Jan Shure

In the media and among the metropolitan elite (AKA middle-class London) ‘the Patriarchy’ may now have become a punchline, but in the school playground, ‘the Patriarchy’ may be alive and well and still influencing our children – or in my case – grandchildren. The fear that our children and grandchildren are still being contaminated by male chauvinism arises from a stray comment by my 9-year-old grandson. We were en route to Kidzania, the Utopian theme-park at West London’s Westfield Shopping Centre where kids rule and gender-equality across all the child-run ‘businesses’ and ‘services’ is automatic. Discussing with my 9-year-old grandson which ‘occupations’ he and his 7-year-old sister might wish to sample from such options as doctor, dentist, fire-fighter, airline pilot, etc, he mentioned a few things he might like to do, and then suggested his sister might wish to ‘serve drinks and food’ on the ‘plane.’ Here, I should point out that his mother – my daughter – is the CEO of a rapidly expanding UK charity which recently won a major award, so my grandson’s paradigm of womanhood is not someone who whiles away her days having manicures…His maternal grandmother (me) is an award-winning journalist who had a 40-year career in media before co-founding a successful fashion website. Even his great-grandmother was a feminist, albeit a reluctant one who would have hated the label but certainly didn’t ask permission for anything from a man. But despite these clear examples of gender-equality, his visceral response was that his sister could ‘serve drinks and food.’ He’s not receiving these messages at home (he’s definitely not; his father is emphatically a feminist). So where, except in the school-playground, is a 9-year-old picking up such worryingly antediluvian views? Is the playground the last bastion of male chauvinism? Instead of ciggies or snogs, are kids going behind the bike-shed to be indoctrinated in a fear of feminism and the Power of the Patriarchy?