Tag Archives: children

J

The Topsy and Tim children stories CD has an episode on firefighters. At one point, they discuss whether women can do it. The answer given is, in substance “yes, but they must be as physically fit as the men”. Credit where it’s due: this makes the point that firefighting is a potential career for women. But there is an insidiously (albeit probably unintentionally) sexist message: that men are the point of reference. A woman applying to be a firefighter will have to prove something more than a man would, namely that she is as good as a man. Furthermore, a male firefighter is completely normal; a female firefighter not somuch. So a woman applying to be a firefighter would be trying to go out of the comfort zone of social norms. Not everyone is a born rebel, so this can deter women. A much better way of presenting this would have been to say that there are physical fitness requirements, which all applicants, regardless of gender (or indeed anything else), have to meet. The difference may sound subtle, but it matters. None of this affects me directly: I am unlikely to ever become a firefighter (or indeed a woman). But my 4 year old daughter has been listening to that story…

Michelle

Our next-door neighbour is the father of four boys who visit him once a week. The two youngest play with my son and daughter, dividing their time between our two backyards (but never inside the houses, that’s the rule). Yesterday, after playing for an hour in our yard, they headed next door to watch the two older boys drive a go-cart. My daughter soon came back, in tears. The boys had told her that their Dad doesn’t want girls coming to their house. I don’t know if the boys made this up, or if their Dad really said that. Either way, it was a pretty shitty experience. If he did say that, and excluding my daughter is his way of ‘protecting’ her or himself, then what message are his boys receiving? I vented about it in my online mum’s group, and received lots of replies supporting the dad, and statements along the lines of ‘this is just the way things have to be’. Speaking to the Dad isn’t an option, as he has extreme social anxiety and rarely leaves his house. I called my son back, then explained to the boys that excluding a person because they are a girl is silly, unfair, and mean, and that my kids aren’t allowed to play with families who treat people like that. I didn’t know what else to do 🙁

Ash

When I was no more than ten years old, I was sexually assaulted by a classmate. We were told to stand in a line, and I realized that I had forgotten something at my desk. I turned my back on my peers to go and fetch whatever I forgot and I felt a smack on my bum. I turned around in fury to see three or four boys, all my age, sneering and sniggering. One of them made a grab for one of my breasts, at which point I turned away, went to my desk and then returned to the line (as far away from the offending boys as possible). This enraged me enough, but what shocked me the most was that my (female) teacher saw the entire thing and did nothing but smirk slightly. Bear in mind that this was less that a decade ago. I’ve never breathed a word of this to anyone until now.

Jo

Feeling relief when the pictures in the books I read to my three-year-olds are sufficiently ambiguous to allow me to adjust the narrative, because if I don’t do that they may well grow up thinking that there is some necessity or inevitability for firefighters, police officers, horse-riding royals, doctors and train drivers to be men, and for teachers, stay-at-home parents and nurses to be women.

Sarah

Playing Superhero Top Trumps with my 8 year old nephew and when my card, a female superhero beat his male superhero he exclaimed “but she’s a girl!” He’s 8. Where do they learn these ideas?

Erin

One of my son’s favorite books is a cute little board book about toddlers pretending to be superheroes. Of course, all these superheroes are boys. I pulled out my sharpie and changed one page from “he” to “she” so at least there’s one girl represented.

Rhiannon

I just submitted the following complaint to the BBC regarding a children’s programme: At 15:23 in the episode ‘Sinker’s Return’ of Swashbuckle, the two male crew characters (Cook and Line) hug the female captain character (Sinker) against her will. They do it because they are glad to see her, but she is making it quite clear (verbally and with body language) that she doesn’t want to be hugged, they physically trap her to hug her (in a rather uncomfortable position for her), and she doesn’t look particularly pleased when hugged. The whole thing is presented as being funny. This promotes rape culture, by telling children of an impressionable age that – it’s OK to initiate physical contact with someone against their will – it’s OK to initiate physical contact with someone despite their expressly refusing consent – it’s OK to physically obstruct someone from leaving an uncomfortable situation and trap them in order to make physical contact with them Even though the hugging is not in the least portrayed as sexual, this scene still depicts attitudes that can normalise rape situations. Girls may feel less able to resist if they don’t want to be touched, if they have seen at a very young age that even an ostensibly powerful woman (a ship’s captain) is unable to resist unwanted physical contact from men who are ostensibly her subordinates. Similarly, boys will feel more enabled to pressurise girls. The scene could still have been shown, but there should have been some acknowledgement that what Cook and Line were doing was wrong and that Captain Sinker’s body belongs to her. It could have been a very powerful positive message to girls if Captain Sinker had been able to refuse Cook and Line’s hug, or at least chastise them for it. This seems like a lot of responsibility to put onto a single scene in a children’s programme, but it is the constant drip of such scenes that builds the attitudes of the next generation.

Olivia

I babysit three children every friday, but I rarely see the older sister, so mostly it’s just two boys. They fight quite often, and almost evrytime, to anger his little brother, the older one would call him “she”, and generally speak to him as if he was a girl, like “oh, she’s afraid !”. It’s not been going on for a long time, but I’m trying to think of a way to make him understand that being a girl should not be an insult.

Alice

Last week me and my boyfriend were talking with his aunt about the difficulties of disciplining children if you are naturally mild-mannered. Then she said “then again maybe you’ll end up having girls, so you won’t have to worry about bad behaviour”. This attitude makes me so angry, as I feel like it diminishes the hard work my parents put into raising me and my sisters, knowing that we caused them every bit as much trouble as our male cousins and classmates caused their parents. I also remember my aunt once complaining to my mum about how hard it was being a parent when her boys were playing up. My mum said “oh, I know”, and my aunt replied angrily “no, you don’t know how I feel, you’ve got girls, it’s not the same”. (My mum had had to pick my sister up from the police station only earlier that week). I also encountered this attitude while working as a classroom assistant – every teacher I worked with had an assumption that boys were naughty and girls were “good”, but it just didn’t match what I saw. As far as I could see, the girls were every bit as capable of being rude, disruptive, disobedient and mean to other children as the boys, but it wasn’t acknowledged by the teachers. It was quite surreal. I feel like it’s an insult to girls, because while “good girls” receive praise for being obedient, there is also an element of assuming that they are boring, and lack personality and spark. At the end of the day, these assumptions of girls as meek and obedient make girls less visible and it minimises their personalities and individuality.

Rhonda

I am 57 yrs old, divorced for the second time. The first time around I was young, barely 18 and accepted the role of the woman of the house. Of course, I also did everything he did not do, including the ‘traditional’ male things. The second time at age 35, before marriage we had an agreement of our roles, that never happened. What was so confusing is that before we were married he did some of the ‘traditional’ women jobs, and treated me as an equal but also opened doors for me, moved heavy objects, etc and I brought him drinks or food. Once again I was the traditional woman of the house, stuck with all the housework and childcare, shopping, meal planning, preparing meals, taking care of children and all things associated with them. I never became educated as I have always been the one that needs to adapt to his and children’s schedules, I did try here and there but it always got in the way of their lives. I had 5 children over the space of 16 years, one child with ADHD in the middle and my youngest with moderate autism. I took care of those children completely in every way. Though help with others was limited, but I could get an occasional break. It just never changes, I see it all the time in almost every household, even if the men ‘help’, it is not their job, they are helping their wife. And it does not seem to make a difference if the woman works outside of the home or not, the house is still their job and he just helps. I have 3 granddaughters, I would like to see this change but we seem to be going backwards today, I fear that my granddaughters will never have freedom from this stereotyping of women.