I suspect that having my daughter come into my world, will remain one of the most eye-opening and horizon expanding experiences of my entire life. She arrived, and touched my heart, soul and mind in so many inexplicable ways. She made me respect my parents more than I ever had before, when I always thought that that coat was already hanging on its highest peg. She helped me fall in love with my wife all over again. Again, there was nothing problematic about loving her before; my daughter just managed to amplify my entire scope of feeling towards the people I love.
On the flip side, she helped me develop a much keener sense of smelling bullshit too. In the ongoing pursuit of giving her what I think is best for her and my family, my time, my energy and spirit is way too precious to deal with the nonsense I would have allowed onto my radar in the past. I was always the nice guy who would just let people be people and let it all slide. My own non-resistive sphere of morality. In retrospect; a bit lazy. My duty care towards her has really shaken that out of me, and for the better!
I can quite safely say, that the pressure to be a ‘girl’ will not exist under my roof.
One brand of bovine excrement that I now see and recognize more and more is the gender ring fencing that is directed at women and girls. I never really took note of it before. Some passive and some active, it all creates an environment in which girls are coerced into behaving in certain ways and expected to take part in some activities rather than others. They’re expected to buy one product over another due to the way it’s designed and marketed and their interests are influenced to go in preconceived directions from the day they are born.
Being a geeky Dad with all of the interests and intrigues that are typically associated with boys (superheroes, action movies, martial arts, comic books etc) I am naturally drawn towards buying things for my child that I gravitate towards. However, it quickly became apparent to me that if I wanted to deck my kid out in things that weren’t pink, glittery or adorned in unicorns, I’d have to look in the ‘boys’ section. If I wanted to buy her toys that were not gender specific, I’d have to rummage around in the sections that were clearly targeted at the gender-stereotypical little lad. The blue, silver and sci-fi themes make that pretty apparent.
When we first found out that we had a girl on the way, we were ecstatic! I’d always wanted a girl and couldn’t wait to start raising her following her arrival. I’m a firm believer in choice and allowing a child to make their own decisions regardless of whether they are a boy or a girl. I’d hate the idea of their gender being the only reason they make decisions around what they can or can’t wear, play with or in any other area of their lives. Looking around though, it’s fairly obvious that if you have a child that isn’t blessed with the confidence of a motivational speaker, or indeed parents who lack the ability to be subversive – the path to gender-based preference is more lit up than a runway. In this vein, the free and frequent use of the term ‘tomboy’ actually makes me kind of sick.
I find it increasingly annoying that girls toys are made for girls, boys toys are made for boys, and anything in between… is also made for boys.
An example of this would be the action figure multi-pack that Hasbro released for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The movie is awesome! To me it’s a real triumph of a movie and has an independent, strong, female lead-character who can do all the things the previously male dominated Jedi order does. As a Dad, I’m thinking ‘this is cool! My daughter might be able to find female role model in something I love’. Hasbro, in their infinite wisdom, decided to release the above product WITHOUT the lead female featuring in the pack or on the packaging. The lack of Rey action figures was astounding at the time. It’s clear that the manufacturers felt that a product targeted to boys, in the boys section of a toy store wouldn’t sell as much, if it had a female LEAD-character included. Alas, the female Star Wars kid misses out on being able to play with the character they are able to most relate to.
From my perspective, boys don’t want to play with girl action figures is because they’re told from a young age by both their parents and the broader culture they grow up in, that girls are not action heroes. And similarly, girls are explicitly told that girls don’t play with boy action figures… unless they want to be a tomboy… rather than a girl.
I’m not blind to the fact that boys and girls can often be very different, and play differently by their very nature, but it’s impossible to deny that there is an overlap that we, as a culture are leaving out of the equation. Girls are also sometimes boisterous, and boys are sometimes subdued. This only goes to prove that there is a middle ground which we should be focusing on which doesn’t push either gender into a box of limitations in any way.
Considering my ethnic origin, I am eternally grateful that my sisters and cousins were never pushed into these boxes and were able to express themselves as freely as us boys were when we were young. We were very unique in that sense and I’m glad it remained so as we grew up, as I can see stereo typical gender expectations being pushed on the people around me to this very day. It’s very common for a girl to be expected to act as girls do, and for boys to act as boys do. Parents will still willingly favor boys over their girls financially, academically and emotionally. Girls are often expected to be supported by their ‘in-laws’ (universe forbid they shouldn’t want to get married), they’re often expected to not have careers to become child rearing experts, and as for emotional support… this can be a dubious prospect at best and there’s nothing more cringe inducing than parents imposing patriarchal ownership over their kids. This is admittedly a very dark and sinister side of shit parenting, but it’s the root cause of the shops having pink and blue aisles. It’s disconcerting and frankly depressing to grasp how many fathers, rather than supporting their little girls and helping them to confront gender stereotypes, actually play an active role in reinforcing them instead.
My gratitude for not having grown up in what are an uncomfortably common set of circumstances continues, as I know my child will also be free of these injustices in her own home. My wife and I will never place any gender-based limitations on what Bumble is allowed to do, want or like. It means so much to me that she is able to express herself freely.
In all honesty, I probably won’t join in the next feminist march or organized event; though my daughter has opened my eyes to the cause. I can quite safely say, that the pressure to be a ‘girl’ will not exist under my roof.