy if they fit into societies mold. Because all of this concern is because in my idealist-young-left-wing-childless mind I want my child to be themselves, I want them to feel free to be whoever they are, whether that fits society’s expectations or not. I know that is what all parents want, and so I’m not so silly for having those ideas. I don’t worry about teaching my daughter she can ignore the stereotypes forced upon her, and I don’t worry that my friends and family will agree they are outdated and support me in this en devour. I do worry about teaching my son he can fight the stereotypes, and I’m not sure my friends or family would support this. I’m not sure my husband would let me put a boy in a pink onesie, he would probably call it hippy nonsense. And not because he is small minded, and not because he doesn’t support me, but because all the fighting for sub-cultures and minorities has meant the dominant male population hasn’t been able to complain.
Maybe I’m worrying about nothing and when I have my child it will be fine. The internet may even play an important role, making it easier for any awkward, counter-culture child to find like-minded souls (there’s the awkward link). But I still worry about the role models I have for a son, who wants to look at mummy’s My Little Pony collection (look, not touch these are collectables!) more than the little girl who wants to play contact sports.